Iron Chefs, Top Chefs, Hells Kitchen, its media frenzy! If cooking for a living wasn’t tough enough, our once closely guarded industry exclusive methods and techniques are now available to everyone. Grade school children can recite fundamental cooking techniques as if it were their ABC’s. Even Joe six packs can tell you the difference between a roux and slurry. What’s a Chef to do? Even the most successful chefs have got to wonder what they will need to do to stay on top of their game. Keeping yourself contemporary and your food exciting is a full time commitment.
Chefs who are getting up in age may be especially challenged and vulnerable. If you don’t cook on a daily basis or challenge yourself to develop new skills and techniques you may soon find yourself obsolete. I can tell you first hand stories of many one time successful chefs who spent too many years in the office living in denial about their own skill sets. Many lived vicariously through the abilities and successes of subordinates only to find that time has passed them by. A starched snow white tunic with an impressive line of abbreviated credentials may no longer garner the respect it once had. If you want to stay on top of your game you will need to devote time to self improvement and ongoing development. Here are a few suggestions that may get you started.
Read, surf, and study everything and anything you can get in front of you. Don’t believe what people tell you, you can’t have it all, there’s so much happening out there and only so many hours in a day. If you neglect this ever-changing information you are short changing yourself of the potential it holds.
Take a continuing education course if you can. It’s a great way to not only acquire new techniques but revisit areas of your repertoire that may need a tune up such as baking, garde mange or charcuterie.
Attend industry related vendor shows, seminars, ACF events and a whole host of other available and inexpensive resources.
Compete in industry contests and culinary competitions to test your skills. Each time I compete I learn something new about my abilities and weakness’s. It also introduces new products and techniques to our repertoires.
Know the competition and the expectations of your existing and potential customer base. Eat at a variety of restaurants and most importantly your competition to keep in touch with what’s happening out there.
Take advantage of the broad range of experience and diversity you probably have right in your own kitchen. Chef tables, specials and buffets are all great ways to tap into the experience and knowledge of your staff. Allowing others to contribute to the overall success of your operation builds a sense of ownership and team
Most importantly, whatever avenues you choose hold yourself responsible for your own success.