About the chronic chefs shortage and one initiative that can help. Blog by Oystein Mojord from Chef & Yöung

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 6th July 2016

Chef René Redzepi asked in his article on Luckypeach.com “How can we change the culture of our kitchens”. This is becoming a fundamental question among chefs and restaurateurs, as the shortage of qualified chefs is getting increasingly problematic while the demand for new restaurants and food concepts is booming.

Oystein Mojord

René pointed out that he’d been a bully in the kitchen for a large part of his career and was admittedly a terrible boss at times. He came to a point where it was clear he had to change in order to keep the good chefs on and started to buy into the idea of instilling a more respectful, humane spirit into the restaurant.

René is one of a few chefs and leaders who have actually started to change the kitchen culture for a more sustainable work life instead of just talking about it. As a qualified chef myself, I have experienced a fair share of yelling and abusive behaviour from sous and head chefs. In every country I worked the head chefs complained about the difficulty in attracting and retaining staff. However they never mentioned or tried to deal with the aggressive behaviours and suppressive kitchen culture that pushed so many chefs away.

At the majority of chef’s schools around the world there are no courses or proper training around leadership and communication; instead they purely focus on culinary skillsets such as how to cut an onion or make bread. However, constant and effective communication is the key to a successful kitchen team working in an extremely high-pressure environment. When newly qualified chefs start working in restaurants as apprentices they take cues and learn directly from their superior chefs who again have learnt from their superiors. Without any training on e.g. how to effectively communicate feedback or to fully understand how each individual has different communication styles, chefs will inherit these poor kitchen behaviours and impose them on their subordinates years down-the-line. It has become a vicious cycle of chef development and is accepted as “part of chef life”. This has become engrained into our kitchen culture and led the industry to find itself in its current state. Change must therefore be adopted at all levels and chefs like René are now leading by example.

With my company, Chef & Yöung, I wanted to change kitchen cultures for the better by providing the assistance and expertise on leadership and communication to culinary schools and restaurants, giving young chefs the skills they need to succeed in their careers and so the seeds of change in the industry. After 1 year of launch, we had reached out to 100s of restaurants and many schools with dishearteningly little interest in accepting leadership and communication as being an important skillset to improve on.

General feedback has been that they “already communicate” and think that their difficulties in attracting and retaining chefs have more to do with salary than kitchen culture.
There has been much talk from UK chefs about difficulties in finding good chefs lately, but there seems to be very little action and interest in trying to actually change the key areas, which everyone is talking about. It is time for chefs to accept that they perhaps need to improve their own leadership and communication skills and be open to new ideas and inputs. They are perhaps all managers, but maybe its time to become leaders and take initiative in order to, collectively, reduce chefs shortage, improve working life and attract more people to the profession once more?

Oystein.

Chef & Yöung is a Scandinavian pro kitchen gear brand for adventurous chefs and foodies. Everything started when the Norwegian chef, Oystein, travelled around the world and noticed that there was a high demand for quality chefs in the kitchens; meanwhile his colleagues were constantly switching jobs. He decided something had to be done and Chef & Yöung was born to bring in a new attitude among yöung chefs and promote cooking as a lifestyle. Oysterin co-owns Chef & Yöung with Mattias Nordlander who focuses on the sales, marketing and finance side of the business.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 6th July 2016

About the chronic chefs shortage and one initiative that can help. Blog by Oystein Mojord from Chef & Yöung