Line cooks have a job that's tough, demanding, and at times, thankless. They work late nights, weekends, and holidays, and have to deal with chefs and managers who often have abrasive personalities. This explains why turnover is rampant in the food service industry.
So what can you do to keep line cooks motivated in order to maintain the vision of your restaurant? How can you inspire cooks to progress and develop into star chefs? While there are no simple answers to these questions, the following advice may help you foster employees who possess the right amount of potential to succeed in the competitive culinary world.
Lead by Example
In the kitchen, attitude is everything. If you add negative cooks to the equation, the toxicity will likely quickly spread to the entire kitchen. While you can blame your cooks for their attitudes and reprimand the particularly sour ones, the truth is that they may be developing a bad attitude by observing you (or other superiors within your organization). That's why it's vital for chefs and managers to lead by example and to always carry a positive disposition around the workplace.
This doesn't mean you have to tolerate anything less than the standards you've set for your kitchen, but it does mean you should socialize, be friendly with the cooks, and avoid being intimidating or aggressive. Leading by example also means that chefs should get on the line and demonstrate their cooking prowess—at least from time to time. Chefs who leave everything to their line cooks and avoid working the line will quickly notice that resentment is brewing from their kitchen crew.
Foster Growth and Development
You should always be supportive of creative and ambitious line cooks. After all, not every cook shows the initiative to try to invent new dishes or develop ideas for specials. If you employ any cooks who have an aptitude for menu development, encourage them and allow their dishes to be put in the spotlight when the time is right.
A good way to monitor the growth of your cooks is to ask them to cook a meal for you at the end of service. Your cooks, whether they like you or not, will always want to impress you, so you'll be getting a taste of their best work. By constantly trying food that your creative cooks make, you'll be able to see when they're ready to be promoted.
Reward and Celebrate
When your cooks do something awesome, you should show them a little love. Rewards build goodwill among employees, and showing your kitchen staff that you're not afraid to have a good time with them will help keep your best workers around.
Reward cooks who excel at their stations with raises and by allowing them to work on more advanced parts of the line. You can also boost your best line cooks to sous-chef positions whenever they're ready. The more you build a culture of rewarding hard work and good attitudes in your kitchen, the more hard-working and positive your line cooks will be.