Kitchen Confidential: Egomaniacal bosses need to let chefs run their own kitchens

The head chef of an acclaimed Dubai restaurant speaks out about management communication
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An anonymous chef speaks to Caterer Middle East
An anonymous chef speaks to Caterer Middle East

Having spent years working in top kitchens across several continents, the one thing I’ve noticed in common is that the management/kitchen staff relationship has been unworkable.

I am convinced that if you solve management interfering with kitchen operations, you can solve 90% of the problems that occur every day in a restaurant.

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The root of the problem is that not enough restaurant operators or senior management have worked in the kitchen or even in front of house before.

Too many operators think having a restaurant is something fun they can do on the side without realising both the work that goes into it and the level of expertise and knowledge that those of us who worked our way up from washing dishes have about the whole operation.

Instead, they come up with half-baked ideas, which we all know will be unsuccessful but we have to nod along as they are the one signing our cheques.

I remember working in one place that had an incredibly successful promotion night running each Monday that the executive chef had come up with himself. It attracted a big crowd and made our venue the place to be seen that night each week.

After the chef left, and the night’s numbers dipped slightly, instead of refocusing on it, management decided to expand it to two nights. As expected, it completely killed it. They removed everything that made it special then act surprised when it doesn’t work.

Most of these decisions are impulsive and made when they feel pressured, but if we disagree with them and tell them why it won’t work, we are seen as being negative.

We’re not negative, we’re just experienced. Trust me, if you as management come up with an idea but the chef disagrees and has been in the industry for triple the length of time you have, then there’s a good reason he disagrees.

It’s the same when they have an idea for a new dish and the chef disagrees. It’s not arrogance, it’s because he knows the restaurant, he knows the food, he knows the customers. As chefs, we want to put our heart and soul into every dish 100%, but if you try to force a dish onto us that we know won’t work, it will only end in failure.

It’s this lack of trust that causes division and resentment in the kitchen and it comes through in many forms.

It’s my kitchen, I know what I need to order to ensure we have everything that we need, so why does ordering 10kg of apples require four signatures before it goes to the supplier? The F&B manager, the GM, the finance manager, the procurement manager... Why not ask housekeeping and the stewarding manager for their take on it while we’re here?

This causes massive delays in ordering simple items and doesn’t let us run our kitchens as efficiently as we know we can.

You show us off in the media, you celebrate our successful menus, but you don’t trust us enough to run the kitchen as we see fit? This needs to change.

Do you have an industry opinion you want to air anonymously with Caterer Middle East?
Email simon.ritchie@itp.com - all information will be kept private and confidential.

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