Rising the ranks in the kitchen is something that all great cooks want to do. The problem is it takes lots of time, energy and effort before you’re even given the chance to prove yourself in a higher position.
The kitchen is hierarchal and also meritocratic – meaning those who work hardest and show the most promise usually end up working higher up the chain.
When you’re starting out at the very bottom, perhaps washing the dishes, it can be hard to remember that the kitchen offers a career, one that can continue to develop as long as you do the right things.
But what are the right things? What should a young cook be doing to ensure their career is fruitful? What should they do to make sure they don’t stay at the bottom of the hierarchy and instead work their way to the top?
To provide some answers to this question we’ve looked to chef and writer Chris Hill who has created a useful list of 10 ways a cook can impress their boss and get promoted. Some of them are common sense and others you would expect from any kitchen hand, but seeing them all listed in one place is a useful resource for any ambitious kitchen worker.
1 – Show up excited and eager to learn every day: Show your boss that you’re hungry to be better than you were yesterday. They’ll notice, even if they can’t put their finger on it. My personal rule? I can’t leave work until I’ve learned or tried one new thing and made note of it in a journal. Think about it – at the end of the year, you’ll be a lot smarter, while also becoming more open to trying new things, which will lead to new possibilities and perspectives.
2 – Notice People: One of the easiest ways to feel better about your self, is to do something nice for someone else. Here, an example of the lowest hanging fruit would be offering unsolicited and unexpected compliments. You’ll feel better and so will they. Not convinced? Google 'Mirror Neurons.’
3 – Trust the Process: There’s a reason for the old saying, 'patience is a virtue’, because it’s hard as hell at times. Trust the process and when life knocks you down today, use tomorrow as a fresh start. Put in the time and the effort and remember – nothing happens over night. So, just keep your head up, keep plugging along – good things are right around the corner. Patience is such an attractive trait, because it shows that you have confidence in how things will play out in the end.
4 – Stop Mailing it in: As a restaurant guy, I’ve seen and experienced so many seasoned waitresses and line cooks thus far in my career, who are just stuck. They show up, do a decent job every day, but that’s it. They go home take a shower go to bed, and do the same thing the next day. These guys never really go anywhere, and are often blood–sucking vampires for company culture. As David Chang has said,
‘LIFE’S TOO SHORT TO BE MEDIOCRE AT ANYTHING.’
5 – Carry a Journal or Bound Notebook Around With You at Work: In a curious way, people will wonder what the hell you’re up to when you scribble a quick note from a good idea that popped into your head. And ... How many times have you lost an idea in your head? Write it down and you’ll instantly become more productive with a lot more ideas to bring to the table come brainstorming time.
6 - Demand Responsibility: No, that doesn’t mean asking for the executive chef job or to take over for your boss, but it does mean stepping out on a limb. Tell the boss you want to start helping with food costs, inventory, or you want to brainstorm for upcoming specials. Often it seems to help, if you plant the seed, bring it up a few days later and whoever is making the decision, is convinced that they brilliantly came up with this idea. Offer to go above and beyond to show your immense desire to be successful. If you care deeply for the craft that you’ve decided to make a career out of – act like it. In restaurants, you can teach the cooking side of the business, but the soul side, the human piece of it and the passion, that’s a different story.
7 - Take Risks (Calculated): No, I’m not suggesting you rewrite the recipe for the house made pasta that is a signature item, or change an important procedure on a whim, but I am suggesting you take initiative – think through how certain dishes could be finished or plated differently. Tell the chef that you’d like to go to the farmer’s market to get some exotic vegetables ... then have a couple plans or ideas for what the restaurant can do with them if he agrees.
8 – Give to Your Coworkers Without Expecting Anything in Return: that's what it means to be generous, and the lack of having expectations keeps you from growing frustrated and disappointed, when they aren't met. Prep someone's station. Grab a pack of Red Bulls or Starbucks for the crew on your way in. Drive the dishwasher home. Offer to close for someone having a bad day, then see if there is anything else you can do to make them feel better. Nobody gets sick of people being generous, just be sincere about it. When it is sincere, it tends to come back to the giver many times over.
9 – Stop Complaining About Things You Have no Control Over: Wow, does this seem so obvious, but I'm guilty as charged, and I bet you are too. All this does is drain our energy, plus we become less attractive to our coworkers and bosses.
A four-day restaurant week, a day dedicated to staff learning, and cooking demonstrations for the public are just a few of the new ways of working in Dan Barber's new vision for his NY restaurant and farm. Find out more.
Francesco Martucci from I Masanielli in the Campania region of Italy has been named the best pizzaiolo in the world for a third year running. See the full list as well as all the international winners.