3 Ideas to Embrace for Less Chef Stress, Part 1

3 Ideas to Embrace for Less Chef Stress, Part 1

A Three Part Series

Image Attribution: Bob Carlos Clarke
Read the original post in German @ www.resmio.de/blog

The recent news of the self-inflicted death of Benoit Violier of the Restaurant de l’Hotel de Ville in Crissier Switzerland came as a shock to most of the world. The chef, who had again secured a third Michelin star and whose restaurant had recently been named by France’s La Liste as best in the world, took his own life at the age of 44.

While it’s much too early to know why he chose to end his life, most of us in the Culinary world could empathize, and understand the reasons that may have contributed to his untimely end. What most of us know, and the rest of the world little understands is that the stressors of our industry, meeting deadlines, keeping up standards, pleasing increasingly more sophisticated guests and protecting margins can all add up to a relentless pressure to outperform and overachieve.

A recent article in The Guardian did a great job at recounting some of those we have lost under similar circumstances in Europe and in the US, the butcher’s bill is still mounting.

If the stress of competition and expectation doesn’t kill you outright, it can make you either physically or emotionally ill; and if you aren’t noticing it’s effects yet, I can assure you someone close to you is.

Too many of us are clinging to accolades, ratings or profits as an affirmation of who we are, instead of an neutral assessment of what we do for a living; struggling to survive our careers rather than thriving in our lives.

To that end, allow me to suggest 3 ideas that may assist you in shifting your kitchen from a ‘Battlefield’ to an ‘Inspiration Lab™’

Give up trying to be the Man (or Woman)

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” ~ William Shakespeare

Tradition has it that as the Chef, one must have all the best answers, the best ideas, technical proficiency and the best solutions. Tradition would also dictate that if there was someone on the team that had a better idea, palate or system, we would have been obliged to treat him, or her so badly that they would be forced to quit or be fired for some obscure reason because, if not – then the owners or staff would quickly discover that we were not ‘the man’, ‘top dog’ or ‘king of the hill’ and that would have threatened our superiority over the operation and ultimately our jobs & livelihood.

Thinking, or believing that it must be you – and only you – that ‘saves the day’ because of the title on your jacket or an emotional entanglement to the identity of being a ‘Chef’ is a recipe for disaster and the precursor to an ulcer.

Trapped by the false belief that you are the most important person in your organization will cause you to feel so much pressure and stress when things aren’t going well that something like panic will set in. Conversely when things are going well – if you still cling to the notion that you ‘are the man’ – chances are you will be completely dismissive and marginalize anyone else on your team that contributed to the success of the operation.

And that, my friend, is simply not true.

There are so many different new techniques, cooking systems and flavor profiles coming into prominence now that it is virtually impossible to be an expert in everything. A great banquet cook is often times is not equally great on the line; a pastry chef can be an expert on pulling sugar but less so on individually plated desserts.

We get to let go of the pressure of being an expert in all things and instead become an expert at hiring talent whose strengths, and weaknesses balance ours and allow them the opportunity to contribute to the team.

A smart, and grounded chef understands that, although he may chart the course, it is his crew – from servers, line cooks, prep cooks, dishwashers to overnight cleaners who come together to successfully sail the ship

If you are tired, angry and unhappy with how your operation – and your career, is running then perhaps taking a long look inside may provide an opportunity to make a change for the better. Be inclusive, ask for ideas, praise openly and reprimand privately. Take a moment and remember how it was when you were coming up the ranks and, see your kitchen staffed by people, not just names to fill a schedule; people who are looking to you for true leadership & mentorship – someone to see in them the possibility of greatness, even if it may not be apparent to them right now.

Yes, it’ll take more time to properly mentor your staff then just telling them what to do, but if they’re always waiting for you to direct them, it’ll take more time out of your day as opposed to leading a team that understands their roles, their collective goal, and take considered, accurate action on because they have been led to do so.

A team that is responsible and responsive is the sign of a truly great, and less stressed chef.




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