Here is the BOTTOM LINE. Serve consistently good food and you will be successful. Know your product and niche. We sell out every night and open 4 days a week, so we can rest more, and be more powerful with food. Hire the best people you can find, pay them well, watch your cooks, watch your servers, add the special touches, praise the people who work for you...be available and easy in temper. Mingle with customers "how is your food and service tonight?" Be fair and trustworthy. Don't gossip. Love God, life, friends, loyalty and most of all, love what you do....it all pays off. This is the secret...it is so simple, yet so hard to do.
Being a chef isn't just what you see in glossy magazines or on T.V. I have worked in London at the Savoy, and while London seems to be the focus of a lot of "Star Chefs", the executive chef is only as good as the 125 chefs that worked for him.
I am currently working in a resort in Colorado and again, the chef is well known...only because of the professionals working for him, day in and day out.
As a professional chef I read with deep interest the recent Chef Article in your Restaurant Report. The article was right on the money! I really enjoy your email reports and resend them out to about 600 fellow chefs and culinarians all over Asia and Arabia.
As a Certified Executive Chef (CEC) with the American Culinary Federation (ACF) and a Certified Food Executive CFE) with the International Food Service Executives Association (IFSEA) I wanted to suggest organization shows also. We host many shows, culinary salons and help-non-profit organizations with dinners. These are great avenues for any up and coming chef and it pays the owner of the small 150 seat or so restaurant to purchase the yearly membership for his or her chefs. Usually the Executive Chef and Sous Chefs are paid for.
The growth opportunities are huge just in attending the monthly meetings! I recently highlighted this during a cooking class held at the University of San Francisco on Thursday. I repeated the message during two more speeches at the California Culinary Academy as a visiting chef. I personally can tell you how much I learned from all of the chef members of each ACF chapter I belonged to. As the Executive Chef to the President of the United States at Camp David I went to meetings held by my then chapter, The Susquehanna Valley Chefs Association, and always grew and learned so very much!
In regard to your words of caution to the owner about signing a contract again you are so right. It sickens me to see an owner put so much into the name of someone like a super chef and for some reason the chef leaves after a year or so. Not that it is always the Chefs fault as it is usually split 50/50. Sometimes there are other reasons. There is no sense in seeking any blame. What the contract does is it strengthens the relationship. I myself am in the US Navy and we have contracts. I recently signed a three year contract. This allows the management and me to plan purchases, figure out the future and in general know that there are no surprises for anyone. It really kills a chef or owner to be given a two week notice.
I highly recommend the usage of contracts that basically have enforceable penalties for both parties should the contract be terminated early. Having a contract helps everyone and adds to the solidity of the restaurant as well as the resume. Who wants to hire anyone who has jumped all around for the past ten years with a year here and a year there? What is this super chef going to now do at your place? Stay a year? Two? Get the contract and please don't be cheap with compensation. The super chefs of today know the P & L and how to pump huge cash flows. If you can try to link a portion of performance with a percentage of profit then you are truly served well. That gives the super chef a vested interest in a small portion of his pay and he actually sees the money based on his additional kitchen work and public relations work.
Martin CJ Mongiello,
As a frequent fine diner and small businessman - I can see both sides of this coin. The super chefs may be temperamental prima donnas, but it was the early work of such people that brought the restaurant industry from steak and chop houses to the places where people gather to drink, celebrate, and experience the work of talented people who use the dinner platter as a canvas for their culinary expressions. It was their early experimentation and creativity that laid the groundwork for the bustling food, wine, catering industry we have today. Love them or hate them, but without them, the restaurant industry would be different today.
Super chefs have made their contribution but are just part of the puzzle that has transformed the food industry in the US to what it is today. Very often, celebrity chefs have been good at making culinary statements but were short on business sense. Never the less, their confidence in themselves to try, over and over, to operate that dream restaurant in the sky has produced some wonderful results.
The rest of the people in the hospitality establishment and the larger public have also affected the state of the business. Over the past 30 years in DC, there have been Celebrity Chefs & Celebrity Maitre d' Hotels. There have also been concepts and cuisines imported from abroad and other areas of this continent and dreamed up by entrepreneurs that have added to the restaurant texture. Restaurant critics, demanding customers who have dining experience outside of Washington, and a constant stream of culinary school graduates who believe, at least for a period of time, that they also had a culinary statement to make, have to a greater or lesser degree made contributions. Hotel school graduates also have also brought their education and enthusiasm to managing and number crunching so that the industry could go from a largely independent, single property where all the records were kept on school paper to a more modern and sophisticated format that allows scrutiny and analysis.
And don't forget the the employees in the kitchen and dining rooms who went with the management program and tried to achieve the dream of the powers that be in a food establishment. Day after day, they showed up for work on time, did their job to the best of their ability and then did the same thing the next day and the next.
No one person or group can claim the lion's share of what has happened. All of these sources have taken an idea now and then from their competition and from other industries. All the parts are so intertwined, that they share the praise and condemnation for where we are today.
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