Culinary Cues

OUR DAILY BREATH: CHEFS AND RESTAURATEURS – IT’S A NEW DAY TOMORROW

Culinary Cues

The restaurant industry has been plagued with problems for decades – this international crisis has brought everything to a head. How many times have restaurateurs and chefs proclaimed that they couldn’t simply stop their current model and re-invent themselves?

2020 200

OUR DAILY BREATH: LESSONS IN LEADERSHIP

Culinary Cues

There has never been a more important time for leadership – not the job title – the act of leadership and the positive actions of those who rise to the occasion.

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A LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

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Mr. President – I will state up front that I am not one of your supporters and never have been, but as history has demonstrated time and again – during a time of significant crisis our country looks to and stands behind our leader as he or she makes decisions of life and death and stands to carry the nation through and beyond the calamity of the moment. We did this with Roosevelt during WWII and the Great Depression, Bush through the first Iraq crisis, George W. Bush through the tragedy of 9/11 and the initial phase of the war on terror, and Obama as we scratched our way through economic collapse. We (myself included) crave to support you in the process of leading us through Covid-19. The country is willing to put aside political and philosophical differences and unify behind you to show us the way through a daunting health crisis. You have the advantage right now – it is yours to keep or lose. There have been significant stumbles so far, and actually the country will still set those aside as long as you do the right thing in this moment. Put aside the mistakes – we need to know what will happen today because the time to move is in the moment. We do not have the luxury of too many tomorrows or the luxury of ignorance of the challenges. The country needs an all out mobilization of the military, Congress, the medical community, manufacturing, international partners, transportation, public offices and private business, the banking industry, education, and anyone who has the ability to contribute in some way. Everyone is ready for you to lead – the buck does start and stop with you. We need the federal government to set the tone and establish a clear strategy. In the absence of this – individual states and communities will make their own decisions based on what they know. This is human nature in the absence of a master plan. Independent decisions like this will lead to further isolation of ideas and loyalties and more distancing from the common good. The ball is in your court. History will tell a story, but the story can be changed right now. How will others remember you and the government’s leadership as a whole? The only focus right now must be an all out, pull out all the stops, mobilization of everyone and everything to stop this virus. We need measurement through testing, limitless medical supplies for caregivers, economic support that ends up in the hands of the average American, a way to help businesses- especially small businesses survive and recover, thousands of temporary hospital beds, and an all out effort to develop, test and approve a vaccine. Our healthcare workers need to be safe and feel supported. To not have sufficient testing so that benchmarks can be managed, and to not have the supplies necessary to keep these workers safe is beyond comprehension for the wealthiest democratic country in the world. How could this happen? I am a member of one of the most important industries in the country. I have, for five decades, been a part of the hospitality industry, particularly the restaurant business. This business employs more people than any other except the government, is the portal industry for first jobs for a majority of Americans, and an essential industry that not only feeds our people, but also provides rewards, positive interaction, laughter, and emotional support for guests from coast to coast. There are countless times throughout a typical year when the restaurant industry steps up to support those who are suffering – no one needs to ask – when needed, we are there. We are an industry that like many of its employees lives financially in the moment. Our staff members cannot afford to survive without next weeks’ paycheck and tips and the restaurants where they work are close behind. This shutdown, although necessary and one that all restaurants understand and support, will immediately cripple those associated with the business, and if longer than a few weeks will likely result in business failures. Recovery will be questionable for thousands of restaurants who will find it impossible to find loans from banks, and will struggle to pay rent, re-hire employees, re-invigorate relationships with vendors, and work to bring customers back through their doors. This industry needs help. The same can be said for retail businesses, private colleges, ground transportation, and a multitude of smaller businesses that have always been the lifeblood of our country. We need immediate leadership to combat the virus TODAY, not next week, and we need a realization that any stimulus for the future must include small business and the average American worker – NOT just big business. Mr. President – this is your opportunity to do the right thing and mobilize the country, to inspire confidence, to view this as a war that must be won, and to demonstrate to the world that America is as great as we profess to be. I stand ready to support you in this regard, but am losing hope hour by hour. You are the President – BE THE PRESIDENT NOW. Harvest America Ventures, LLC. Restaurant Consulting. PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER. [link] BLOG. Uncategorized Mr. President

2020 212

OUR DAILY BREATH: AS OUR KITCHENS SLEEP

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There is no one to turn on the lights, fire up the ovens, start the groan of hood exhausts, and no one to fill the dish machine tank and three bay sink. Vendor deliveries have ceased, floors remain clean and untouched, and the clock on the wall suddenly sounds off with the ticking of time.

