We Are Chefs

The Power of Teamwork in the Kitchen

By Paul Sorgule, M.S., AAC

The parallels to sports are everywhere. Although the kitchen brigade was based on a military model, I find that there is even more commonality to an effective sporting team. There certainly is a hierarchy in the kitchen; yet there is also a vivid understanding that each player is equally important in the execution of a service. It is the concept of “team” which allows any group to reach a level of success.

“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” – Babe Ruth

We have witnessed countless examples of so-called “teams” in sports that boast a few exceptional individual athletes, yet no cohesive structure or common goal. In the end, this individual talent is unable to result in success.  On the other hand, there are also individuals with average natural talent who, brought together under a common philosophy and shared goal with a willingness to accept each person’s role towards the common good, achieve incredible results.

As in sports, this is absolutely true in the kitchen. Success is less about the individual talent of cooks and much more about how well everyone plays together in the sandbox. So, how does a chef or restaurateur build such an organization?

“Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play as a team is another story.” – Casey Stengel

The challenge for a chef is not only to attract young, energetic, talented and focused cooks and support staff but also to identify those who want to work as a cohesive unit and are aligned with the chef’s or restaurant’s philosophy. There are no tasks more important than identifying, selecting, training and building a team of kitchen workers ready to win as a collective unit.

“Teamwork makes the dream work, but a vision becomes a nightmare when the leader has a big dream and a bad team.” – John C. Maxwell

So, what is it that brings a group of individuals together with the intent of becoming that cohesive unit, and what role does the chef or restaurateur play in building this team?

Here are some universal and essential components of a team. It is the job of the leader to build the environment for a team to form.

PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER

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.