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Being a GREAT leader/manager

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

Hey everyone, I'm new here.

 

I have a question for all you chefs and kitchen managers:


Are you a GREAT leader? Or a good manager?

 

It's easy enough (for me) to learn recipes and get all the "hard" stuff done (inventory, ordering, food costs, etc.) but I haven't had quite so much stuff with the "soft" stuff (leading, managing, delegating, people skills, etc.)

 

Please, if you have any tips or advice to share, or at least a link to another thread where this was discussed, I would love you to share it with me. I've been a chef-manager for about 3-4 years now, but it's always a struggle for me. It's always a struggle to delegate tasks instead of doing it myself. It's often hard for me to say "no" because I hated being on that end when I was a cook myself.

 

Here's what I try to do:

  • I try to show my employees that I'm just as willing to work and be part of the team, by picking up shifts, washing dishes, and knowing every station back to front.
  • I try to be understanding to my employees, by almost always allowing them to have the days off they need, understanding that emergencies and life happen.
  • I'm kind and friendly to my employees, hoping that they will respect me for the way that I treat them.

 

I end up feeling like I get taken advantage of and overworked. I'm in my twenties, white and female, and most of my employees are usually older hispanics. (I speak Spanish).

 

I'm starting a new job next week, and I want to try to do it right this time. I don't want to be like the asshole managers I hated when I was a cook, but I also want my employees to want to work hard, and be proud of what they do and of being part of a team.

 

Let me know your thoughts, ideas, advice, suggestions, what works for you, what you must absolutely avoid.

 

And thank you so much!

post #2 of 20

http://www.exed.hbs.edu/assets/Documents/hbr-how-google-sold-engineers-management.pdf

 

It's a bit lengthy, but  is the best management article I've read in a long time. Not platitudes and philosophy, but tangible, actionable, buildable, reveiwable. 

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #3 of 20

In my experience you won't receive respect for being nice, you'll just be taken advantage of, every time. You're not their friend they won't remember what you've done for them, just what they can get away with, and what you'll do for them.


Edited by beastmasterflex - 9/13/14 at 12:24pm
post #4 of 20

It's not important that any of you agree. 

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #5 of 20
I have to agree with @beastmasterflex your roll is not to be their friend. It is much like being a parent. You are there to help and guid them everyday and when it's needed you step in no problem.However you are not their friend your end goal is the well being of the establishment/restaurant.

The best chef I had while I was learning the trade was the worst one I ever worked for. He was blatantly honest about things. How I messed up and how he wanted everything. With those things being explicitly clear I excelled while under him. He was very..... Let's say harsh for sake of keeping this PG. 😏.However as I find myself in his shoes I find myself a bit stern at times but this does not keep me from Getting along with my employees and having fun when appropriate. I always try and find something in common with each employee or even just asking how the family is can break the ice a bit. Truly showing you care about them is a good trait in my opinion to have. But remembering your reason of being there is to keep things going making the money.

Best of luck at your new job.
post #6 of 20
Sounds like your doing a great job with the relationships with your employees, but ultimately they work for you and it sounds like you need to delegate the undesirable tasks, your employees may not be excited.. maybe let them know how much it helps you and contributes to the overall production and stress the importance of the task.
post #7 of 20

There were 5 chefs I absolutely loved working for, They all shared common character traits.


1. They were humble, they didn't brag, hell others bragged about them, and they stayed modest.

2. They were encouraging, and they were sculptors. They motivated me, encouraged me, stayed positive, I would work for them for minimum wage if I was back in LA, because they didn't just treat me with respect, they helped me grow as a chef, they showed me things I wouldn't ever learn if they didn't take the time to do it.

3. They had high standards and they held everyone too them, including themselves, I see a lot of lazy chefs. If the sauté guy is slammed help him out, if garde manger is slammed help them out. That being said they expected me to perform. All poor performance was documented, if you made something wrong and it couldn't go out, it was documented and you were warned.
4. They were knowledgeable. What they didn't know they found out, they never stopped learning, they still stage at other places even though they are sous or executives.

5. They have a pre-service brief and a post service brief. They tell you what you can expect for that day, covers, answer questions, etc. They examine what went wrong, how things can be improved etc.