2020 209

OUR DAILY BREATH: A CHEF’S WINDOW TO THE WORLD

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It’s day 14 of a Covid-19 voluntary lockdown. Aside from a trip to the grocery store and an isolated morning walk now and again, I have been a prisoner of my home. The same is true for my family in different parts of the Northeast.

2020 188

RESTAURANT SURVIVAL MOVING FORWARD

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We have never seen anything like this. Everyone in the restaurant industry is petrified beyond today – they immediately think about how impossible it might be to dig themselves out of the hole being created.

2020 201

OUR DAILY BREATH: CHEFS & OPERATORS – KEEPING YOUR TEAM TOGETHER

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This is another time when we can rely on what we know about human nature and what keeps people whole: physically, mentally, and emotionally. I once again turn to the wisdom of Abraham Maslow as a guide through this difficult time, a crisis unparalleled in modern times.

WHY RUNNING A CLUB KITCHEN MIGHT BE THE TOUGHEST AND MOST SATISFYING CHEF POSITION OUT THERE

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The tasks of the chef are fairly universal: planning menus, putting your signature on each dish, hiring and training staff, ordering product and building vendor relationships, controlling costs and adhering to budgets, maintaining a clean and safe kitchen environment, etc.

2020 194

CHEFS – IS IT WORTH IT?

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We have all had those moments (some of us more frequently than others) when we question what we are doing, the level of commitment required, and the price to pay. As chefs we all are aware of the time, physical stress, and emotional trauma associated with running a busy kitchen.

2020 248

SUPPORT SMALL RESTAURANTS EVERYDAY

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Every year, this weekend is the official time to celebrate small businesses.

OUR DAILY BREATH: IS THE AMERICAN DREAM IN JEOPARDY?

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To me, there is nothing more soul crushing than to see a restaurant closed and for sale. Behind the sign on the front window is a story of a person’s dream, an all out life change to become an entrepreneur, an investment of every personal penny, financial support from family members and likely loans to supplement.

2020 154

WHAT RESTAURANT OWNERS GET WRONG

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I have the privilege of working with many different restaurants and food businesses. Some are very successful, while others are hanging by a thread. Some are owned by individuals who have the knowledge and the wisdom of seasoned business people, while others struggle to find a path to survival.

WHEN COOKING BECOMES MORE THAN A JOB

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Typically, it starts off that way – old enough to work, they’re hiring, no experience required – it’s a job.

2019 233

COOKS CHOOSING THEIR PATH

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There is little question that most young cooks who are serious about their craft have a desire to work for the higher end, independent properties with chefs who are committed to building a name for themselves and the restaurant where they work.

2019 196

THINK GLOBALLY – ACT LOCALLY

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We find ourselves in very troubling times. A time when we are asked to socially isolate, to work remotely, to trust the words of those who have been untrustworthy in the past, and to simply wait and see.

2020 184

OUR DAILY BREATH: TAKING THE KITCHEN OUT OF THE COOK IS PROBLEMATIC

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We have all heard the phrase: “You can take the cook out of the kitchen, but you can’t take the kitchen out of the cook.” While there is certainly some merit to this statement, the current isolation is pushing the envelope in that regard. Why is it so hard to take the kitchen out of the cook? I am sure that this reality applies to other fields and trades, but I do believe that it is much more pronounced with cooks. Here is why: Kitchen work is a way of life, similar to career military.

2020 166

CHEFS: BUILD A TEAM – KEEP A TEAM

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There is no issue more pressing, and no task more important than building a kitchen team and establishing a culture of retention. Yes, I do mean a culture of retention.

2020 202

RESTAURANT OWNERS – WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?

