Ah, Foodie Friday! The gateway to the weekend. One of the things I like most about the weekend is that I can spend time in the kitchen and not feel as if I’m neglecting work. I suppose for those folks for whom the kitchen is work – on both an amateur and professional basis – that’s not such a treat but it is to me. There are, of course, an awful lot of differences between what I do in the kitchen and what a professional does. The biggest difference, aside from the skill level, is that I’m usually there working by myself as both chef and cook. If you’re not clear as to what the main difference is, read on – there’s a business point in it as well.
Running a business is similar to running a kitchen. The key in both cases is for the person in charge – the chef – not to get too caught up in doing the grunt work but instead in spending their time and energy supervising and helping the line cooks. Any great chef will tell you that the hardest part of their work isn’t creating the dishes they serve. Instead, it’s in taking those menu items and putting them into a system that will work efficiently. You must produce each dish in a timely manner and at a consistent level of quality. Managing a business staff is the same – the art is in creating a system that produces consistent work in a timely, efficient manner.
Another point to consider is the complexity of those dishes or the projects you assign to your staff. I used to play music with a lot of extremely talented musicians. However, there were a few pieces that were just too difficult for us to pull off and in the interest of our audience we didn’t try to play them publicly. Knowing the limitations of a staff or your business to produce something is an important part of the management mix and the creative process.
Most chefs have no problem stepping into a station on the line if need be. Most great managers can step in and help with the grunt work as well. The ones who aren’t worthy of their titles are the ones who think it’s beneath them or who don’t have the focus on the customer’s immediate need for the work. Which are you – a chef or a cook? Which role should you be playing?