There are plenty of stereotypes surrounding the role of the chef–and all too many of them are negative. You, however, want to break out of those stereotypes and create a kitchen that’s fun to work in while still maintaining the expectations of the restaurant’s customers. By learning to recognize these familiar stereotypes, you can avoid the trap of becoming one of them.
Stereotype #1: The Angry Chef
You’re probably familiar with the angry chef from comics and television. This typically male character is often the one standing over a new employee, bellowing at them–or perhaps chasing a server who dared ask for a customer’s requested substitution on a meal. In your kitchen, this plays out as a chef who is quick-tempered, hard to please, and who can quickly bring down the mood of the entire evening.
Avoiding the Stereotype: If you don’t want to be the angry chef, there are several things to keep in mind. First and foremost, respond–don’t react! By controlling your responses to everyone else in the kitchen, you’ll quickly deescalate what could otherwise be a negative situation. You can also follow some of these tips:
- Always take a minute to think before responding in anger. Is that response the one you really want to give the person in front of you?
- Remember that some things aren’t within the control of your coworkers. Blasting a server for the customer’s order won’t help!
- Take a break and calm down if you need to. Just make sure the kitchen is covered!
Stereotype #2: The Stressed-Out Chef
Being a chef is a difficult, demanding job. You’re constantly moving, constantly trying to get orders out, and the danger of making a mistake is high. Not only that, many kitchens are stiflingly hot or packed too full to be comfortable. As a result, this stereotypical chef is constantly running on high-stress levels, rarely able to calm down.
Avoiding the Stereotype: You know just how stressful a bad day at work can be. There are days when the crush of the kitchen can get to anyone! That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to live in that heightened state of stress. Instead, try this:
- Arrange your kitchen so that things run smoothly most days. Know who to ask to take care of specific tasks, have adequate staff on hand to take care of the orders you know are coming in even on busy days, and do as much prep work as possible ahead of time.
- Let go of the need for perfection. Take a deep breath and be willing to laugh at yourself when things go wrong.
- Be a little silly, as long as it doesn’t compromise safety. Humor will always defuse tension!
- Separate life stresses from work stress. Learn not to bring life stress to work, and don’t take work stress home with you.
- Take adequate breaks throughout your shift so that you can calm down and regain perspective if needed.
Stereotype #3: The Perfectionist
This stereotypical chef is an artist. Everything must be exactly so: the recipe followed perfectly, the plates arranged exactly the same way before they leave the kitchen, and everything moving at exactly the pace he’s set. If things don’t go his way, he’s right there in the middle, micromanaging the little details and insisting that perfectly adequate work be redone until it’s up to his standard of perfection.
Avoiding the Stereotype: Ouch! Did The Perfectionist sound just a bit too familiar? Fortunately, you can learn to let go and avoid micromanaging every aspect of your employees’ performance. Try this:
- Delegate, then let people do the jobs they’ve been assigned. Don’t hover over them every moment.
- Don’t insist on perfection. Keep in mind that most people won’t notice many of the differences you’re stressing over.
- Give your staff freedom. Trust that they know what they’re doing and will come to you if there’s a problem–most of the time, they will!
You don’t want to be a stereotypical chef. You want to be a great, memorable chef with a staff who enjoys working for you. By avoiding these key stereotypes, you can shift the way you respond to your kitchen staff and your customers, making yourself more than a stereotype ever could be.
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