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Utilizing your staffs talents

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

Good morning everyone, I wanted to see what your opinions were about something I'm dealing with at work.  I'm currently the opening Chef at a new Hilton property opening in Queens, New York.  It's a new build, came up from the framing.  It was a great experience to be a part of the opening team.   I've already hired my staff and on paper, everyone seems great.  I say on paper because when they were hired, we didn't have a kitchen for them to stage in and where I could see what they could do.  So I relied on the interviewing process, resumes and references to make my choice of who I'd hire.  So that being said, on paper, I have some great line cooks.  One worked in some of the top restaurants in NYC, two others worked in five start hotels and another worked in Brooklyn under some respectable Chefs.  My question is this; How do I utilize their talents, and gain some input from them without compromising my authority? Now, I'm no slouch in the kitchen.  I've risen up the ranks quickly in the Hilton Family and wouldn't be here if many people didn't think I was up for the task. But they have a wealth of experience, and bring something very valuable to the table, and I want to tap into those resources and use them as best I can.  So again, how does one utilize the skills and creativity of their staff without compromising their authority? Thank you so much and have a great day.

post #2 of 5

You're over thinking it. Your job is to be the organizer. Order the food, schedule, etc. If they have the wealth of experience, they should know how to do their mise en place, work the line, clean the kitchen. You can mediate ego disputes, keep things calm  during service and make sure they have what they need. 

     For what it's worth, I used to tell my employees that they were free to disagree with me but because I was the owner, I already won the argument before it got started. If they had a suggestion or irritation or complaint they had complete freedom to speak candidly. They simply had to accept that I may or may not take their suggestion, agree with their irritation or do anything about their complaint. When they did have something to say, I took the time to explain why I could or would not respond as they wanted. When they were right, I acted as quickly as possible to make any necessary changes.

     I also believe that everyone needs the tools, training and material to do a job. If one of the three is lacking, it is my job to provide it. Once the staff begin  working in your kitchen with your menu, you will quickly discover what is lacking and where. The breakfast cook may know how to poach eggs but is doing so in an inappropriate pan or doesn't have the correct tool for removing the eggs. You need to provide that and let them know you will be doing so asap.  

   The lunch cook is good during service but is unfamiliar with proper storage procedures and leaves things uncovered, undated and in the wrong place. You provide the training to get him/her on track. 

      In the movie "The Godfather" the phrase was "It's not personal, strictly business". That's very true for the kitchen. If you can establish and maintain that attitude without having an attitude, you'll be fine. 

post #3 of 5

Do you want to be known as an authority figure or remembered as a savvy chef? If the latter, hire the best and then let them do what you hired them to do. A good leader is self confident and fosters the the concept of people working "with" him, not "for" him. It works best when you can guide rather than push.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
post #4 of 5

I wait until I have a good few weeks with the people I am to work with. I gauge their attitudes and aptitudes and then take it from there. Trying to what @chefwriter has said and "overthink" things is going to backfire on you as what people write on resumes is not who they are in person. Just relax, have a grounded mindset on who you are as a chef and what you bring to the table, and let the rest sort itself out. Bring your excitement and energy to the kitchen as well as an even temper and hard work ethic. You got this. The people that you have hired will either naturally fall into place or won't but like @cheflayne and @chefwriter your the authority or manager now....not people's best buddy or friend so act accordingly but with open ears, mind and an open door.


Good luck and tell us how it goes!

post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 

Thank you all for your great advice, I really took it to heart and I know it's going to be a great help to me.  Today is "D-Day", we have to be guest ready by tomorrow night; and we are still trying to kick out the rest of the contractors. My team has been the work horses of the departments so far, which makes me proud to see.  They've responded to me amazingly so far and like what was said above, I'll set them up to succeed in all areas and be there to guide and support them when needed.  So here's hoping we have the hot water turned on today so I can clean my kitchen properly and here's to my staff.  Again thank you all.  I'll post updates as we get closer; Hilton is sending their auditor Monday morning to inspect and we have to be ready for our first guests Tuesday morning. Fingers crossed.

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