Written by Chef Mark Hitri.
Photo by James Creange.
As seen on TV…or is it?
Cooking shows have been a blessing and a curse for our industry. I can remember when you could only cook steaks and baked potatoes in this town (maybe an exaggeration but only slightly). When the cooking shows took off the dining public was exposed to more interesting cuisine, and they we open to it – and even beginning to expect it. For those of us already in the business we could begin to be more creative; however, those newer to the industry got a bit of a distorted view of what it is really like in a kitchen.
Well lit sets or the Michelin starred restaurants that most of the shows had are nothing like the reality of most kitchens. Cramped and poor lighted are more of the style in the kitchens that the day to day folk work in. Nor do most of the restaurants get to do that level of cuisine that’s seen on TV. While there are no stage lights or cameras, there is plenty of action. That action though is often the repetitive and perhaps to some even boring steps: set up station, prep station, cook food, clean up, go home, and then repeat and repeat and repeat…
Therefore, the role of the chef, besides making the staff feel welcome, is to keep your staff motivated and engaged every day. One way to keep them engaged is to get in the trenches with your staff on the boring tasks such as peeling potatoes or shrimp. This helps you to be an example of how to get it done and to keep up your skills (or perhaps even show them off – because surely you can peel potatoes faster than your cooks). How will you motivate your team today?