Managing stress & motivation in the kitchen

3 Feb, 2016

Stressed Chef
We’ve been interviewing a range of Executive and Head chefs from our network to find out more about how they manage stress and motivate their staff before, during and after service.

The chefs we spoke to came from branded restaurants right up to to Michelin level kitchens. Below are some of the key themes that emerged.

Passion and skill are key

Hire passion and train skill was referred to a lot during our conversations. So to was the need for proper training and development programs if leaders were to build, grow and maintain a highly skilled kitchen. It was also apparent that most felt you needed a skilled team in order to achieve a kitchen that not only ran smoothly from a production point of view, but also maintained high levels of motivation and low levels of stress in what is a high-pressured environment most of the time.

Get the right team dynamic and keep it

Teamwork is essential in all aspects of life and even more so in a commercial kitchen. The basic employment exchange – time for money – gives neither side enough, and it was apparent from the kitchen leaders we spoke to that they try to up the ante (to compensate for this fact).  Many exchanged dedication, commitment and passion for great training opportunities, support and real recognition. Basic principles, but ones the chefs we interviewed said had a very positive affect on creating the right team dynamic – a factor that was absolutely crucial in running  a successful kitchen.

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Having a philosophy of trust in the kitchen also ranked highly in building a team dynamic that reduced stress and increased motivated. The more well trained the kitchen team the easier it appeared to be to develop a high trust environment. Also, ensuring that chefs are constantly learning and stimulated worked well – for instance regularly rotating the menu, and chefs around sections was a positive step many said they took in order to do this. As was the Head or Executive chef taking the time to find out what the career goals of each of their brigade were, reviewing these regularly through formal appraisals to make sure they (as their employer) were helping them to achieve them. By getting an idea of the aspirations of each employee, many kitchen leaders found it much easier to help keep motivation levels up.

Recipe for success

All the kitchen leaders we spoke to said that a key driver in reducing and managing stress lay in the fact that no matter how pressured service gets, the most senior people in the kitchen must remain calm, focused and in control. Constantly shouting at people, doesn’t work. They get used to it, so they’re less responsive. Staff must know exactly the quality and service level expected, because this helps to keep them focused and motivated. Leaders need to give clear instructions at all times and encourage staff to communicate any problems they’re experiencing. Performances need to be monitored and help given if staff are struggling.

The need for a close team spirit and bond was very apparent with everyone we spoke to – all for one and one for all!

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