Training Chefs

Joined Jan 23, 2010
ive never thought of myself as a teacher much and have never been 'taught to teach' so to speak. ... i can show people what i know, answer cookery questions and solve problems, do demonstrations, and pass on tricks and tips that i possess and know myself.

over the years i have been somewhat reluctant to share my knowledge about cooking with other people that i've worked with, this could be due to several things such as having a competative streak and a hunger and greed for want to possess the greatest knowledge; the general idea that chef's don't share their secrets; and out of fear that people will take knowledge and use it as if it were their own.

i used to laugh at commis when they tell me how they messed up their french onion soup for whatever reason and never really took the time to correct and explain to them where they went wrong and what they should have done instead. i wasn't trying to be an a**hole i just found it funny that they made an obvious mistake.

the stage i am at now is it is part of my job the training and development of chefs. it is more weight on the shoulders to be thinking about learning even more and progressing myself, while bringing up and helping others progress and develop too. having ambitions to be a good chef, i want to be a good inspiration to other chefs and this is something that i need to add to my job satisfaction.

ive worked in lots of kitchens and worked with and learnt from even more chefs, picking up and learning all sorts of things along the way ... not every chef knows how to pin-bone a side of salmon with a potato peeler!
Joined Mar 3, 2011
I try to preach what works for me, and I present "perfect" recipes. "Perfect" meaning they work under all circumstances i.e. "idiot proof." The recipes are also easy to remember, based on ratios or some play on words 3-2-1 cookies for example. Some cakes do well in certain ovens and not others, different outcomes in aluminum vs springform pans etc. What I do hate are the terms "right" and "wrong" being used. As an example, I was taught French onion soup should not require any sugar, WELL caramelized onions (dark brown through and through about 3-4 hours cooking, not just brown on the outside) should have all the sweetness you need. And here comes this hot shot sous-chef, telling me i'm doing it "wrong." You gotta put sugar etc etc. He basically sauteed some onion rings with sugar bam done! Is my way right or his way wrong? who knows, but ONE of them tastes better, and technique is important especially if you are cooking for other chefs and food professionals.

There are just so many books and schools out there and they all preach different things. One perfect soup in a CIA class would be a fail at JWU.

I have definitely taken on a don't give a **** approach nowadays, and keep my methods to myself. You do what you want (half-assed), i'll do what I want, let the customer cards, and scores speak for themselves.

When it comes to tricks and "secret techniques" there are the true innovators and visionaries, then there are the cut and pasters, much like these new "molecular" guys who skipped over the first 200 pages of the book and went right into the recipes. I can tell just reading the menu, they stole this. 
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Joined Apr 3, 2008
in this industry the only time you hold back is if your the owner/chef of a restaurant and are waiting for your "right-hand" IF you haven't found them already. having been a lead line cook for years I have found the more you expand a cooks knowledge the more respect they have for your abilities. holding back or just laughing at mistakes that you can correct makes for hard feelings. this is an industry of teamwork, even more important then a football teams. A quarterback may have a line fail and be able to carry the ball to the endzone by himself on that run. No chef can do it all by himself and get to the end zone to score, at the very least they need someone to accept his payment for the dishes he makes. 

They say no man (person) is an island unto himself.  This is very pronounced in our industry.
Joined May 5, 2010
It is unfortunate that you take the position you do. Allowing your ego to get in the way will make it difficult for you to be taken seriously as an educator.

Knowledge is supposed to be shared not coveted.

Firstly, you will not be teaching Chefs.

People often make the mistake of confusing Chefs and cooks.

Chefs are leaders and managers.

Are you going to be instructing people in managing people, taking inventories, creating menus, keeping food costs, etc.... or will you be teaching people to cook?

They are 2 different things.

And....I might add....with an attitude such as the one you display, will only make it difficult for you.

I wish you luck.
Joined Aug 21, 2009
I've never been afraid to share what I know with people I work with or for... to me a chef or KM is only as good as his/her team and if I can help make the team stronger then why not do it?  In the end it makes things easier for all of us.  As AKM part of my job is training and I just do it.. we need people who can work our way and the more they can do in the kitchen is better for us and them. 

I'm leaving my current job at the end of next week and I have already told my KM that I will leave some of my soup recipes with him so they can continue to have them on the menu.  I don't have a problem with doing that.  The soups I am leaving recipes for always sell out and it is good for their business to have a strong lunch Monday to Friday.  Yes I will use them at the new place but I don't think that there is anything wrong with two restaurants selling Italian Wedding (or whatever) soup at the same time!
Joined Mar 18, 2011
I spent 4 years working under an Exec Sous who pretty much hated teaching anyone anything. I was young, and eager, and just wanted to soak up any knowlage he had. I asked him over and over and over to teach me things, show me things, etc. Until finally one day he said he didn't like to teach, and didn't like me because I 'reminded him too much of himself' when he was young (he was obviously burnt out and hating life, but I didn't realize these things at the time - I guess the fact he spent most of his time drinking should have tipped me off). The only thing he ever showed me in the 4 years I was there was how to make herb butter (which I already knew....).

After I left that restaurant, I almost left cooking for good. Not only did he make it a sour working environment, he made me feel bad for wanting to learn. There were other problems obviously, but that is what sticks out in my mind.

I swore after getting back into a kitchen that I would never, EVER be like him. I would always be willing to teach those who wanted to learn, and help them along the way.

I am in NO way saying you are like him, but I just wanted to offer the POV of someone who's worked under a person who does not want to 'teach'.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
Big subject...

Starting from a lowly d/w, I've always had people show me things for the simple reason that if I did it, it would free up time for them.

At work, I instruct what is neccesary, explain what is neccesary, and only go into detail if asked and I have the time.  I also have quite a collection of books and trade magazines and make it known that these are available for overnight reading, to be returned the next day, but can be borrowed as many times as wanted.

Like Chef Ross, I don't like the phrase  "training Chef's".  Not wanting to get into a urinating contest, let's just say that cooks are judged by what they put on a plate, and Chefs are judged by if the kitchen they run is profitable. 

I do not suggest removing pin bones from salmon with a paring knife.  In order for the twin blades to "hook" into the bone, the flesh must be offered up to the knife at an angle, which usually means bending the flesh or holding it at an angle, there by breaking up the flesh--the  boned out sides usually look like dog meat.  A good trick to use while camping, but when working with employer's expensive inventory NOT the right thing to do. 

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