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The more I travel, experience communities, and try their restaurants – the more I scratch my head and ask the question: “What are they thinking?” The restaurant business is one that is relatively simple in concept, yet enormously complicated to execute.

2019 204

COOKS AND CHEFS – THINK ABOUT THE STORY BEHIND WHAT YOU SEE

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Some of you may be too young to know the band – The Moody Blues, but their lyrics always inspired me, especially during challenges that life occasionally brings.

2020 159

CHEFS FACING THE CHALLENGE OF CREATIVITY VERSUS BUSINESS DECISIONS

Culinary Cues

You know that every chef has wrestled with this – should the menu reflect a personal philosophy to move the bar or stick with time-tested standards?

2020 176

OUR DAILY BREATH: FOOD, SHELTER, CLOTHING, HEALTH, FAMILY, COMMUNICATION, and TRUST

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This is where we are today. If we push aside much of the chatter and get down to the necessities in life that are food, shelter, clothing, health, family, communication and trust that rise to the top of the priority list.

ARE RESTAURANTS FACING EVOLUTION OR REVOLUTION?

Culinary Cues

Is it just another one of those cycles with a few new challenges or is it something else? It seems to me, once you start to connect the dots, you will note that the times they are a changing, and the alarm bell is about to ring.

2020 200

IT’S ONLY MY POINT OF VIEW

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I always try to see things through other people’s eyes and not just my own. There are always multiple sides to every issue, and numerous factors that sway a person’s perspective one-way or the other.

2020 207

A CHEF WHO GETS THE MESSAGE RIGHT

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Two of the most significant issues facing businesses today are RETAINING good employees who are so difficult to find and MAXIMIZING the productivity and efficiency of those same employees.

2020 207

CHEFS ARE ALL IN AND ALL OUT

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Working very hard is not unique to foodservice – there are many careers that require extra-human effort, but very few that absolutely require individuals to be “all in”.

2019 217

CHEF’S: CONDITION YOUR TEAM AND CHANNEL THEIR ENERGY

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CHEF-to-CHEF, So.you made it!

2020 169

CHEFS- ELEVEN STEPS TO GREATNESS

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There are chefs and there are chefs. Some hold the title while others have earned the title. So what is the difference? I have always been blessed to count a significant number of true chefs as friends. These are people who everyday exemplify what it means to be great at what they do.

2019 207

HERDING CATS – THE MAKEUP OF A KITCHEN LINE

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Chemistry is by far, the most important ingredient in building a successful kitchen team. When a chef is able to bring a group of seemingly opposing forces together into a functional, well-orchestrated team then great things happen.

2020 207

STOP THE 100% TARIFF ON EUROPEAN GOODS

Culinary Cues

White tower decisions without a grasp on the systemic impact of those decisions is a common flaw of leaders who are out of touch with reality. It happens in business, it happens in education, and it happens most often in government.

A COOK’S ANXIETY – A MOMENT IN TIME

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It’s 5:15, 120 degrees in front of the battery of ranges, and sweat is pouring down every cook’s back, dripping off their foreheads.

2019 248

WORKING IN A PROFESSIONAL KITCHEN IS BASIC TRAINING FOR LIFE

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I vividly remember flying out of Buffalo, New York in 1971 for Army Basic Training at Fort Jackson. It was, ironically, my first time on a plane and considering that this was at the peak of the Vietnam War, I was doubly nervous.

TO ALL IN THE HOSPITALITY BUSINESS: BE A PROBLEM SOLVER – SUPPORT A PROBLEM SOLVER

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This article stems from a recent experience in a hotel where I was staying. The power went out for a few hours, but when it returned I stopped into the bar for a drink.

WHEN A COOK IS TRULY IN THE ZONE

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In the zone is a phrase commonly used to describe a musician, athlete, or even a cook who experiences an “everything going right” situation, and when the person, or persons, involved are totally focused on the task at hand– but, being fully in the zone is really so much more.