Be strict, have discipline, be polite, courteous, professional, that's not the same as being nice.
I'll leave you with these two videos:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9g4zb6wSRU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2qBAqXEZVQ

The first one is Uchi, and there is a part two
The second is NOMA.
I respect the kind of chef who will help me get to the next level.

post #8 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by beastmasterflex View Post
 

People respect and follow strength. In general kitchen workers are like wolves the second you aren't the alpha you'll have the betas challenging. If you maintain a constant pressure and dominance you won't ever have to deal with beating down a beta that forgets their place. Being a female working with men from a largely chauvinistic culture you'll probably need to maintain more pressure than your male counterparts, and the challenges from betas a male chef could a avoid will be a regular part of your life no matter what you do.

 

Also I might add in my experience you won't receive respect for being nice, you'll just be taken advantage of, every time. You're not their friend they won't remember what you've done for them, just what they can get away with, and what you'll do for them.

 

If this is offensive please delete mod, but its my opinion. Kitchen workers aren't software engineers...


@beastmasterflex,

Wow, sorry it's like that for you. Can't be very enjoyable. I'm an O/O and have it completely different. My co-workers have been with us from 8 to 24yrs. everyone of them has some type of ownership, bonus or ownership %. Sure there are times when you have to employ management skills but never a sharp stick in the eye. I was hoping those days were fizzling out.

You're right, they are not software engineers. My son sent me that article and I thought it was brilliant and try to use some key points for myself. BTW My 23yr old worked in the kitchen and was recruited last yr. out to Google for a 24 month residency. When he sent me this article he said work reminded him of our old $50 cookie challenges. But everyday, he says it hard to go home at nite.

just sayin

FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #9 of 20
?
post #10 of 20

Wow, don't know what happened to the message.  Half of it was left out, half was all discombobulated.

 

Anyway, check out the book "The Peter Principle".

post #11 of 20
Wow that google article is really interesting. Those 8 points are really spot on. Looking at them, I can see what I already know are my strong and weak points as a manager. In our business, we tend tolearn things in a rough and tumble way; I think people underestmate what we can learn from "HR" type stuff. Having said that....
We aren't usually working with people who are as dedicated as those google employees. It's a job to them, it might not be the only one, and a lot don't have the background/education their managers do. A chef in most restos is the technician AND the manager.
So, being a good manager and a good person does not exclude discipline and firings. Delegating tasks does not make you a lazy chef. Disciplining people does not mean you have to be a jerk. Tell people how you want things done and hold them to it; you might have to trim a few branches to get where you need to be. Listen to people and take input from experienced employees but make the last call your self.
Make the work clear, have good plans, and hold people to your standards. Remember that an organized, clean kitchen is easier for everyone to work in.
post #12 of 20

all good points.

When I was young I trained with a brilliant French Chef. He was always talking about defi, defi,

It wasn't until years later when I rose up to the top that I understood him. Challenge is a very important part of life. When we are in charge

we tend to challenge ourselves tremendously, especially in this industry. I have found that the successful people are ones that challenge their support staff.

The challenge can be as small as the broiler cook not having any returns for the night. Something for them to have some ownership in your operation. I'm

not talking rewards just self satisfaction and a little praise. I think if you give a little SS and some praise to a wolf they may not even bite you.

FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #13 of 20
I would normally drive everybody using all my chefly skills to get the most outta them. Eyes never off the prize taking no prisoners along the way. It results In burnout for some, who are not meant for our world and motivation for others who just want more and more work. Though I like cheftorres87s' post. I'm gonna try and be more like that myself now.
post #14 of 20
I just observed what chefs like David Chang, Rene Redzepi, and Tyson Cole, are doing in their kitchens. They are empowering the people that work for them, reaching for new things, researching old techniques.

I had a manager once, (I left when he went to manage other restaurants) he gave me the key to the restaurant after 3 weeks of working for him, he could see my passion, So I got to go in early, bang out all the prep early, bring in my own ingredients from the market next door, make puree's and sauces and practice my garnishes ( http://www.amazon.com/The-Decorative-Japanese-Food-Carving/dp/1568364350 )

I really liked that he trusted me, hell even came to see me in the hospital when I had appendicitis and took me out to dinner a few times to discuss flavor profiles of other cultures and how we could incorporate that into sushi.

