13 laws of culinary power

It is not enough that you have gotten yourself into a professional kitchen. It is not enough that you have a diploma from the best cooking school in the world, or you know the boss, or you sleep with the owner. It's being in the searing heat of a cockpit sized kitchen that really brings out the best and worst in people. Any cook would know they would have to tread on thin ice on the first few weeks in a new kitchen, no matter how great a cook you are. There are certain protocols, and in a human driven industry, inter-personal skills are as much evident in the kitchen as in any corporate heirarchy. What must you do so you don't crash and burn and find yourself with your tail between your legs cursing the heavens that the world is unfair? These 13 laws are not absolute. Nor are they a guide. They are principles that work in any professional kitchen. Read through them. Study them. Memorize them daily. Harness violent reactions, encourage fantasy, take it to heart. Or throw it away. Just know that it does exist.

Never outshine the master

Always make those that reign suiperior to you look good. Make them appear that they are the masters of the sections they hold. If you want to impress them by showing how good you are, it may inspire fear and insecurity. 

Say less, do more

The more you mouth off what you learned in CIA, the more you gab and spout how much you know, the more ordinary you are. The more you speak, the more likely you will say something stupid. Be discrete. Let people always wonder what you are capable of.

Actions speak louder than words

Win through your actions, never by argument. Any victory gained through argument is temporary and superficial. It harbors ill feelings between people. Demonstrate. Make a show. Do not wax poetic. Get off the soap box. Talking does not impress people. You will find yourself at the business end of a very hot pasta fork one day.

Be reliable

To maintain control in any professional kitchen, you must always be needed and wanted. Never teach people enough so they can do without you. Make yourself dependable. That way people come to you. And you can control when and why they come to you.

If you need help, appeal to the person's self-interest

Fellow cooks will ignore you if you ask for help on the basis on what you have done for them. The request for aid then becomes a burden. Instead, appeal to their better nature, to what interests them. Emphasize the benefits such a request would reward them. You would be in control if you dangle the carrot.

Go undercover

Act as a spy to gather information that could move you up the culinary ladder. Information on your rivals, your competitor, your enemy will prove beneficial in your progress from dishwasher to head chef. 

Do not be a loner

You need to mingle with your coworkers to get valuable information about what you do and who does what in the kitchen. If you keep to yourself, you are denying yourself valuable insight on how things  are done, who to talk to, who has control, who can be manipulated.

Focus on what you do best

Concentrate your efforts in your strengths. The Jack-of-all-trades could not survive in a professional kitchen. It is much better to excel in what you do best, rather than  wade haphazardly in many things that you have no experience in. Concentrate on resources that would give you the greatest mileage.

Keep your chef's whites white

Exhibit an air of civility and efficiency. Learn and take advantage of the economy of movement. Never ever soil your reputation by committing mistakes or crapping in your own backyard. If you do find yourself in a situation that would potentially tarnish what you have been working hard for, try hard to disguise your involvement.

Rats do not belong in the kitchen. Timid cooks as well.

If you are hesitant in the kitchen, your behaviour will affect your execution. No one will honor the mouse. Be bold. Grab that pan with flair, plate that dish as if you were painting a picture. Be sure of what you are doing. Nothing less. Maintain a level of confidence. Go headstrong.

Plan Ahead. Plan to an end

Take into account all the variables that would alter your fate in the kitchen. Keep a goal in mind. This is your goal. Be selfish about it. Anticipate consequences, obstacles, trials, other cooks movements. You help guide serendipity by taking fate into your own grubby scarred hands. Plan you mise en place, both mental and physical.

Make it seem effortless

A fluid motion in a cramped kitchen reigns supreme. Economy of movement allows you to work faster, work more efficiently. If you have to work hard to get to that point, do not show it. Do not show that you are having difficulty. Avoid the temptation of showing how hard you work. It would make others resent instead of admire you.

Master the art of timing

Rushing makes you appear out of control. Be patient. Everything comes to those who wait. Watch out for trends. Be alert on what goes on, how long they take, what factors influence the outcomes. Learn to use time to your advantage, whether doing mise en place or preparing for a banquet.



Ken Burgin said...

Interesting post Ivan - thanks for sharing. Some seem strange to a non-chef, and even controversial in this age eg 'Never outshine the master'.

I'm all in favour or 'say less, do more'!

Ivan Maminta said...

Thanks Ken. Coming from you, your opinion is as good as gold!