Learning to engage

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by marynichols, Sep 27, 2015.

  1. marynichols


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    Professional Chef
    Hey all!
    I'm new here and I first want to say this website is great! It's a great place to get the creative juices flowing and gain great little nuggets of advice! That being said I thought I would reach out for some much needed advice. I've been an executive chef for about 3 years now and been cooking for 15 years. My biggest struggle for these past few years is my complete inability to interact with the rest of the management team. I work in a resort and run banquets and a 90 seat restaurant with a small lounge that seats another 45 people. So I often find myself in situations that require me to put my kitchen personality aside and put on my professional personality. Problem is I really have a hard time with the professional side of being an executive chef. I can deal with guests quite well and smooth over issues that may pop up with a dessert or a specialized dish to make an angry diner feel cared for. But when it comes to dealing with people I work (not kitchen staff)with I am perceived as brash, curt, and aloof and uncaring. I am just not good at stroking egos and engaging in idle chatter. Im simply trying to be efficient and keep focused on business, but for a person who has never worked in a kitchen and has no idea what we do every day I can completely understand that I may come off as less than friendly. Can anyone give me some ideas as to how I can be more professional in these settings? I feel like I worked hard to move up and now that I'm where I want to be the skill set I perfected to get me here (production and the craft of cooking) are not the skills I need to stay here. I need to develop a whole new set of skills and I'm not entirely sure how to do this. Sorry so long winded 😂any help or words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated!!!!
  2. chefross


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    Former Chef
    Welcome to ChefTalk Mary.

    FIRST and FOREMOST, know that you are not alone.

    Chefs are a special breed.

    Who else can put up with the race to make great food and handle the pressures of the kitchen 12-14 hours a day?

    We are brash, impatient, aloof, and curt. I can certainly understand.

    I'll get right to the point.

    When I was banquet Chef for a Marriott account the upper management had "team building" projects. One year all the managers broke off into teams and had a contest with carved pumpkins. This actually worked as a team building effort as each person got to know the other managers away from the confines of the office atmosphere.

    To that end I suggest that maybe you offer to get to know the other managers on what little off time you have.

    Even if it's over a cup of coffee or say lunch somewhere away from work.

    This will help both you and the others, because, as of right now, you are perceived as being not on the team. You need to correct this.

    On the other hand, you could choose to avoid the other managers and care less what they think.
  3. sanny86


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    Professional Chef
    Welcome to the forums. I am also new on here and your post is quite interesting to start of.

    So firstly I have to say I completely understand where are you coming from. Someone that is not working in the kitchen can simply not understand the procedure, pressure and the logistics that happen in the kitchen on the daily basis. People tend to have a romantic picture about cooking due to all the Jamie Olivers etc. but the truth is somewhere closer to Hells kitchen. :)

    In the working time I just interact with my kitchen staff and try to avoid off work topics with the service or management peeps. That helps me and them to stay focused, once the shift is done, we can grab a beer and talk chit chat.

    What I want to say is, I have learned you can not be friends with everyone especially in the work we do. That being said, don't sweat, if someone thinks whatever about you. You know, opinion is like an a**hole, everyone has it. And more often then not, someones stinks badly. :)

    Do your job good. On the duty keep it straightforward and don't worry, if not everyone understands your way and devotion.
  4. chefwriter


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    Professional Cook
         What kind of person are you outside of work? How do your friends and family perceive you? That is a better comparison than how you deal with a customer. 

         Dealing with an upset customer requires a certain amount of bs, for lack of a better phrase. You may disagree with them but you are obligated to make them feel better so you "act" conciliatory by stroking egos and engage in idle chatter no matter how irritated they may make you. 

        Once you get out of work, you disengage from the pressures of the kitchen and are "yourself". Who is that person? Is that persona brash, aloof, curt and uncaring? Do friends and family have a similar opinion? If not, why not? 

         So I'll take a leap here and say that outside of work you are known as a warm, engaging, caring person who is fun to be with.

    Why the switch when you arrive at work? Are you afraid that if people know you as warm, engaging and caring that they will not take you seriously as a colleague? Are you concerned that they won't see your cooking skills?  

         When I encounter this situation in my job, I often think of the movie "The Godfather", when they say "It's not personal, it's strictly business". 

         Those who work with or for me know that I am dead serious about getting the work done and done well but the second it's over we can discuss whatever they want, whether that is their dying relative or the latest movie. This change in focus happens multiple times during the day.

         There is no reason to mix up being good at your job and being good at being you.