I guess what I'm saying is encouragement and mentoring go an extremely long way, and will motivate your chefs to do a lot better.
post #15 of 20
Thread Starter 

Thank you everyone, for your responses!

 

While I do understand the authoritative management style, and how "alpha" cooks might always be waiting to jump, I know that's not the style for me. I know that might get the most immediate results, but you don't build long-standing respect and loyalty that way.

 

I must admit I never got any training on being a manager in the slightest. I was simply thrown from being a cook into being a chef, and expected to know what to do. Obviously, I've made plenty of mistakes but I'm definitely willing to learn from them. It's definitely a bit trickier being a leader in a fast paced environment that often has turnover and not nearly the education and loyalty that someone like a Google employee might have.

 

So, what seems to me to be the most important traits: be knowledgable, organized, communicate clearly, encourage and mentor your employees, have high standards, be humble and respectful but decicive. 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Grande View Post


So, being a good manager and a good person does not exclude discipline and firings. Delegating tasks does not make you a lazy chef. Disciplining people does not mean you have to be a jerk. Tell people how you want things done and hold them to it; you might have to trim a few branches to get where you need to be. Listen to people and take input from experienced employees but make the last call your self.
Make the work clear, have good plans, and hold people to your standards. Remember that an organized, clean kitchen is easier for everyone to work in.


Very well said. Again, thank you everyone for your input. 

post #16 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by madewithnotepad View Post
 

Thank you everyone, for your responses!

 

While I do understand the authoritative management style, and how "alpha" cooks might always be waiting to jump, I know that's not the style for me. I know that might get the most immediate results, but you don't build long-standing respect and loyalty that way.

 

I must admit I never got any training on being a manager in the slightest. I was simply thrown from being a cook into being a chef, and expected to know what to do.

 

That's pretty much par for the course in the kitchen.  Either you 1) come into the trade with some management experience, 2) mentor under a great manager that shows you the ropes, 3) get lucky and just have an intuitive knack for it or 4) flounder and struggle until you figure it out.  I think option #4 is the most common.

 

In the kitchen you usually get promoted because you're a better cook than your peers, are more reliable, faster, a bigger kiss-ass, etc.  But you're promoted into a job you may not be great at.  As someone has said, look up "the Peter principle"; it says that people usually are promoted repeatedly until they no longer have the skills that merit another promotion, so they end up in the job they're least good at.

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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post #17 of 20
Thread Starter 

Yeah, that was pretty much exactly the case for me. I was a fast, reliable, hard worker, and when I asked for the position I got it. Now that I'm management, I feel like I'd love to just work as a line cook at a nice place. Of course, if I had never gotten promoted by this point, I'd be severely disappointed by now. But it's hard to go back when you're used to the money and not having someone else boss you around.

post #18 of 20

Word.  Everyone wants to move up the ladder and succeed.  But oftentimes moving up takes you further and further from the part of the job you most love- actually cooking food.  I'm the happiest when I'm on the line rocking out the orders, or in the prep kitchen creating a new feature.  I'm the most miserable when I'm standing in the pantry with a clipboard, counting shit, or doing the order, or sitting down in front of a stack of vacation requests trying to make the schedule work.  Food is what I like, the rest is just an necessary evil to me.

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
post #19 of 20
I actually took a supervisor job for a year that allowed me to basically just cook, and yeah, the money was never enough, even though it was good. But I also found I was the most experienced person in kitchen! The chef was only 26!
I remember asking people if they remembered what fryer oil was like before they outlawed transfats and getting blank stares!
But it makes it hard to watch people in management roles if you don't think they are doing things like theyshould, especially when you know how it should be
post #20 of 20
Thread Starter 
Yeah, I'm only 25 and many of the cooks undoubtedly know things I don't. I never claim to know everything, always willing to learn as well as teach. I know I'd feel indignant in their position as well, but I'm here and all I can do is my best.
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