Updated: Oct 30, 2019
Welcome to the eighth installment where every Wednesday I explain everything that it takes to be a Chef in my eyes. This series will by no means be exhaustive, but I will certainly do my best. If you're a Chef and want to share your opinion I'd love to hear what you have to say. Aspiring Chefs: if you have questions feel free to reach out. I'm always looking for an excuse to talk about Chef Life.
Ok so far in this series we have covered the importance of Passion as well as a commitment to quality in regards to your effort, a commitment to food quality, Menu planning, Temperature control, The Ability to Pass on Knowledge & Building a Recipe. Today we will be talking about Leadership.
Leadership is key in all teams and organisations. With all the different personalities, tasks and pressures a strong sense of leadership is important to have. Leadership is what balances the different strengths of the personalities in the kitchen, ensures all the necessary tasks are completed in a timely fashion and keeps morale up when the pressures are high.
Any given kitchen has 3-4 stations on the line alone not to mention all the support stations involved; this means we have several different personalities to manage all needing to be treated differently to get the most out of them. A good Chef will not just be looking at those they are responsible for as stations or workers; they should know them as people. Knowing what drives them, how they respond to different situations.
A good leader will keep in mind the tasks of the day that need to be accomplished and who would be best for each task. Often times we can be lulled into the easy answer of "whoever is best at a task should be the one doing it". Personally, I like to do priority-weighted when it comes to just about all tasks. The higher the priority the more likely I am to do it personally. The lower the priority the more likely I am to have someone significantly lesser in skill use this as an opportunity. A strong leader remembers that the stronger the individuals in a team the stronger the team overall so it's always best to work to strengthen the team when the opportunity arises.
Perhaps the most important facet of being a Chef in a restaurant is the ability to keep morale up. Anyone who has spent time in a professional kitchen knows that the life can be particularly stressful. In an environment routinely over 100°F while moving at a fast pace, keeping several orders in your mind, taking directions and instructions from multiple people and having to perform at a high-level for hours and hours on end having a leader that knows how to keep morale up is imperative.
There are several ways for a leader to get stronger at leadership. I like reading and applying what I've learned about dealing with people. There are several books I recommend such as "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie, as well as "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership." by John C. Maxwell.
The important thing that you need to keep in mind is that the journey of leadership has no end. No matter how good you are, no matter how long you've been one, no matter how much work you've done to get better there is always something that can be done to improve.
Before you go I'm going to ask a favor; I want to hear what you think. If you think I don't know what I'm talking about say so, heck share it with your friends and say "look at this guy calling himself a Chef, he has no idea what he's talking about." If you agree let me know, share it with your friends, you know how we like to see that other Chefs see the world similar to ourselves, get a good laugh out of it.
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