Head Chef’s Duty – Internal Marketing

04Sep08

Duty of a Head Chef is Internal Marketing?

After a small meeting today with the board of Directors and Food Central’s crazy Chief Operating Officer cum Saucier Elios, we decided to give it a thumbs up and go ahead with our series of Kitchen Duties in coming blog posts which Von Cook will further explain, and type in. Today’s the day where this is decided, should be a grand opening but; there will be more of such posts in the near future, we promise. As I’ll be taking off to my patio to begin brainstorming ideas for our 2000-pax menu, let me pin down my first blog entry in Food Central’s official site and blog.

We’re going to explain today about one critical slot of a Head Chef cum Executive Chef cum Chef de Cuisine’s duties – Internal Marketing.

During my earlier days in the kitchen, where I faced my mentor who’s so strict, cunning, persuasive and everything a restaurant will need but NOT the kitchen community, I was baffled by the way we were treated. As if we were dogs chained in a restaurant, only to howl when our master whips us with a rattan cane. It got as bad as mocking up certain foodstuff when the Chef de Partie forgot to order certain ingredients, and camouflaged the newbie’s burnt Garlic bread that will only make things worse if we didn’t work together.

Little did we ever realized that with his aggressiveness, we were taught to learn HOW TO THINK, and not blindly cooking in the restaurant or being spoonfed like how we’re spoonfeeding each and every student or newbie Chef here in Food Central.

Internal Marketing – What is it?

During Von Cook’s days as an apprentice, he’s always mumbling and punishingly raising politics in the kitchen which were inadvertly killing more morale of the whole kitchen rather than making things better. He admitted this to us when he was high on beer. And as the Head Chef was already stubborn enough to only follow his ways and means of Kitchen Handling and Control, Von Cook didn’t give in to his B.S., rather took the initiative to further increase his childish-like attitude in the kitchen; springing hot soups into the range and contaminating the soups by putting a metal piece under naked fire then sizzling it off in their lovely Chicken Stock.

So what is Internal Marketing?

Internal Marketing means mentally and physically running intangible or tangible promotional efforts in the kitchen with your skills:

  1. Make them feel good about their job.
  2. Educate them about food.
  3. Be their friend, be their master, be their servant, be their God – Let them worship your wisdom and knowledge while you promote leadership.
  4. Communicate well with everyone and avoid politics at all costs.
  5. Reward them for their hard work (1 beer for everyone for every $20,000 sales!), praise them when they do a good job.
  6. Talk to them as if you’re talking to a friend, but remain as a superior.
  7. Flower them with your knowledge and take them for a short ride.
  8. Organize restaurant trips (Yes, THIS CAN BE DONE.)
  9. Serve them a piece of fatherly advise (fatherly advise in food & restaurant terms)
  10. Allow special staff meals often.
  11. Don’t confine them to working hours, rather discipline them to HANDLE THE STRESS of being punctual. A good example is to let them handle a particular section for a week, without any major help, including each and every aspect of that section. Emphasize to them the NEED of this to them.
  12. Give them incentives in monetary terms and also off-days. Stretch your internal marketing budget to allow better allowances or point repayments or bonuses.
  13. Ask them to think like a boss and implement that concept into their work of art, using necessary methods like “Make your own recipe and SELL them on our MENU!”
  14. Switch positions with them and give them a taste of certain people’s position: “Oh, today you’re the Barker! Oh, today you’re the Head Chef! Oh, today you’re the Pastry Chef (when he knows only how to broil that Masala Prawn).
  15. Spend some time to take them into your friend’s kitchen elsewhere in the world. Many apprentice chefs or people who are working in the kitchen like to do exchanging. Your friend who’s working in another hotel would like to exchange? Go ahead. Give it a week.

In the kitchen – Marketing for morale, creativity, diligence, proactivity, productivity and finally quality. Food Central defines this job scope as ‘tough’ and  ‘red’, and it’s very much pointing to the person handling the kitchen — The Head Chef. If the Head Chef is out doing external marketing, then it’s the Sous Chef. No, it’s not very hierarchy-influenced, rather a responsibility each and every one carry. Even the dishwasher (sometimes, we make Elios run along the dishwashing area and maintain control there).

What Internal Marketing?

Internal Marketing has its own uses. A critical point every restaurant should know, apply and adapt in their kitchen is something called the Kitchen Culture.

The Kitchen Culture

Under something called Internal Marketing to Improve Kitchen Culture; not Rectify, a good kitchen culture represents the management behind it – And when there is poor management, you yield poor quality in terms of food, staff and operations. When those are low-quality, you get low quality of everything. It’s more like a viral infection. 

Suggested Solution: New Restaurant Opening

When you’re starting a new restaurant, always keep your morale high first. Sacrifice some time to actually understand the work, understand special and critical situations, create awareness to good food and the community, be the person yourself and make everyone adapt to it. Just like how Starbucks transform their culture to a very friendly-like café. The community plays a huge role in shaping the next person that comes in (although we know politics cannot be avoided).

Suggested Solution: Joining the Society

If you’re just jumping into a running-for-a-long-time-already kitchen and trying to make a change plus, try our ‘Internal Marketing’, always remember – Cultivate yourself first, then cultivate others by creating a BRAND for yourself. A brand do not mean being called names, but rather a PRESENCE where you’ll be FELT in a POSITIVE manner.

Suggested Solution: Handling a Stubborn Culture

If you’re handling a kitchen where you know Old Staff are very less likely to adapt to your culture, your internal marketing can be this – Get personal, but stay with your principles and standards. Getting personal not only helps with their cultivation, but you may also earn a friend or two there. Impress them with your knowledge on anything you’re interested in, give them something to think about like ‘Where Salmons are first popularized’ or ‘Why are Japanese girls so CUTE?’

When you’ve managed to earn people’s attention, trust and you feel that they value you as a superior, or as a friend, you’ll be able to further implement your culture into them. Some may be a hard case to crack – And that’s where you actually spend more time with them, during and off kitchen hours.

Suggest new ideas, but don’t reject theirs!

One wrong step and you may land yourself into deep trouble with something so intangible called feelings towards you. Older, more experienced folks may somehow feel that you’re a young chick and is not in ANY position to give him CONSULTATION, but here’s what you can do:

Suggest new ideas to them, agree to their points (even if you don’t), and point out pros and cons to both your ideas. Make it as if it’s a forum, rather than a debate. Sometimes, if your points are hard enough, they’ll get a picture. If they need proof, don’t do hands-on. Give them a word that will be so MIND BOGGLING that it will make them think on their way back home.

Tackle their inner soul and tap into their weakest point

When you slowly make friends with them or you’re good enough to be able to read people’s mind, do this – Find out what they like at least to a certain extent to their liking, use a way to turn it around and make them feel you. Not romantically, but professionally.

Make an impact (on your part of the work), then share stories or give it a subtle touch of personalization to the story when you’re telling him. In many ways, be always aware of your surroundings and be sharp – Don’t cut in some slack or you might just lose your potential.

Obviously there are more to it than what a Head Chef can do, but this is exactly what the new era of kitchen management would do. At Food Central, we’re often trying out many things as this is our lab – And we’re growing!

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