2020 173

A RETURN TO KITCHEN WORK ETHIC

Culinary Cues

Say what you will about the craziness of kitchen life, the relentless hours that drive people away from the business, the somewhat unorthodox behavior of some who wear the white jacket and tie on an apron; the stress, heat, humidity, cuts and burns, swollen feet and back cramps; and the anxiety that comes from not knowing what each day or night will bring – it’s still an exciting place to work. A great deal has changed over the past ten years or so, yet many of these conditions remain. It is what pushes some away, and at the same time what pulls others in. We cook, we create, we work till we can’t work any more, we put a smile on customer’s faces and fill their stomachs, we inspire some and make others wonder which swamp we rose from – we are cooks and as such, we are different. Over the past ten years the make up and fortitude of many young people entering restaurants has also changed. There is, a different attitude towards the work, and in some cases a slide away from the passionate approach that other generations have exhibited towards the trade. I get it, we all get it – yet, and the loss of a portion of the old mentality is a bit disheartening. One of the great aspects of working in a restaurant was the team drive, the desire to never let your teammates down. Whatever it took, we would grin and bear it for the betterment of the team. It is this all for one, and one for all attitude that converted many a young dishwasher into a career cook and chef. It is this attitude that built many of the greatest restaurants in the world – cooks were “all in”. Many chefs lament those days, they frequently complain about those individuals who choose not to give their life to the apron and the stove. Lamenting makes us feel a little better for the moment and makes each of us feel like we might have been special in our day, but it doesn’t help the situation. There are many things that we would like to improve, many facets of the business that we would like to bring back to the “good old days”, and many words of advice that we would like to share. These words of advice will likely fall on deaf ears, unless they are realistic and based on some level of fairness and understanding. So, I went through my long list of things that would be great to turn from lament to refresh and decided to prioritize them based on what is realistic. Maybe you can find them helpful as you search for kitchen employees that will not disappoint. Here you go: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR YOUNG COOKS AND THE CHEFS WHO HIRE THEM: KEEP THE PROMISE: If you apply for a job, and have an appointment to interview – SHOW UP! Be there, be on time and put your best foot forward. If you don’t want the job, then call ahead, thank the chef for his or her time, and cancel well before your scheduled time – don’t waste others time that is allotted to hearing your story. START DEPENDABLE – STAY DEPENDABLE: Once you are employed make sure that you are at work, ready to go, full of energy, smile on your face, uniform in order, and 15 minutes early. It’s not too much to ask. JUST DO YOUR JOB: This is the simplest request, and one that truly sums up expectations and the way to win friends and influence people – just do your job. Listen, learn, question, reflect, store the information, practice, and perform – it’s that easy. WHEN YOU ARE AT WORK – BE THERE: Put you phone down, take the ear buds out, stop the idle chatter that has no relevance to your work, put aside your desire to smoke a cigarette every 45 minutes, and give the job your undivided attention. It may not be as much as you want, but you are getting paid to work – show some respect and be a little thankful for the opportunity that a job provides. We may be experiencing full employment in the U.S. right now, but guaranteed – it will not always be that way. Build your personal brand as a dependable, respectful, focused employee. This will carry you a long way. KNOW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW AND FIND THE ANSWERS: You really don’t know that much – don’t kid yourself. Maybe you have previous experience in other restaurants, or you might have a degree from a culinary college; maybe your family grew up in restaurants, or maybe you did work in that busy