Work in a kitchen long enough and you’ll come across chefs so exasperating there aren’t enough expletives to describe them. While it’s standard practice to just “suck it up,” we Food Fanatics say cooks, managers and restaurant owners need to find ways to cope. Save yourself a few cold sweats by figuring out your chef’s personality type. You’ll better understand your chef—and see if you can take the heat or get out of the kitchen.
1. When you ask your chef to lower food costs, she:
A. Smiles politely, nodding in agreement. A server later spills that she mocked you and doesn’t plan on doing a thing.
B. Screams at you. It’s hard to make out what she’s saying between all those F-bombs.
C. Looks glassy-eyed, as if she’s in an alternate universe.
D. Asks you to point out which part of the menu you’d like to lose quality in.
2. An unsatisfied guest unleashes a barrage of service complaints on Twitter. Your chef:
A. Waves her hand, as if to make the problem magically disappear.
B. Retweets, adding how bleeping stupid they are.
C. Looks dumbfounded and says, “It doesn’t matter. It’s all about the food.”
D. Hands you Sirio Maccioni’s book, “Sirio: The Story of My Life and Le Cirque,” and tells you to read up.
3. A menu overhaul has you scratching your head—the prices are out of whack and the dishes don’t mesh with the restaurant’s concept. The chef:
A. Says, “Everything will be OK.”
B. Gives you a cold stare. Hell just froze over.
C. Talks about his vision for great food.
D. Gives you a dissertation about flawless execution.
4. A few servers mess up position numbers when entering orders, so they’re always asking who got what when bringing plates to the table. Your chef:
A. Tells you to relax. A couple of flaws are no big deal.
B. Snarls, makes a fist and says, “I’ll take care of this.”
C. Believes it’s an opportunity to talk about the food.
D. Says fire the servers—there’s only room for perfection.
The Zen One. This chef might be a superficial version of Eric Ripert—amiable and friendly, minus the talent. It’s hard to get a rise out of him, and sometimes you wonder if he has a pulse. Reach this chef with balance. Pick your battles and show, don’t tell, how to best solve issues.
The Screamer. Sounds like you are working for Gordon Ramsay’s doppelganger. When this chef calls you a worthless piece of $#!%, don’t take it personally. Keep your head down, work harder than anyone else and admit to your mistakes. If you’re a general manager or owner, talk to the chef one-on-one, preferably at the end of the shift and over a cocktail.
The Bro. His stoner, laissez-faire attitude makes you wonder how he gets through the day. Appeal to his sensibilities by tying in the importance of the food’s integrity. Don’t let him manage the books or food costs.
The Perfectionist. This person brings to mind the diligence and passion found in great chefs like Thomas Keller. Demonstrate your commitment to excellence, but
reinforce the importance of give and take.
GOT A QUESTION FOR THE FOOD FANATIC?
Email us your challenges, comments and suggestions. Scott McCurdy is a Food Fanatic for US Foods from Denver who hikes, bikes, hunts mushrooms and shares the love of food with fellow talented chefs. Follow the Food Fanatic on Twitter for more inside tips: @chefsmccurdy
Food Fanatics undergo rigorous culinary, communications and consulting training to help chefs and other foodservice professionals meet business goals.