Q. My son wants to go to culinary school. He watches chefs on Food Network and other shows that glamorize the industry. How do I get him to see this is not the norm?
A. Tell him to enroll in a short class to see if he likes it. Then, reach out to a friend in the business who can set up a stage for him and provide the true kitchen experience. Lastly, remind him that when all his friends are out having fun, he’ll be working (weekend nights, holidays, etc.).
Q. One of my bartenders is very popular with my guests and staff, but he has become very negative about the restaurant—especially with regulars. He had the nerve to suggest to guests that they just have a cocktail here and go down the street for dinner. Should I can him, or is there a way to turn this around?
A. Look into his concerns: Is the kitchen dragging tickets lately? Has food quality slipped? Make an effort to understand the whole picture and take action on valid complaints. Have a straightforward, stern conversation with him, adding that projecting negativity about the business is unacceptable. Offer him a chance to tell his side. Be empathetic and open-minded, then remind him of the proper channels to voice such concerns.
Q. Seems like the list of sustainable seafood changes a lot. How can I find out which fish can be served ethically without endangering the species’ viability?
A. Sustainability is an increasing concern among chefs and restaurateurs around the world as we strive to provide the variety and quality that guests want without destroying fish populations. The answer, in a word, is education. Chefs and owners need to be more informed about sustainable seafood practices and species, and share that knowledge with customers. Seafoodwatch.org is a good place to start.
Q. We’re thinking of doing some specials around the start of tailgating season. Any advice?
A. Heat is king this season, giving rise to dishes like ghost pepper poutine and buffalo seasoned fries. Whatever you do, make sure flavors are bold and exciting. Each bite should feel like a party in your mouth—one that’s enhanced by your favorite beverage. Let customers know that your menu has been jacked up with enhanced flavors.
Q. As you know, chefs, like everyone else, are required to do more with less help. Seems like I am always behind with ordering. Any ideas?
A. If you’re not using technology in every possible way, you’re losing time. Take a moment to actually listen to a sales pitch or two when those calls come. You should also check out the US Foods appavailable for Android and iOS. You can search new products, create and edit new orders, check on current orders and find out your delivery status all on one device. This could save you hours a day.
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Food Fanatics undergo rigorous culinary, communications and consulting training to help chefs and other foodservice professionals meet business goals.
Matthew Dean is a Food Fanatic chef for the Chicago area who has a passion for all things pizza and pork, and believes there’s always a new way to spin a classic.
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