restaurant last summer in-between school semesters – but, guess what – you don’t know all that much. Once you accept this you can set a course towards building your skill set, becoming more competent, and raising your level of confidence that can be backed up. BE CLEAN, WORK CLEAN: This is the first rule of thumb. Hey, when you show up to work – shave (gentlemen), comb your hair, take a shower, use deodorant, trim your nails, polish your shoes, make sure your uniform is clean and pressed, and show the world that you care. It’s not that much to ask. Your workstation is just as important when it comes to cleanliness. Work clean, be organized, handle everything with sanitation in mind – this is your responsibility! DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME: Mistakes are a way of life, but we all know that those mistakes can NEVER wind up on a plate en route to a guest. When we rush and cut corners because we are busy – we violate the trust that customers invest in and relinquish our pride at the same time. If you are too busy to do it right, when will you find the time to do it over? SMILE AND AT LEAST ACT LIKE YOU WANT TO BE THERE: You are responsible for your attitude and your daily experience of life. Your anger is contagious, but so is your smile. When you take control of a positive environment than others will follow suit. Push aside the disappointment, the anger, the frustration, the bad mood, and the small aches and pains that we all suffer from and just smile. Trust me, you will immediately feel better. BE RESPECTFUL: Respect that is given is respect that will be received. Respect the ingredients you work with, the tools that make the work easier, the space that is at your disposal, the people that you work for and with, the quality of each person’s work, the vendors who knock on the back door, and each and every customer who spends money for the opportunity to try the food that you placed your signature on. TREAT THE EQUIPMENT WITH RESPECT: You didn’t pay for that $1,200 Robot Coupe – but the restaurant did so that you had the right equipment for the job. You didn’t pay the repair service to fix the door hinge on that oven for the 4 th time this year, but the restaurant did. You didn’t buy the china and glassware that are the canvas that you paint on, and you didn’t buy those sauté pans that you carelessly fling into the pot sink – but someone else did. Take care of each piece of equipment as if the funds to buy them came from your wallet. Show some respect! TREAT YOUR CO-WORKERS WITH RESPECT: No one says that you need to be best friends with everyone you work with, but at the very least respect them for their individuality. In a kitchen there is absolutely no room for bias, for bullying, for hate, for disrespect, or for any type of demeaning behavior. It may have existed in the past but it CANNOT exist today. Learn to respect others! DON’T EVER “NO SHOW”: This is the Cardinal sin in restaurants. Things do come up, occasionally you might be sick enough not to work, but NEVER, EVER, EVER let your teammates down by simply not showing enough respect to call in advance. Your absence puts everyone else in jeopardy. DON’T DO IT! TAKE A LITTLE PRIDE IN YOUR WORK – IT IS A REFLECTION ON YOU, YOUR FAMILY, YOUR NAME, THE RESTAURANT, YOUR CO-WORKERS, AND THE CHEF. That’s right – it’s not just you whose reputation is harmed by shoddy work – it is everyone who lives in your independent universe. Don’t let yourself down, but don’t tarnish your family name, that of your friends, coworkers, chef, and restaurant brand. Yes, I really mean it. KEEP YOUR KNIVES SHARP: Job two when you walk into work. First wash your hands, make sure your uniform is sharp, and say hello to everyone you work with – then put that edge on your knives. These are your most important tools. WORK HARD AND DON’T COMPLAIN: Yep, working in the kitchen is hard, its backbreaking at times, its hot, its long, and its even sometimes thankless. Everyone knows this so don’t add to the fire by moaning about how hard it is on you. As has been commonly said: “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”. PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER. Harvest America Ventures, LLC. www.harvestamericacues.com BLOG. Uncategorized chefs cooks kitchen work ethic restaurants

