There's so much more to being a great chef than knowing how to cook well. Working long hours under pressure, delivering dishes quickly without sacrificing the quality and dodging hazards are just a few of the things professional chefs endure in the kitchen and it takes skill, particularly if you want to keep climbing the career ladder. If you want to take your chef career to the next level, here are some things you can do.
The chef life is notorious for its long hours, constant pressure and a competitive, intimidating environment. Working to take your career to the next level in these conditions can be challenging but not impossible. We'll be discussing how to:
Have a Mission
To take your career to the next level, ask yourself: Why are you doing this? What do you hope to achieve?
This should become your mission which will help to define the roads you can take and keep you motivated. When you wake up the morning after a particularly tough weekend shift, your mission will be the difference between simply surviving or thriving in the kitchen.
Get Your Name Out There
You'll already know how important it is to be talked about. Whether it's through social media, TripAdvisor reviews or the old-fashioned way of actually speaking to people, customers love to give recommendations (almost as much as they love to make complaints). When customers are happy, they'll recommend your food to their friends who will, in turn, pass it on to their other friends and so on. And that's not including the people who might turn into regulars.
Needless to say, a good reputation is important. Now, draw on that by doing things to boost your profile even more. These might include:
- Creating a buzz among customers by setting up pop-up restaurants.
- Starting a blog or Instagram if you haven't already done so.
- Getting involved in local events or competitions to get to know more people, whether they're customers or networking opportunities, and spreading your name.
- Having a personal brand which will set you apart from your competitors and make people remember you.
Inspiration can strike at any point but you can nurture it by, for example, travelling or working abroad and experiencing different cultures. Not only will this improve your palette but it may inspire you to incorporate different techniques, spices and herbs to complement your dishes. In fact, a major food trend is hybrid cuisine, where dishes which have been inspired from a mixture of cultures, so you'd also be staying on trend.
Travel broadens the mind and your options in the kitchen.
Be a Mentor
It's easy to forget about your fellow workers when you're trying to advance in your own career. But actually, you'd be doing both of you a favour by taking some time out to be a mentor. Adam Lamb, motivational speaker and professional chef at several high-profile restaurants, wrote about willingness to share knowledge being a "rare commodity" in the culinary field.
Instead of keeping your aspirations to yourself and letting a fellow crew member, from students to senior staff, struggle in the kitchen, why not try and help them out? Tactfully, of course. Creating a healthy working environment where inspiration and partnerships are encouraged will help your entire kitchen staff improve and you to grow even more as a chef.
Plus, you might even pick up new tricks because there's always room for improvement, no matter how experienced you might be.
Take Risks to Diversify Your Skills
It's something everyone's heard and preached before, but don't be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Many people are cautious about venturing into unknown territories for a good reason. You don't know what might be out there.
But taking risks can be one of the only and most direct ways to diversify your skills. For example, consider opening your own restaurant if you haven't already. Having your own establishment opens up many opportunities for you - from developing managing skills and nurturing staff to getting your name out there. And most importantly, it allows you to executive your creative vision.
If you already own a restaurant, ensure you're always learning how to deal with people. From team members to customers, maintenance staff and council officials, business owners and managers are always required to interact with people. Unfortunately, not everyone will be easy to talk to and superior charisma will be required to smooth ruffled feathers and ease tense situations.
Last But Not Least, Don't Forget to Keep Your Team Safe
While you're out there being adventurous and fulfilling your aspirations, don't forget about health and safety of your staff while they work in your kitchen. Make sure you're investing in high quality, slip-resistant chef shoes that will keep feet comfortable, supported and protected from occupational hazards so you can continue to work productively.
Start Your Chef Career
From Commis to Head Chef, we cover every role in the kitchen in our complete guide. Check it out and find the perfect role to progress to for you!