Chris Hill Blog: 11 Books EVERYONE in the Hospitality Industry Needs to Read

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 3rd October 2018

What are the best books to read if you work in hospitality? Chef, author and blogger Chris Hill rounds up his favourite go-to books!

One of the keys to sustained success in any industry is one’s continual growth and learning, in order to constantly perform at a higher level than you did the day before. When I look back so far at my own growth in the industry, it’s not hard to see that much of it has stemmed from a wide variety of incredible books.

It was nearly impossible to narrow this list of books down to ten— I did though and here they are in no particular order. Some are about cooking, others are about customer service, others are just about how to live a better life – let me know what you would add to the list.

Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business
by Danny Meyer

When I first read this book that was written by CEO/Founder of Union Square Hospitality Group and Shake Shack, I was working part-time in the industry. As those pages of the book came to a close, I knew I had to take the leap into restaurants full time. It literally changed my life. If there was a favourite of mine on this list, this would be it. If his perspective on hospitality (taking care of employees, creating unforgettable guest experiences and more) were to be implemented across the hospitality industry, this world would be a much happier place to live.

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Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t
by Simon Sinek

If you didn’t read Sinek’s first book, ‘Start With Why’ read that first — it’s on my ‘Top 5 of All Time’ list, or at least spend 18 minutes and watch his TEDx talk by the same name — it’s among the most watched of all time.

‘Leaders Eat Last’ is a great narration of how certain people and organizations thrive as leaders while demonstrating the inability of others to properly lead can be lethal. As Sinek says, you don’t have to be the boss to lead, you just have to be willing to raise your hand — this book is for anyone in any organization working in any capacity.

Raise the Bar: An Action-Based Method for Maximum Customer Reactions
by Jon Taffer

Pretty much everyone I’ve ever met loves Taffer, the host of SpikeTV’s Bar Rescue. He’s a super experienced restaurateur (former) and consultant and has been helping save bars and restaurants for years. His entrepreneurial mindset provides the perfect actionable ways for all of us to create dynamic customer reactions — the kinds that turn customers into raving fans. He’s a genius and this book is an example of that. He also has a ton of other great resources over on his website including a free app for restaurant and bar operators.

The Flavour Bible (and others from them) by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg

When I first started cooking without recipes, this book changed my life and helped me better understand cooking. It’s similar to ‘Food Lover’s Companion’ in that it’s encyclopedia-ish, but it’s so much more and focuses on the ingredients. For example, you see an ingredient at the Farmer’s Market — you pick it up, take it home or back to work, and open up ‘The Flavor Bible’. It tells you how strong or mild a given ingredient’s flavour is, the flavour profile, how to best use it (cooked, raw, etc.), when it is seasonal and BEST OF ALL: what ingredients it pairs well with and what ingredients you should avoid. This book is incredible. Another favourite is ‘Culinary Artistry’, a more advanced and academic book, but is stylistically similar.

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Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

If you’ve never worked in a restaurant, this book might scare, shock and dissuade you from ever stepping foot into a restaurant as an employee — especially as a cook. If you have worked on the industry, you can most likely relate to Bourdain’s breakout book in several ways. The truth is, the restaurant kitchen dynamic is changing, in a good way, but ‘Kitchen Confidential’ is still a great peek into this crazy industry of which we are a part of.

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Life on the Line by Grant Achatz

This is a powerful memoir from the incredibly talented chef, Grant Achatz of the now-shuttered Alinea, who was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer — of the tongue (of all things) and how he beat it but was faced with potentially never being able to taste again — the kind of things that exist only in a chef’s nightmare. This honest read takes you through his journey to greatness, cancer survival and the path to creativity. The main ideas of the book are issues we all deal with in the industry day in and day out on a more meta scale. Great read, great chef.

This will help you better appreciate the chef at your restaurant or if you’re a chef yourself — may be what it takes to be a chef.

The Michael Ruhlman Collection by Michael Ruhlman

This is another author who changed the way I look at the role of a ‘Chef’, how you become one, and the idea of constantly striving for perfection.

‘The Making of a Chef’ is Ruhlman’s experience attending the Culinary Institute of America as a journalist, and ‘The Soul of a Chef’ walks you through the lives of several chef greats including Thomas Keller and Michael Symon (before he was ‘Michael Symon’) —it is an inspiring read.

His more recent books are more focused on kitchen and cooking execution that are greats for restaurant cooks and home cooks alike.

The Obstacle is the way by Ryan Holiday

This book recently floated around NFL locker rooms around the U.S. and in many ways changed the way players and organizations started to approach their work and the challenges they face as players and people. Holiday draws from a lot of Stoic philosophy, which unlike most philosophies, is quite practical and more of a mindset. The thesis of the book is this: the challenges I face in life are here to help me grow stronger. Ryan does a great job of telling stories that are powerful examples of this. This is a book that everyone should read. Seriously. 

Seth Godin Collection by Seth Godin

Godin is known for his entrepreneurial prowess and unconventional marketing that had changed the way a lot of people see the world — including myself. He’s got 17 bestsellers and for me to choose only one of those to include on this list would be impossible. If you read him, he will flip your head upside down and challenge you to question the status quo, to try things that might not work, to grow and how many of life’s rewards come when you take chances in life that benefit other people.
The first thing you need to do is subscribe to his daily blog — sometimes it’s a one minute read and other times it’s a five-minute read — either way, it’s a great way to start the day

Making the Cut: What Separates the Best from the Rest by Chris Hill

Sorry, I had to, lol!

It feels pretty obnoxious to put my own book on here, but it has sold multiple thousands of copies and I’ve heard dozens of stories of chefs and cooks finding a new perspective from which to approach their careers, and that’s the goal of my work and my writing. I also had to put own book on the list, because, well, you’re on my blog, reading my work, so I must be doing something right.

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Customer Service is the Bottom Line by Andrew Carlson

This is a book you might not have heard of, but it’s well written and perfect for anyone in the industry, especially those who interact with customers (and let’s face it, we all do on some level). Andrew is a great consultant in the industry and I really appreciate his perspective and how to create a culture where customer service truly does have a positive impact on the bottom line.

About Chris Hill

Chris Hill
Chris Hill

Chef Chris Hill left a job in the business world to follow his heart and passion into the world of cooking and the kitchen. Chris opened his first restaurant at 28 and grew into the role of executive chef.

Having taken his experiences in the corporate world, as well as those in the kitchen, Chris has built a large social media following centred around TV appearances all over the Southeast U.S., his writing, TEDx talks, and his mission of helping industry workers to lead fulfilling successful careers.

Chris' first book came out in 2016 and is a dive into what makes for a successful career in the restaurant world, and includes exclusive interviews with some of the world's leading and most respected chefs.

You can follow Chris on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and read more of his work here.

Don't miss Chris' latest book 'Crush your career: A professional path to a sustainable life in the kitchen'. Available on Amazon

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 3rd October 2018

Chris Hill Blog: 11 Books EVERYONE in the Hospitality Industry Needs to Read