2019 208

PRIDE – COOKS SIGN THEIR WORK

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Pride is both an essential part of self-motivation and an obstacle for those who distance themselves from input and the occasional need to admit mistakes and seek the opportunity to improve.

2019 187

LINE COOKS ARE THE STUDIO MUSICIANS OF THE RESTAURANT BUSINESS

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When we listen to a catchy song by Steely Dan we think of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen – the founding members of this iconic group. Yet, Bernard Purdie probably played that laid-back rhythm that defines their songs on drums.

COOKS AND CHEFS- BUILDING YOUR CAREER TAKES EFFORT

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The best things in life are never easy, and with your career, if you truly want to reach for that rewarding chef position or chef/owner opportunity then it is essential that you set your goals, chart a course of action, stay true to the end game, and know that it will take time and considerable effort to get there. There really are no shortcuts if you want to do it right. There is far too much to learn, far too much to know, and far too many mistakes to make along the way for you to approach your career in any other way. [] BECOMING A GREAT COOK IS A LIFELONG PURSUIT. Understanding the foundations of cooking is the price of admission. Every other style of cooking and every tradition behind ethnic interpretation is based on understanding steps and methods. However, there are so many nuances that define how a group of people define “their” cooking that requires ingredient knowledge, variations in process, taste and flavor, and the essentials of presentation that any serious cook can invest decades attempting to master just one definitive cuisine. Great chefs go beyond being general practitioners – great chefs are true believers and authentic replicators of numerous iterations of a style of cooking. This takes more time than any of us have. [] APPRECIATION OF DIFFERENT CULTURES – A GATEWAY TO GREAT COOKING. Behind the skills associated with a particular cuisine, great chefs invest the time to understand the people, the history, the geographic and political challenges faced by a population, the traditions and socio-economic barriers that loom over a people, and the flavor sensitivity that defines how cooking in a certain area evolved. All of these factors combine to result in food prepared, as it should. This is why a recipe is of little value without the soul behind its use. [] UNDERSTANDING PEOPLE. Career chefs are seasoned psychologists who access their appreciation of various cultures, their empathy with firmness, and their ability to listen and process what others have to offer, as part of their being. These appreciations and skills are what truly separate a cook from a chef. A chef must be a leader and a leader must have followers. When a chef strives to understand people then followership is a natural byproduct. [] BUSINESS ACUMEN IS YOUR SPECIAL SKILL. In the end, it is a chefs ability to operate a business, manage the processes, control costs, drive sales and build a business brand, inspire others to pay attention to the details, strive for consistency, and act in accordance with those analytics that point to patterns of success or failure, that set the stage for long-term success. This does not come easily – it takes time to develop “business eyes”. [] BELIEVE THAT COMMUNICATION SKILLS ARE ESSENTIAL. When a person sets a course for career success, he or she quickly comes to realize that the ability to effectively communicate through writing, public speaking, use of technology, and even proper use of body language will set the stage for strong, positive relationships between the position of chef and all stakeholders who come in contact with the person holding that position. [] THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR EXPERIENCES. This statement goes beyond the singular “experience” as it refers to time in a position – this points to engagement in unique experiences (good and not so good) that build resilience, problem-solving ability, perspective, and control over reactionary responses that build a strong leader, an effective chef. The best decisions come from action based on reflection of how a challenge unfolded in the past, how another individual responded to a similar challenge in the past, and the knowledge of how action impacts on other aspects of the business and the lives of those involved. [] BE A STUDENT, BECOME A TEACHER. The number of birthdays that a chef has certainly sets the stage for success, but what is more important is how the chef spent the time behind those birthdays. When a cook is open to learning, open to critique, open to observation and listening, and open to admitting what he or she doesn’t yet know, then a clear path towards career growth becomes evident. Once in the position of chef, it then becomes essential that the person gives back and helps others through that process of learning. [] BECOME A SERVICE PIONEER. When various chefs are observed and assessed on their ability to adequately fill the shoes of the position, it is clear that the ability to understand what it means to serve is at the core of success. Chefs must understand that service means to not just provide what people need and want, it infers that the chef understands what people will want before they even ask. Service requires constant observation and evaluation that will help with understanding and anticipation. Meeting expectations in a service centric economy is only the beginning – great chefs are focused on exceeding expectations of service to both external stakeholders (guests) and internal stakeholders (employees, owners, vendors, etc.). [] WHEN OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS. If you are serious about building a career that is rich and influential then a cook must grab onto opportunities along the way that will help to build the skills, aptitudes and experiences that lead to success. Work for those who can teach, work in operations that build a resume, travel to new locations that allow you to connect with people of various cultures, take positions that you are ready for but will push your abilities to their limit, and take on a process of learning that fills in the gaps along the way. [] KNOW WHAT SUCCESS MEANS TO YOU. Finally, know that success is something that is unique to the individual. To some, success refers to a title, a company, the breadth of responsibility that falls on their shoulders, salary, the chance to build personal brand, ownership, or networking with a certain group of like professionals; while to others it connects to living in a particular area, or gaining a feeling of self-worth that connects to a well-defined philosophy or belief structure. Whatever works for you should be based on how you define “success”. Know what it is, create a roadmap, be patient, and invest in the process of getting there. As yourself every day: “Is what I’m doing right now, bringing me any closer to achieving my goals?”. PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER. Harvest America Ventures, LLC. Restaurant Consulting. www.harvestamericaventures.com. www.harvestamericacues.com BLOG. Uncategorized chef cooks career culinary career restaurants

2019 206

LOOK INTO A RESTAURANT WORKER’S EYES

Culinary Cues

I can’t remember where I first saw this picture, but regardless – I found it so telling of the soul of a restaurant worker. Far too often, we assess people based on face value – our first impressions that are sometimes true, but oftentimes – misleading.

