Chefs, by default, already hold a leadership position, but not all chefs have figured out how to become effective leaders. It is especially tricky because your chefs technically run your business with you.


Perth and Western Australia food businesses looking to hire chefs can count on Anytime Chef to help them find the best person most suited for their business. Yet if you have already handled the hiring task or is assessing your current kitchen team performance, here are some points to guide you.


Here’s how a chef can demonstrate effective leadership in the kitchen:


1. Practice self-discipline


Self-discipline is often associated with willpower. Familiarity turns to expertise if a person has the self-discipline to work consistently hard at building the essential skills of their trade.

A kitchen, such as in the food business, is where one can understand the importance of discipline, the hierarchy of leadership, reliability, cooperation, exertion, and taking responsibility for their actions. 

There is a discipline in :

  • performing different cutting and cooking techniques
  • practising cleanliness and sanitation 
  • organization and conquering clutter
  • creating dishes by following recipes
  • managing emotions and stress

Without discipline, a chef can be scattered and unpredictable. A team under the leadership of this chef will be confused, stressed and working with no clear direction. It is a recipe for a disastrous working environment.

Self-discipline is a sign of inner strength demonstrated by living a life of order, even without any outside influence. 


2. Have a firm hold on integrity


Integrity is being true to oneself. 

A chef who leads with integrity 

  • Stays true to their belief in handling, preparing and presenting food, even in the face of making hard choices where practicality and reputation are at odds with one another. Chefs with integrity uphold the restaurant’s reputation and leave no room for mediocrity- from sourcing ingredients to serving the plate to the guests. They demand the same consistent dedication from their team to get even the smallest detail right, such as making sure that there is no thumbprint on a plate rim, a missing ingredient on the plate, or improper food temperature. Integrity is upholding standards of excellence without being told. In his kitchen, quality is never compromised. No shortcuts are allowed.
  • Makes hard choices that may not always be best for himself. There are always hard decisions, even moral ones, to make in the kitchen. Often the most difficult is when it involves the human element.
  • Makes no room for deceit and manipulation. He does not mislead people. He believes that being truthful to employees, employers, vendors, and guests begets trust. Distrust damages a team and the relationships that a person has with all stakeholders in the restaurant experience.
  • Concedes when he is wrong 


3. Set clear Goals


A vital piece of excellent leadership is the ability to lay out clear objectives with defined requirements. Goals involving food cost, flavour, quality and cleanliness, the attitude of staff, safety and sanitation should be expressly made clear to everyone in the team. And after setting clear goals, ensure that your team understands them. Minimize confusion for everyone.

For example, if a sauce isn’t proper, what changed its flavour or consistency? Characterize explicitly what’s going on and how to fix it. It is not enough to rally your team to “do it right”. Be specific with the standards so your team will honestly do it right and meet the desired expectations. 


4. Get to the point


To get clear goals, a chef needs to be precise with his words. 

Great plans can fall flat if they are ineffectively conveyed. An effective chef, as a leader, discusses well with their team, which includes expectations, risks and alternative options. 

When dealing with the team, there may be a need to say hard words, but often there is no need to use provocative words and expressions. That approach may work but only on the surface, which may be blind obedience due to the stinging remark.

Be concise and precise. Say what is necessary. When pointing out errors or highlighting teachable moments, a chef has to make the lesson drive home. When communicating, an effective Chef focuses on three critical things:

  1. the objective
  2. the reason 
  3. and the expectation 


5. Have respect for the power of authority


Leadership in the kitchen means having respect for the power of one’s authority.

It means that there is awareness of one’s impact on the team. There is no need for power tripping. In a Harvard Review Article, author Dacher Keltner talks about the “power paradox”. While people usually gain power through traits and actions that advance the interests of others, such as empathy, collaboration, openness, fairness, and sharing, when they start to feel powerful or enjoy a position of privilege, those qualities begin to fade. In the same article, he also lists down ways how to stop power from corrupting you. It is a good and helpful read.

A key element to the proper use of discipline is always praising in public but correct in private. Small corrective comments in public are acceptable but leave the humiliating feedback away from the eyes of others. There is no need to crush someone’s soul to express your point. The challenge is how to discipline your team without resorting to character attacks and humiliation. The challenge is to discipline your team through inspiration. 

An effective chef, as a leader, understands the purpose of disciplinary action. Disciplinary action is imposed to help someone who is unable to follow the establishment’s standard operating procedures (SOP), help someone do the job correctly and help him improve. It is not to beat someone down. Education should always be the guideline. 

Suppose more focused training and guidance does not work and the team member is found unwilling or genuinely unable to meet the standards. In that case, disciplinary action is used to move someone towards termination. Understand that it is your responsibility to teach the standard, but it is theirs to meet that standard.

On a more positive note, a leader who is aware of the impact of his position projects a presence that is synergized with their vision and commitment towards excellence and mentoring others.


6. Know when to Advocate


Mental health is a critical issue in the restaurant industry for years. The human element in this industry has suffered in favour of the needs of the business. An effective chef as a leader can determine when to put the needs of his team first. They should not disregard situations such as legitimate family emergency or other major life-changing events. Don’t hold your crew hostage to the business. 

Have a plan to handle requests and last-minute absences. Anytime Chefs specializes in supporting businesses in these scenarios that require urgent hiring of chefs and waitstaff. This invaluable support can take the stress off many business owners to help them carry through a staff challenged period, whether for a few hours or even permanently. 


RELATED READ: 4 Extra Traits You Need To Look For When Hiring A Chef


7. Give credit where it is due


It is imperative to recognize a job well done. 

Applauding individuals before others for achievements they have acquired shows them that you regard their work and exertion. It is a fundamental piece of team building, and as a result, team members become more faithful to leaders who perceive and show appreciation for a job done the right way. 


8.Inspire and set an example


An effective chef, as a leader and mentor, leads by example. 

A chef who does not follow the set standards and proceeds to reprimand their team will quickly lose the team’s respect. If you are unwilling to exemplify what you ask of others, then you should never ask them to do so in the first place.

Mentors will teach what to do, how to do it, the reason behind it, what other methods to achieve the results or even to take it to the next level. 

An effective chef, as a leader, walks their talk, and great leaders create great teams by inspiring people to excellence.


In Summary:

Leadership has always been one of the desired attributes of a chef. 

For chefs with both great attitude and seasoned work experience, call us at Anytime Chefs. We only work with qualified chefs with seven years of experience working autonomously. Let us help you take out the stress of running your business or your next event. 


That’s it for this week.
As always, Professional Chefs on Call at Anytime!

Ciao for now,

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