Becoming an executive chef is definitely the dream of many culinary students, apprentices and cooks. However, the road to this position has never been easy. Just as in any profession, one needs to accumulate years of training, experience as well as skills to climb up the career ladder. In this article, we are going to discuss vital skills that one should sharpen to become an executive chef.
Although executive chefs do not usually cook, they are responsible for culinary-related tasks such as revising the menu, ordering the materials, etc. Thus, professional skills are a must for executive chefs to do their job well. The cooking skills of an executive chef should be of high caliber, so that the person can convince his staff of his decision.
Given the cut-throat competition in the hospitality industry, every executive chef needs to strengthen their cooking ability every day for better management. Since cooking is a basic activity of human life, everyday new recipes and trends are created. Getting a grasp of these trends and understanding the current taste of customers are the secrets to success.
By management skills, we are referring to executive chefs’ ability to manage tasks around the kitchen. It is impossible for one single person to take care of everything, so the skills to delegate tasks to other people in the crew is essential.
As the head of the kitchen, the executive chef needs to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the staff and assign them suitable tasks. He or she is also in charge of recruiting new members and helping current staff develop their professional skills. In addition, given the highly-pressured nature of the kitchen, teamwork is key. An executive chef needs to work closely with head and sous chefs and many others to make sure that everything goes smoothly and in sync.
The essence of great teamwork also lies in the leader’s communication skills. It doesn’t mean that the executive chef has to be someone extroverted, but the person should be able to deliver clear and straightforward messages to the subordinates.
Also, executive chefs need to be observant and demonstrate excellent listening skills. A very famous chef once shared that by listening to one of his staff’s complaints on the sauce of a dish, he had come up with new ideas to perfect the menu.
Besides, we also want to mention finance management skills. To be more specific, it is the executive chefs’ ability to manage the budget so that the restaurant sells well and makes profits. A wide range of sub-skills are included in this category.
Executive chefs need to control the cost of material and ingredients. The cost of these usually makes up the highest proportion of expenses in the hospitality industry. Not every ingredient needs to be high-end. Sometimes, basic materials such as potatoes are those that are exploited most in the kitchen. Knowing what to include in the kitchen and what not is vital to control budget and minimize waste.
Executive chefs are also responsible for menu planning. They are the ones who make sure that each dish is reasonably priced, so that customers can afford the meal while the restaurant gains profits. Also, executive chefs should regulate safety and hygiene standards. This is crucial in guaranteeing that food delivered to customers is healthy and edible, and thus, consolidating the trustworthiness of the restaurant. Nowadays, everything can spread very quickly on social platforms, so just a string of hair detected in a customer’s dish can literally ruin the whole restaurant’s credibility.
Part of the job of executive chefs is coming up with new plans for the development of his crew and the restaurant. These reflect the leader’s vision for the development of the organization. To make sure that things go well, executive chefs need to harness their skills to implement and supervise news plans.
Management service is part of every executive chef’s task. This includes training employees on how to deal with customers, responding to customer requests and complaints, taking control of customer retention. Hospitality basically revolves around keeping loyal customers and attracting new ones. Thus, it is important that executive chefs have strong customer service management skills.
Problem-solving skills are among the most required skills in the hospitality industry. These include dealing with feedback and complaints from customers, finding supply sources, dealing with an overwhelming number of orders, etc. When everything is in a hurdle, it is the leader’s problem-solving skills that navigate the team through the crisis.
Some people are born resourceful and they are quick to react when a problem arises. However, problem-solving skills can also be learned and sharpened through years of experience. Thus, as you have the chance to work in kitchens, try to learn as much from the opportunity as possible. These are essential for you to grow as a chef.
As one that stands the highest rank in the kitchen, it is imperative that executive chefs are motivational and inspiring figures. We all know that cooking is an enjoyable activity, but it can also be a very demanding and arduous task.
It is an everyday battle against time and orders in the kitchen, so that customers can enjoy their meals outside. Greater orders can be rewarding, but at the same time, they represent an immense amount of workload for cooks. As the leader of the team, executive chefs need to spread a can-do attitude to their subordinates. It is the passion, enthusiasm and positivity of the executive chef that boost team spirit in stressful times.
Executive chefs are often regarded as role models for the others in the team. Thus, a good executive chef is one that exhibits good culinary skills, management, communication, team-working and problem solving skills. He or she is also expected to be a source of inspiration and power for the team, so that everyone can be united and deliver the best performance.