We Are Chefs

Building Your Network of Influence in the Culinary World

By Paul Sorgule, M.S., AAC

Success rarely happens by accident.  Success may be defined in various terms, but the common thread is that success is determined, to a great extent, by the people with whom you work, play, and communicate.  The key to reaching your individual goals lies in selecting and nurturing those connections that best suit your desire to reach career, financial, or personal benchmarks.

LinkedIn built a business model on facilitating networks of influence. However, the appropriate management of those networks still lies in the hands of the individual.

It is up to you to define life goals and then build and maintain the network that will help you along the way.

Networks are only effective if a few individual characteristics are viewed as essential.  These characteristics include: trust, honesty, respect, commonality, dependability, and others that may be unique to who you are and want to be.

Cooks build their skill sets by identifying, working with, working for, and communicating with those individuals who have something important to offer and are willing to do so.  Chefs gain opportunities certainly through demonstration of exceptional skills as a cook and leader, but also through open doors created by their network of influence.

Cooks are hired in great restaurants through the recommendation of others, and chefs are hired in the same manner.  This process of connection is, by far, the most effective way for a restaurant, hotel, resort, or other food business to build a team.

From the first day that an individual chooses to enter the field of food, he or she should begin the process of building a network of influence.  So, how do you begin? A great starting point is to identify your benchmarks of excellence.


Make your list and begin the process of determining how you may develop a line of communication.  Although this may sound formal and even a bit contrived, this is how most people begin friendships.  You may not actually prepare your list of characteristics, but in your mind and your heart, you know that there is something about another individual that just clicks.  A network of influence is no more complicated than this.  However, the challenge is defining the best way to build this connection.

For the cook, the process is not as daunting as it may sound.  The following suggestions are realistic and proven:

Join and Participate:


Throughout your career, this network of influence will grow in size and importance; contacts will become advocates and ambassadors; and, providing you work equally hard at demonstrating your competence as a cook or chef, doors will begin to open.  Make sure that when you are able, you return the favor to others seeking to define their own brands and work hard to create opportunities through networking.


Paul Sorgule has been a chef and educator for more than four decades holding positions as hotel executive chef, food and beverage director, faculty member, dean of culinary arts and provost at a prominent culinary college. Sorgule is president of Harvest America Ventures, a restaurant and culinary school consulting and training company he formed in 2012. He blogs about culinary issues and finding that work/life balance at www.harvestamericaventures.com.