by Yiannis Tsivourakis, Corporate executive chef | EM resorts, Minoa Palace resort Platanias Chania, Euphoria resort Kolimbari Chania
It's been many years since I was invited to head a kitchen for the first time. I was lucky because I was working in an environment of excellent collaboration. It was with the same colleagues that we had started setting up the hotel years ago. So the task at the new job was somehow easier.
Something that I have learnt from my experience over the years is that, except for the location and proper equipment infrastructure, team selection is an equally important factor to a restaurant success.
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To begin with, the head of the department - the Chef - should have been selected from a very early moment. This is why he/she should contribute to the fomation of the culinary philosophy, and therefore to every part of the kitchen.
When I pick my team
Chef designs his restaurant plan and begins to compose the team's puzzle in order to suit the relevant needs. Restaurant concept, number of customers served are some main factors that help the chef make his decisions.
Contacts, interviews, and culinary tests are then conducted with the people who are interested in the job. Cooks have the chance to understand exactly what the company expects from their future employees and decide whether they can respond. This is a thoroughly tried-and-true match of characters, professional or even inexperienced candidates. The evidence that even the least experienced will bond with the rest of the team should be at least obvious though.
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As far as I am concerned, once a professional with vision and experience chooses the team, only benefits can emerge! Inspiring and guiding the cooks properly can bring immediate results. It can be easier to build a pleasant working environment, trust and solidarity among employees, but also develop their passion for work and development.
When others pick my team
In this case I usually feel as if I am reaching at my appointment late full of embarrassment, and without knowing where to start from. The first move is to communicate with the people already selected and assess their capabilities.
It is quite difficult to try to change the agreed-upon time schedules, responsibilities etc. This happens because cooks have been hired by someone who is familiar with human resources matters but may not have a complete picture of the specific needs of a kitchen. However, this is a challenge for the chef to test his own ability to form and match a team he has just found. Experience here plays a major role,while applying diplomacy to win people over and create the desired results can help.
In conclusion, it is the human factor that plays the leading role in creating a team and achieving the goals of a kitchen. Creativity, proper recipe execution, rare, expensive and delicate ingredients are just a piece of cake!