Keeping Calm in the Kitchen

Keeping Calm in the Kitchen

I don’t scream.

In fact, I rarely raise my voice.  That’s not to say that I don’t get angry, or that I don’t have a voice that projects (because I can always be heard!) but I’m not someone who goes ape shit at the drop of a hat.  When I get angry or upset, I become focused, concentrated and my words are selective and few.  And I become direct.  Extremely direct.  Quietly.

That’s probably why I was amused when my friend Kim asked me about Gordon Ramsey and his television show.  Yesterday, she and I (and ten of our closest friends) were gathered in her kitchen, cooking and laughing away.  I responded that I liked watching Gordon Ramsey, I value his work and I’m a true admirer of his talents.  Do I like his tantrums or the way he screams at his crew?  Not really, in fact, not at all.

Every culinary student spends time learning about the great Chef Aguste Escoffier.  Among his many culinary achievements, he created the kitchen brigade – an organized, uniform approach to cooking as a team.  Although many things have changed in the restaurant industry, Escoffier’s kitchen brigade is very much alive and well.  There is always a Chef, the head of the kitchen, and there are sous chefs and assistants.

What has changed is management styles.  There are plenty of chefs, like Ramsey, that scream and throw tantrums.  There are also a growing number of celebrated chefs, that lead with a distinct calm, centered in their own direction and positive influence.

During a trip through Austin, I had the chance to meet Executive Chef Robert Rhoades of the fantastic Hudson’s on the Bend.  I remember being captive to his quiet voice, warm personality and sincere hospitality.  I distinctly remember how focused he was while cooking, with deliberate, passionate intensity, and how quiet his kitchen was while everyone observed him at work.  He has such a calm, professional and caring way of working with his brigade that it’s no surprise he experiences very little turnover.  In fact, as I recall, there’s a waiting list to get-in to work for him.  Just watch my video below, and you’ll see what I mean.

I like to think that if I were to emulate a great chef, it would be Chef Rhoades.  Rather than kick people out of the kitchen, scream or have tempers flare, I actually enjoy teaching and demonstrating and am always appreciative of assistance.  I like being calm, centered and above all, welcoming.

There’s something wonderful about a kitchen that is permeated with aromas rising from pots and pans on the stove.  But there’s something even more special than the food being produced:  it’s the laughter of friends, the warmth of hospitality and the love and joy that’s found in sharing a meal with people you care about.

To Kim, Billy, Tom, Pam, Tracy, Jimmy, Christy  and Donna – thank you for such a wonderful day.  Spending hours in the kitchen with you is not work, it’s just good times.

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Comments

  1. I completely agree with you. I have worked on private yachts recently and I have seen more chefs throw temper-tantrums than the overly spoiled owners of the boats. This includes throwing spatulas across the room when the ‘boss’ gets hungry at 12 am, or slamming pans down on the glass(?) stove tops because the boss is a vegetarian and refuses to eat the chicken the chef put out. This is not short of regular name calling and yelling at the crew. And, apparently this is regular in the (new) kitchen scene… Bollocks.

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