2019 208

COOKS – THE COMFORT OF HEAT, SWEAT, AND HARD-WORK

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Staring at the POS printer, waiting for those orders to start their tap dance building to a crescendo in an hour or so, clicking a pair of tongs by your side, shifting weight from one foot to the other, and beads of sweat beginning to roll down your back and collect under that scull cap that fits just a bit too tight – is this one of those moments when you begin to wonder what in the world you are doing? Physical work is stressful and gratifying at the same time. Sweat and aching muscles is uncomfortable, yet somehow a sign of work worth doing. Building beautiful, flavorful, aroma filled, satisfying dishes for people every night is a result of this hard work, this sweat, and these aching muscles. These tangible works are also a result of an intelligent approach to a process, constant reference to flavor memory, and a level of mental and physical organization that is parallel to that of an architect, a pilot, or a surgeon – this is work that is far more complex that many give it credit for. There is also the emotional part – putting it all out there for others to critique leaving the cook wondering: “what did they think?” We sweat not just due to the heat, not simply because we are physically all in, but also because cooking is draining intellectually, emotionally, and even spiritually. Being a cook is complicated. You know that those orders are coming – in just a few minutes that printer will push out that relentless sound of more orders than you think you can handle. This is the most stressful time – let’s get on with it! You remember a couple quotes that stick in your brain: “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”. -Stephen King. Ok, you can understand that for sure. You think that you have some talent as a cook, but you KNOW that you put in the effort and then some. You wonder: “Is there a difference between talent and hard work when you come down to it?” How many successful people do you know who work hard without talent? Maybe their talent is knowing what they don’t know and finding ways to get things done anyway. Anyway – soon enough those orders will fill that space in your brain that is wandering right now. Then there was that other quote: “It’s not so much whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”. -Grantland Rice. Right….try telling that to the chef or the owner. You are part of a line team – there is no room for failure. If you fail, so will the rest of the team. One mistake can lead to chaos on a busy night. This is not the place or the time to learn from your mistakes – NO MISTAKES, NO MISTAKES! “Damn – let’s get these orders in before I start to over-think everything.”. Maybe, just maybe, this sweat and these aching muscles, maybe the nervous energy that is obvious from my dance of anticipation, maybe all of this is fuel for the job ahead. Stay calm, stay calm. I sure hope that my mise en place is tight enough. Did I mince enough shallots, clarify enough butter, flatten enough chicken breasts, and peel enough shrimp? Let me check those scallops again – did I clean them properly? Where are my backups on vegetables, extra bottles of white wine for deglazing? What is the temp on those sauces in the bain-marie? Let me draw my knives over that wet stone one more time – can’t afford a dull knife. You look to the expeditor and tell him to grab you a few more side towels – can never have too many. The sweat is starting to pool up on your back, feet are hurting from inactivity, and hands are cramping up from nerves. Come on with the orders already! You stack and restack plates, move your pan handles a few degrees to the right, and fold and refold those side towels. You drop your tongs – CRAP! Run over to the pot sink and wash them quick. Grab another pair as a back-up. You grab another energy drink and kick it back like it was that after shift first beer. You look to your right and look to your left. Acknowledge the rest of the team and share a few fist bumps. It is coming – you can feel it. Then, the sound you were all waiting for – the printer spits out that first early-bird deuce. Both items for the grill – nothing for you – damn. A few seconds later – a four top – all yours. Here we go. You grab four pans and slide them onto burners – make sure the pans are hot first. Two orders of Diver Scallops, a Chicken Piccata, and Tournedoes Rossini mid-rare. An ounce of clarified butter for the chicken (dredge it in flour and give it some great caramelization – keep the pan moving), a touch in the pans for the scallops (sear them on one side and pull away from the heat for finishing later), and a little more heat in the pan for the tournedoes (this item will be done last minute). The expeditor had called the table as an order fire (no appetizers – ready to rock) – but you know that it is best to wait to finish until the server is standing on the other side of the pass. Two minutes is all it will take to finish this four top. Pull the caramelized chicken breast and put it aside, add sliced mushrooms to the pan and a touch more butter. Caramelize the shrooms and deglaze with white wine, and fresh lemon. Sweat is pouring freely down your back now. Two more orders just came in – a few items from your station that can wait until this four top is gone. The server appears and the expeditor calls out – pick up on that four top. “Yes chef”! Chicken back in the pan – the flour from the dredged chicken blends with the white wine and lemon and the sauce comes together. A few capers and chopped parsley and this dish is ready to go. The scallops return to a fresh hot pan to finish the sear, hit the pan with a touch of wine, salt and pepper and done. While you and the middleman plate up the first three dishes – the tournedoes hit the very hot pan for a sear along with two slices of foie gras. Flip all items quickly – cooking only takes a minute. Deglaze the beef with Madeira and demi-glace and assemble the dish on toast medallions – top with some truffle shavings and off it goes to the pass. Four top complete. Move on to the next order. You wipe your brow, take a drink of water and start with fresh pans. The orders keep coming. Now the expeditor is in control of your world. He tells you what to start, what to finish, and what to plate. Every few moments you ask for an “all day” (a review of what should be working on your station), and back to it. No time to chat with others – an occasional look or nod is enough of a signal. Plates are flying now – you turn to plate up an item and the dish is there ready with accompaniments. Only one re-fire so far (you hate that, but try to push it out of your mind). For the next three hours – this is the frantic pace of the line. Those 180 minutes go by in a flash. You stay on top of your station cleanliness and are relieved to see that your mise en place is holding up. A few little finger burns from hot pan-handles, nothing you can’t work through, and one dropped item to replace – not bad. You haven’t screwed up any orders or messed up your teammates thus far. You are now working like a well-oiled machine. Your brain works through processes, your palate is fine tuned, and there is real economy of motion in the steps that you take. When 9 p.m. rolls around – the board is almost clear. Just a couple deuces to finish up and that inevitable table that arrives 15 minutes before closing, but you breathe out knowing that you made it through another night. By 10:30, it’s all over. You breakdown your station, scrub your area, chill sauces, label and date items, make out your prep list for tomorrow and a friendly note to the morning prep cook. The sous chef points his finger and gives you a “thumbs up”. The mental and emotional stress is over – the physical pains will take a few hours to come to the surface, but you know they are there. Hey, it’s good pain – an honest days work. The heat, sweat, and hard effort feel OK. This is what you do, and this is how it is suppose to feel. Tomorrow is another day. PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER. WORK HARD, SWEAT A LOT, AND SMILE WHEN IT IS OVER. Harvest America Ventures, LLC. Restaurant Consulting. www.harvestamericacues.com BLOG. 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2020 169

CHEFS- WE ARE ALL THE SAME, YET ALL SO DIFFERENT

Culinary Cues

I have been privileged to work in kitchens all my life as a prep cook, line cook, and chef. I have built a reasonable set of technical skills along the way, and have learned – through trial and error, how to become a better than average chef and manager of kitchen operations.

OUR DAILY BREATH: CHEFS AND RESTAURATEURS – DON’T WASTE THIS TIME

Culinary Cues

Desperation has sunk in for those of us in the restaurant business. We know that closure is a reality for at least 30 more days and likely longer than that. The only adjustment that can be made is the heartbreaking decision to furlough employees or consider permanent closure of operations.

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CHEFS – THIS VIRUS IS A WAKE-UP CALL

Culinary Cues

As I find myself glued to the news that attacks everyone’s central nervous system, I am beginning to envision the chaos that the corona virus pandemic is about to inflict on the restaurant business.

2020 172

COOKS: A CALL TO ARMS – DON’T SETTLE!

Culinary Cues

There exists a real dichotomy of enthusiasm towards working in the restaurant business. I realize that this may have always been present at some level, but in today’s kitchens there appears to be a polarization of those who love the business and those who are angry at their state of affairs.

2020 164