5 Habits Of A Good Head Chef

What does it take to truly lead your team and ‘Master Your Kitchen’.

Keeping a busy kitchen running smoothly takes hard work everyday, staying determined and positive is key. 

It may seem simple but getting the basics right (and making them daily habits) will set you, your team and restaurant up for success. 

1. Planning.

Good chefs are good planners.

Plan ahead, setting you and your team up for the next day and the next week. 

You can’t come into work each day blind, it will only lead to disaster and guarantee a high turnover of staff.

Good organisation always flows down and starts at the top with YOU.  

Good head chefs know; what they need for the day, what’s in the fridges, what needs to be ordered and when, how much prep needs to be done, when the peak times in service are, how many staff are needed at certain times throughout the day. 

If you spend time planning your day and weeks ahead, your kitchen will be more efficient and less stressful for everyone.  This is always going to result in a better end product!

Action steps: Create a weekly/ monthly work flow for yourself and create time in your own schedule to stick to it.  Create a calendar to mark peak periods, upcoming holidays/ events that will need different levels of planning / ordering and rostering.

2. Time management.

Time management is one of the most important skills you have to learn and put into practice. 

By managing the team’s time everyday, you will be amazed at how much and how quickly you can get tasks ticked off and how efficiently your kitchen will run.  

Understanding the flow of the business and how this impacts the work rate of the kitchen can allow you to create time in the day to complete tasks whether its recurring or expected downtime, use this to your advantage.  And make sure the whole team is onboard with getting the jobs done!

Action steps: Use a checklist in the kitchen for jobs that have to be completed on a daily basis and weekly tasks that can be done if there’s quiet time.  From prepping, organising coolrooms and storage, ordering, rostering, cleaning and setting up sections, empower your team to take responsibility for what needs to happen in the kitchen.  Make time in your day to check in with your chefs, make sure they are ready for service and tasks are being completed as you expect.

3. Focus.

When the heat is on and you are pumping during service you must remain focused on the task at hand and stay in control. 

Distractions lead to mistakes, mistakes lead to more pressure. It could be a wrongly cooked dish, sending food to the wrong table or worse an accident or injury to your chefs. 

This is a skill that takes real discipline but it is worth nurturing. 

Action steps: Practise keeping your cool in the kitchen!  Even with the best intentions things go wrong, how you respond impacts the environment of the kitchen and the end results. Be reflective and open to change, plan for how you can do things differently going forward.

Keeping a professional, positive mindset, allows you and your team to develop.

4. Ready, set, service.

Having the kitchen organized, clean and sections ready for service is paramount for success. You have to know where everything is, how much prep each chef has, what you need at hand during service. ‘Mise en Plus’ does not just relate to your food prep. It is for the entire kitchen to be set and ready and to have what they need, whether it’s the food in the fridge to what utensils, pans, etc you need at hand. 

Action steps: Prior to starting service go and check in with each chef and section and check they are ready, as their leader you must know what they need or what they are missing, correct it before service to enable you to thrive during pressure times.

5. Communication.

Your team is your most important asset. Effective communication with them is key to making all of the above work and your restaurant a success.

From your kitchen hands to your sous chef, you all need to be on the same page. 

Good, positive communication will flow down and strengthen your team, it will also flow up increasing the owners confidence in your ability to manage their kitchen.

Ask the right questions. When your chefs arrive for work, greet them, ask them how they are. Hold a quick morning meeting to let them know what is happening for the day. What happened yesterday, what improvements can be made?  What needs to be done first, how many are booked for lunch or dinner, when the push times are during service, who needs help with prep.

And listen to your team, their ideas can help in the success of the kitchen. Always thank your team after work for a great day. Remember, kitchen work can be tough so making your staff feel appreciated will lead to a stronger team.

Action steps: Create time for an in person team meeting with as many of the team as possible.  Set the tone and purpose of that meeting.  Allow time to observe the kitchen at different times of the day, to connect with all members of the team and understand the workflow.  Group messaging apps can be really helpful for whole team communication, notes and praise, but remember you set the tone!

Creating good habits across the kitchen will improve productivity, moral and profits.

Creating good habits and making them stick can be challenging in any business.

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