Learning Not To Cook


It’s Friday and the topic, of course, is food-related. I was speaking with a friend of mine the other day and he mentioned that his business used to remind him of a cook and a couple of helpers but now it’s a big kitchen and the cook has become a chef. As we kept talking, it was obvious to me that the guy had NOT become a chef – he was still a cook and that’s the business point I want to make today.

I hear lots of folks complain about chefs (most of them celebrities now) who have six or ten or more restaurants. “How can they run the kitchen from 1,000 miles away?” is the common question. But they can because they’ve learned not to cook and that’s what my friend’s boss needs to understand.A “chef” is literally a chief. He or she commands the brigade – the staff of cooks and others who do the actual work.  He doesn’t cook.  He plans the menu.  He develops the recipes, sets standards, chooses suppliers and then stands back.  From that point on, his role is to make sure everyone has what they need to do their jobs, that they are, in fact, doing them, and that standards are maintained.  He needs to communicate well, be creative, and ask great questions.

That’s what my friend’s boss is missing.  He’s still cooking when what he needs to be doing is learning NOT to cook.  He’s too hands on, caught up in everyones minutia when he needs to be leading.  That’s how a celebrity chef oversees a dozen restaurants hundreds of miles apart, and that’s how my friend’s boss should be able to supervise a lot of employees spread out over various departments in different locations. You may think your business is “different” but recognize that in the food business – upscale or downscale, big or small – this isn’t any different, even  for fast-food joints. In fact, their standardization and supervision and supplies are basically what the home office does for the franchisee.

So this weekend, make an effort to learn NOT to cook in your business. You’ll be surprised how much more productive you and your team can be. And please let me know how it works!

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Filed under Consulting, food, Helpful Hints

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