"Zu viele Köche verderben den Brei." (Too many cooks spoil the broth). This German saying nails it.
At the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego 2003/2004
Chefing is a highly creative task. You really can express yourself, your own style and personality through food. It is in some way like art. If you create something and you are convinced that it is beautiful and tasty, you want to share it with others, right? This is what chefs do, they cook for others and make them happy. They share their handcrafted creations with others. Other people indulge in their creations, which literally become a part of them.
Now imagine you present a dish to a guest and he does not like it at all. Perhaps he even makes a nasty comment. How would you feel? Many of us take it personally, so it is important that we learn how to deal with that, how to deal with our emotions. The best experience and biggest compliment for a chef is to receive is positive feedback about the food from a guest.
When many chefs, in the same position, work together, that can be challenging sometimes. It can get tricky because suddenly you do not have, let us say, four chefs cooperating but four egos competing. They each want to prove themselves. It takes some level of maturity and emotional intelligence to accept each other’s ways of thinking. Everyone has a different approach to cooking.
Look for the gold: You always can learn something new. As a chef you never finish learning.
There are so many different styles of cuisines on this planet. One lifetime is not enough to even study the entire European cuisine, as it is so diverse. This is great but also challenging. It means that everybody can find his or her niche. Everybody can perfect him or herself in a different area.
I recommend going for a broad spectrum of knowledge of different cuisines, become a generalist, rather than a specialist. It broadens your horizon. There are many specialized chefs, though I think it is up to you what you want to focus on in your career. For my part, I will not say that I am an expert in an incredibly special niche. My skill set is broader. I know a bit of everything. For example, I can say that I am an expert in à la carte and banquet operations, because I have worked all my life for large hotels with huge banquet capacities and restaurant operations.
And I mostly got along with other chefs. We always respected each other, and we always had a lot of fun.
I remember being sent on a task force to Palembang, Indonesia in 2013 for the South East Asian Games (SEA Games), which is a biennial multi-sport event involving participants from different South East Asian countries. Our company, the Aryaduta Hotel Group, oversaw the entire catering — a big job. We prepared thousands of meals for hundreds of top athletes. Our company operated hotels throughout all of Indonesia.
We were a bunch of Executive Chefs from different hotels within the company. We were put together for a week and we made it happen. We also catered for the Indonesian President. We had a lot fun despite the long hours we put into it. These are the experiences and moments you talk about later and never forget.
Chefs are great team players. This is how we get shit done. Chefing is a team sport. No team — no success! That is why it is so important to learn how to control your ego.
Thanks for reading this post!
Have a good one!