Even Good Chefs Have Bad days

If you're like me, your cooking day is filled with many highs and lows. One moment you will experience the exhilaration associated with executing near perfection, only to be deflated moments later when something does not reach your standards.

Food is so personal. It is going to become part of the recipient's being; it may bring them pleasure, comfort, satisfaction and even joy on occasion. You don’t have to be a Four Star Chef at a high end restaurant to feel this way. Passion and pride are not exclusive to any single segment of the industry, ethnicity, gender or age; you either feel this way or you don’t.

I used to beat myself up pretty good when things didn’t work out as planned. Sleepless nights followed by stress filled days were common occurrences. Those days are lost forever! What a waste of my most precious resource, time. I know that during these challenging times, many of my fellow Chefs are feeling the strain. We are all on edge, uncertain of what tomorrow will bring and how our performance will influence our future. We sweat it out through the end of each month, hoping and praying we hit our numbers and live to cook another month.

It doesn’t have to be that way. A little extra planning, a few more hours committed to the job, and a backup plan for most everything will allow you to better enjoy your down time. You may actually have a little less down time, but it will be quality down time and definitely worth considering. Remember that even the worst day will come to an end, brush yourself off, learn from it and set yourself up for future success.

Here are a few suggestions.

* Answer all emails, return all phone calls, and read all change logs and daily reports before you go home. Ignorance is bliss until you're called on it. Know the answer; that’s what they pay you for.
* Read and know upcoming menus for at least 4-5 days in advance; run scenarios; think it through to identify and solve potential challenges.
* Plan your daily 5 minute standup meeting to provide the most useful and pertinent information, such as specials, prep lists and anything out of the ordinary.
* If you don’t have people you can trust to purchase, properly receive and store food. You need to oversee it. I can't tell you how many nights I counted steaks, not sheep, running scenario after scenario through my mind. Did we get that? Is it enough? This is not the way to recharge your batteries.
* Know your numbers before its official, run daily a daily food, labor and line item cost spread sheet.
* Don’t serve what you shouldn’t. I would rather 86 something then serve inferior or poorly prepared foods. In a preplanned banquet setting, you don’t have this option; proper planning and execution are crucial. Don’t be cheap; buy quality ingredients, and have a backup plan. You won't regret it.
* You're not running a test kitchen; cook what you know. Your customers expect a quality product for their hard earned money. Specials and new items must be researched, practiced and perfected before rolling them out.
* Being focused and professional is always required but try to have a little fun.
* As the great Emeril Lagasse says, "This Aint Brain Surgery." True, but it is hard work with thousands of details. The better prepared you are, the more you can focus your cooking, ultimately ensuring your success.