It doesn’t matter if you are just beginning a chef career, or whether you’re about to be promoted to head chef. At all stages of our kitchen life, we want to be well thought of by the rest of the brigade, and this means earning respect.
Earning respect can be difficult in many career fields as it can all to often be based on talking about the work you do, rather than by doing the actual work itself. Fortunately in the world of catering this approach rarely works well.
Chefs earn respect by the experiences they have gained. If a chef has worked in a kitchen that is known for producing a high standard of cuisine, that chef will gain the respect of their peers.
This is also true of working in kitchens which are known for being very tough environments to work in.
Certain head chefs carry fearsome reputations. Any chef who has a stint in one of these kitchens on their C.V is recognised as being made of tough stuff by the others.
Gaining respect is the main reason some chefs are able to shout at others without everyone simply walking out!
Gaining respect, and therefor the ability to control a kitchen via shouting and verbal insults, go hand in hand together. By looking at how chefs are able to get away with this behaviour we uncover the character traits they have which makes other chefs respect them.
How Do Chefs Get Away With Shouting At People?
A kitchen environment can be a very challenging place to work. During incredibly busy periods it is important that high levels of discipline are maintained. Chefs sometimes achieve this by the use of shouting and verbal insults.
It might not seem like the nicest way to go about things, but unfortunately this type of discipline has been shown many times to produce work under intense pressure.
The armed forces are known for instilling discipline via the use of shouting and verbal insults. They use this method the whole world over because it works.
Whilst I’m not suggesting a kitchen is the same as the armed forces, the premise of using shouting to instill discipline is the same.
Another reason worth mentioning is that the barrier to entry for becoming a chef is pretty low. The great benefit of this, is that it can attract people from all walks of life. Often times kitchens are a place for people that have had a rough start, or made some mistakes, to make a fresh start.
Some people that do not do well under a traditional work environment thrive in the kitchen atmosphere. They love the structure and the clear hierarchy system which is in place.
In this way, shouting is built into the culture of a kitchen (although it is not nearly as common as T.V chefs would have you believe)
That is not to say that any old chef can get away with ranting and raving at others. On the contrary, they are going to be ignored unless they have the respect of the brigade.
How Do Chefs Earn Respect?
As eluded to earlier,
A chef’s respect comes from the experience and knowledge which they have gained throughout their career. The kitchens they have worked in plays a large role in the amount of respect they receive from the rest of the brigade.
Without respect the chef can rant or rave all they like, they will simply be ignored or told in no uncertain terms by the rest of the brigade to ‘calm down’
Due to the kitchen environment, chefs are by no means shrinking violets and they are happy to stand up for themselves if they believe their leader is not up to the job.
What makes a great head chef, who by definition is a great leader, is someone who is able to put their ideas and vision across to others, and then critically, have everyone else on board wanting to work towards that vision
Gordon Ramsay is perhaps the most famous angry chef. If he wasn’t the great chef that he is, do we think anyone would put up with his outbursts? Of course not!
The reason chefs are queuing up to work for him is the fact that he is an amazing chef and has worked in some very tough kitchens himself (he spent a long time working under infamous angry chef Marco Pierre White)
This kind of experience means that other chefs want to learn from him. As they want to learn, they are willing to put up with the bad side of the job (i.e occasionally getting screamed at!)
However, it doesn’t have to be a celebrity chef, there are many great kitchens where the head chefs are a little bit hot headed at times. The other chefs stay because they know the experience is valuable.
Experience in these types of environment is valuable to chefs in many ways.
- The cuisine knowledge. By learning how to create the best dishes, it elevates a chef and puts them on the best career path possible.
- The kitchen’s reputation. When a chef has worked in a kitchen with a tough reputation, that experience stays with them their whole career. In the world of catering, it gives them respect from the other chefs they go on to work with.
- Career progression. If a chef hopes to be a head chef one day having high level restaurant experience on their CV (particularly Michelin star and above) is a great way to achieve this dream. Chefs are willing to put up with tough environments as they know it is only temporary.
- Financial rewards. These may not be instantaneous but are a definite benefit over the long run. Having top level kitchens on our CV makes commanding higher pay checks a lot easier when taking new jobs.
We’ve spoke a lot about experience so far, as this is by far the most important aspect when it comes to gaining respect for the higher ranking positions, but what about for those just starting out?
How Can New Chefs Earn Respect?
When starting as a chef it can be a little daunting. Most other chefs are very friendly to new recruits, but beginners are still keen to prove themselves and earn respect as quickly as possible.
New chefs can earn respect from their colleagues by showing that they are a great team player. This means taking some of the burden from the other chefs by contributing to the overall kitchen’s performance.
Although as a beginner we may have very little (if any) kitchen experience, we can still become a respected chef and member of the team.
The old adage of respect is earned, not given, is especially true in kitchen environments.
Doing all the necessary things early on to prove we are a team player, and are there to contribute to the rest of the kitchen is vital.
New chefs can demonstrate they are a team player and earn respect by:
- Be Punctual: This is vital in any career, particularly so for chefs as the deadlines are fixed and crucial.
- Ask the right questions: Questions show that we are keen to learn and want to do things right, which are both great qualities. However, we must avoid asking the same questions as this can come across like we are not paying attention.
- Work hard. There is always lots to be done in a kitchen. When given a task try to complete it as quickly as possible (whilst not sacrificing quality for speed). In this way we are actively helping and not being dragged along by the other chefs.
- Get Involved: Kitchens can be daunting, especially during busy service periods. Despite this we need to be brave and get involved early on.
- Don’t panic: Chefs that panic and crumble when the pressure comes on struggle to regain that respect. There is no place in the kitchen for stroppy people, if we have a bad service we need to forget it and move on quickly.
These are some of the main points to look at, and overall it all comes down to the same thing.
A chef gains respect when they are able to contribute effectively to the prep work and to the service. When a chef is placed on a busy section during a lunch or dinner service and they perform well, they become a valuable, useful and respected member of the team.
Anyone beginning their chef career journey should focus on doing their job well. By learning and working hard, we will gain respect as a by-product.