There is no team in ‘I’


I’ve seen so many god-damn videos featuring world-renowned restaurants where the chef puts on a show about how great he is (like 99% he) and their restaurants are. I understand that BS and videography are besties…it’s not just restaurants. But, good lord, it’s the same thing over and over again.

Aren’t I so cool?

Isn’t what we are doing here so absolutely and completely different? Nobody else could have possibly come up with our concept?

Isn’t everyone behind me so clean, so busy, and so happy?

I think it’s totally fucking ridiculous.

The most recent video in question was of Rene Redzepi of the famed NOMA in Demark. The restaurant was voted “Best Restaurant in the World” (yes, WORLD) by Restaurant magazine four times in the past five years. I guess if they were a baseball team, you could call them a dynasty (now you know my allegiances).

I fully acknowledge that the restaurant’s concept is pretty fucking cool. They research, grow, forge and experiment with as much Denmark-native edible plants and animals as they can. They preach a high respect for the planet and try to leave the land undisturbed in the process.

I get behind this 110%. Believe me, I fucking wish people would do more of this and stop serving out-of-season, flown-across-globe produce, fish and meats. See my post Cutting This Tomato Hurts My Soul for more on that topic.

Yet, I still become pissed off every time I see this guy on video. It’s cool what he’s doing, check, but the arrogance, yeah, I guess it’s arrogance in the way he and really every other chef I’ve seen on video present themselves is just ridiculous and anger-making for me.

But I guess, what should I expect? Or rather, what should ‘we’ (the industry) expect? Our culinary training machine is set up to create ego manic monsters. The result is not only arrogance, but mistreatment and abuse of the people that work for them. See my post Thank you, chef, may I have another? for more on that topic.

Whether a person attends culinary school or learns on the job, they are told teamwork is good, but it’s not rewarded.

For example, the grade for every cooking-focus class I’ve taken so far has been based on 60-70% individual daily performance – what “I” do in the kitchen. The class is broken up into teams of three to five students, most often with someone identified as the sous chef (the second in charge, the first being the chef instructor).

My team has recipes assigned to us and we divide them up so each person has specific cooking responsibilities. I have zero problem with any of this, except for when the chef instructor drones on every day about teamwork. I have no incentive, if a significant portion of my grade is individual work, to help anyone else.

There is a loop hole though, and yes, I go through it as often as possible. If you have a break in your work, say, something is braising in one pot and simmering in another, you can take the initiative to help others in your team or in other teams. This gets you, guess?…better individual daily performance scores!

So as we continue to churn out ego godzillas from every walk of life, we miss out on creating organizations where people respect their leader, and aren’t just there for enough months to learn what they can before they move on to the next job. Did I mention the restaurant industry has 100% turnover? I shit you not. Every year, any given restaurant will have an entire new staff. Ever notice how you are always meeting new staff at your favorite establishment? Fact proven.

We miss out on the community that food brings. We create environments in restaurant kitchens that are abusive, fear-creating and disrespectful.

We don’t embrace that everyone has a brain with good ideas, even the extern or the dishwasher. “You do what you are told, work long hours, get paid shit…and fucking like it.”

I swear if I was about 10-15 years younger, and actually had the drive to do it, I’d create a restaurant that would defy all the standards, and win all the acclaimed awards. Low turnover, good profit, amazing local and seasonal food.

You can’t just respect the land – you have to respect the people on it too.

Non sequitur…speaking of something on it, why don’t you put an egg on it with a Croque Madame?


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