How To Attract The Right Kitchen Karma, According To The World's Best Chefs
In conjunction with the World's Best Restaurants held in Singapore on June 25, the awarding body conducted its #50BestTalks which touched on the topic of evolving kitchen culture and how it's changing the way chefs work in the kitchen.
And who better to share their two cents than five of the world's best chefs who've built stellar careers running top restaurants: Éric Ripert (Le Bernardin, New York), Ana Roš (Hiša Franko, Slovenia), Massimo Bottura (Osteria Francescana, Italy), Daniela Soto-Innes (Cosme and Atla, New York) and Tetsuya Wakuda (Tetsuya’s in Sydney and Waku Ghin in Singapore).
Ripert admitted to Anita Kapoor, the host that evening, that the restaurant industry is definitely moving in the right direction. Soto-Innes (Best Female Chef 2019) and Roš (Best Female Chef 2017) couldn't agree more, saying that this change starts with chefs who aim to promote a better kitchen culture or karma.
Here are 10 lessons we learned from the world’s best chefs:
1. Fear is a weakness, not a strength
“Fear was the norm in the kitchen and a way for us to train chefs by breaking them down physically and mentally, before making them champions. But along the way, we lost a lot of talent.”
2. It’s important to have a work-life balance
“As chefs who work long hours in the kitchen, we should try to 'catch happiness' in our lives and encourage others to do the same—it makes your team do better. This doesn’t only apply to the restaurant business but in other industries, too.”
3. Take time off
“As chefs, we were used to working long hours without complaining because we were educated like that. I was like that in my earlier years, and there came a time when I wasn’t performing at my best and was always stressed, so I decided to make changes in my lifestyle.
It takes discipline to tell yourself to work 10 hours a day and five days a week or take vacations because it wasn't in the culture when I was growing up. Now, I force my team to take time for themselves and do what they like to do—other than cooking.”
4. Responsible leadership starts with us
“We have to lead (our team) by example. It’s important for us to get to know each person and work towards the same vision for the restaurant without changing who they are. We need to respect how they think.”
5. Respect everyone
“Let us chefs inspire by example, and not instil fear amongst our staff. Talk to the team and motivate everyone, but not in a robotic way because everyone is different.
Respecting everyone in the kitchen is also in the small details such as saying hello, knowing their names and taking care of their benefits.”
6. Cooking is transmitting emotions
“When the baker is not feeling well, the bread is not as brilliant as usual. If you have a sad or angry team, it doesn’t work.”
7. Team is everything
“Our restaurants run smoothly because of the team. We have a lot of candidates but choosing (the right) people who’ll work for us is the most difficult thing. And we have the responsibility to make them feel that they can learn and grow with us.
We have an exercise in the restaurant called “Who Are You?” where we try to teach young apprentices how to think and transform ideas into edible bites. And you see things you can’t even imagine.”
8. Age doesn’t matter
“We have a lady in the kitchen who’s 55 and I often ask her how I can make the kitchen environment better for her. I want her to stay because she makes the most beautiful dumplings and ravioli.”
9. We hire talent
“We don’t hire based on age, gender or nationality but on their capabilities.”
10. Enjoy what you’re doing
“It’s not all about work, you need to love what you’re doing… you need to have passion.”