The public will flock. Everyone loves to be entertained by a superstar -- especially if it involves food. Tuesdays will look like Saturdays and Saturdays will be your dream come true. But what happens when the dust settles? What happens when it comes time for the superstar to move on, as they usually do?
I think the time, money and energy spent on building a superstar chef could be better used on building a superstar RESTAURANT. Concentrate on excellent service, quality ingredients and a superb atmosphere and they too, will flock. It may take time but, in the long run, it will last and last and last, no matter who has the whites on.
Besides, If The Food Network calls and needs Mr. Chef Friday at 9:30 -- who is watching that line????
Just my thoughts,
Ron Gorodesky is right. Hiring a so-called super chef can prove treacherous, though not just because he or she may suddenly bolt.
What Gorodesky doesn't mention is that star chefs can drive owners crazy by experimenting with with exotic and expensive ingredients. It's all fine and dandy if customers (and potential customers) have sophisticated palates. But in most second- and third-tier markets tastes are yet somewhat limited; a little chipotle goes a long way, if you know what I mean. Talented chefs, super stars or otherwise, recognize this fact and menu accordingly.
A restaurant visit, as any veteran operator will tell you, isn't solely about eating; it's mainly hospitality. For those serious about providing it, a skilled dining-room manager is often worth at least as much as a top-notch chef.
Regarding your suggestion that restaurants hire a PR firm to get media coverage for their chefs. Here are some tips from my newsletter The Publicity Hound on how chefs can get coverage without spending the money to hire a PR firm.
1. Offer yourself as a resources to reporters who cover the food and restaurant beats.
2. Get to know local columnists. They always need fresh ideas.
3. Fax industry clippings, reports, story ideas and news tips to your media contacts every month or so just to stay in touch and be helpful to them.
4. Write opinion columns and letters to the editor. (If you're writing an opinion column, send a photo to go with it.)
5. Produce your own cable TV show on the local public access channel.
6. When you pitch a story idea about your chef to the media, tie it to a holiday, seasonal event or an anniversary.
7. Sponsor a contest, or take an annual poll or survey of your customers. Send the results to the media.
8. Don't forget weeklies, alumni publications, shoppers, religion magazines, college newspapers, local radio talk shows, and other people's newsletters.
Joan Stewart, The Summit Group, LLC
As a chef myself, I have mixed feelings about "Super Chefs". On the positive side, this glorifying of chefs has increased the level of respect for chefs in the restaurant industry, and also in the public's opinion. It has also increased salaries to an (almost) decent level. It is amazing what is expected of chefs, both physically and mentally, by many restaurateurs for so little pay! The chef's job is extremely demanding and some positive recognition for that is great!
The negatives are the damaging effects to a business that cannot afford or does not want a celebrity chef. As mentioned in the article the attrition rate is high, and most celebrity chefs are rarely in the kitchen (I have worked for several). They are not always in control of the food that is served on a daily basis. Many people may not realize that the best known chefs are not always the most talented, although many are. There are many celebrity chefs who are not respected by their colleagues for their ability, but have risen to fame with the help of luck, personality, looks and great PR. There are many more talented chefs who struggle in relative anonymity to produce great food for the sheer love of cooking.
I personally think the "Super Chef" idea has gone too far and chefs should be recognized for their ability to produce great food in the kitchen, rather than their ability to crack a joke in front of a camera.
If your 'Super Chef' cooks some 'super food' (does he? or is it his crew?) and it is plunked down in front of the guest by a snotty server who also might serve you a warm beer, it will be a flop...
What I want to say: Everything depends on teamwork. A good kitchen team can not do anything without a good service team and the other way around. It ALL comes down to good teamwork, atmosphere, ambiance and surroundings. If one of these "ingredients" is missing, nothing will work, not in the long run anyway. Remember,you can not fool all the guests all the time.
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