January 13, 2017

All Haid The Laid Back Chef

First things first — this Saturday night is our second installment of Dress Hall, our monthly dinner and drag show. Come on down and treat yourself to a thoroughly entertaining evening.

I interviewed a cook today for The Line Restaurant Talent Agency, a staffing company in which I am a partner. He was telling me about one of his past jobs where the chef was the type who would throw a plate of food into the trash if it didn’t meet her standards. He didn’t particularly like working in that kitchen, but admitted that the consistency and quality of the food there was better than anywhere else he has worked.

A few weeks ago I was working the line with Andre and Eric and they passed me a plate that failed to meet the bar. This doesn’t happen very often and I don’t throw plates of food in the trash unless they are ruined, but it is upsetting when it happens. My first thought is always panicky “if they’re willing to send me this plate when I’m here, what kind of plates go out when I’m not here.” That’s always my first thought and it sends me into an aggravated downward mental spiral that I need to quickly block or it’s hard to recover.

On this occasion I was bothered and admittedly it was busy, but still standards need to be upheld in the restaurant biz whether it’s busy, slow, or whatever. I let them know what was on my mind and I wan’t particularly nice about it. Andre reacted, telling me that it wasn’t necessary to speak to them like that, to back off a little bit, it wasn’t that big a deal.

Well, I responded “it’s not a big deal if you don’t want your customers to come back.” Truthfully there are very few people who will return to a restaurant after an unsatisfactory experience. But the main point I was trying to make— and mind you this is in the middle of lots of other cooking and plating — was this. “Yes, I am being disrespectful to you both because you disrespected me by sending me that plate. If that plate had been nice, I would have said thank you.”

With that, we came to an understanding and the matter was dropped. I have enormous respect for Andre, both as a person and as a cook. I know he also respects me as a person and as his chef. But every plate matters, which doesn’t mean that every plate goes out perfect, but they all matter and we need to continuously make sure we are maintaining our standards.

It is impossible to be laid back and run a well-functioning kitchen. There is no need to yell, or to be mean, or demeaning, but to be laissez-faire is to invite disaster. This is the particularly challenging piece of being a chef, this need to pay very close attention to every detail in the kitchen. You don’t get to chill out when you are running a kitchen, and that’s just the way it is.

Have a great weekend and hope to see you at The Park.

– Chef Josh


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