'How you behave is how someone else will behave towards you – it’s a domino effect'

The  Staff Canteen

FairKitchens is a global movement that fights for better kitchen cultures and healthier working conditions in hospitality businesses around the world.

Last year, it launched a programme of leadership training called ‘Leading a Fair Kitchen’. The training is 100% free and web-based, and chefs who complete it will earn a certificate of completion from the Culinary Institute of America.

FairKitchens is a global movement that fights for better kitchen cultures and healthier working conditions in hospitality businesses around the world. Last year, FairKitchens launched a programme of leadership training called ‘Leading a Fair Kitchen’.

The training is 100% free and web-based, and chefs who complete it will earn a certificate of completion from the Culinary Institute of America.

Anna Williams, senior sous and head of pastry at Fallow in London, recently completed the course and said: “I like that it’s specific to a kitchen situation and focused on managers in a kitchen.

“Often you get these things and they say ‘make sure you have a good work life balance, and you finish at 5 and you have an hour break’.

“Those things don’t happen. However much we would like them to.

“It didn’t brush over those things, it addressed how tough it is and suggested things you can do help the balance.”

The movement was co-founded by Unilever a few years ago and has since worked with the Craft Guild of Chefs, Mind, Hospitality Action and The Burnt Chef Project in the UK, among many other organisations globally.

One thing Anna took from the training and is going to implement is allowing new members of staff to work a shorter shift on their first day so they can have time to discuss their new role with family, friends and people who are close to them.

“If you give them a rota and they start on their three doubles, they don’t see, or really speak to those close to them until they are off,” she explained. “Give them that half day on their first day and it eases them into it.”

What stood out about the course?

The main area which stood out to Anna while doing the course was managing people and how different tones can be represented.

As a manager, Anna has a good idea of what she believes makes a good one. She says ‘passing on your knowledge’ is vital.

“It’s easy to think people are going to think the same way as you and you don’t necessarily understand why they don’t do something the way you do. “But you have to appreciate that they don’t know what you know. You shouldn’t be scared to tell someone they have made a mistake – everyone learns from mistakes.”

She added: “If you pass on where something went wrong for you, you can firstly stop them making the same mistake but also show them that you are someone who has failed at times too.

“I think I’m the minority when it comes to chefs, yes I’m female, but I think with a more feminine approach. I am about people management and I’m aware of my behaviour and my emotions – which I think is the struggle with this industry.”

Being a great chef and running a section is very different to being able to manage people and Anna says there is ‘often a real gap between CDP or junior sous and senior management’.

“You’re trying to step up, you’ve just left your friends in other positions and you’re finding your feet, it’s hard to train someone how to be in that role.

“You see a lot of people slip through the net there and not make it to the next level. They are suddenly underperforming because no one is really sure how they should act or behave in that role.”

On Fallow she said: “We are a big operation; we can have eight people on a section and it’s like their own unit. We do a lot of training now on management from CDP level. Because sections are their own little unit, they need to be working well as a team.

“Early management training is fundamental for when they move up to sous chef. It means we’re not at that point, training them to work with people. They can be a really good CDP on a section but they don’t know anything about talking to people.

“It’s something here we engrain very much from the beginning - working together.”

She continued: “How you behave is how someone else will behave towards you – it’s a domino effect. It’s something chefs are all pretty bad at and then we all get tired, we all get stressed and it only gets heightened.”

What would other chefs take from the course?

Anna says there is so much more to her role than just serving the food, adding: “We’re quite transparent with everyone here and we keep them informed. Chefs need to know the volume of things which come in to play when being a manager.”

How do you keep a team engaged and feeling appreciated?

At Fallow they have a team briefing twice a day, where everyone discusses any possible problems – it’s an open space and you can speak up about any issues. They also have an evening debrief, even if the day went badly it’s a positive thing as they talk about how something could’ve been prevented.

Anna said: “We have a reward scheme, if any of them are mentioned in comments online, or if a certain amount of specials are sold they get a reward and we do employee of the quarter, which is voted for by all of the staff. There is a winner from the kitchen and a winner from front of house.

“They generally go to a Michelin-starred restaurant or a restaurant that’s popular at the moment, with two managers, and have a nice lunch.”

Does good kitchen culture result in better food coming out of the kitchen?

“One hundred percent!” said Anna. “You see the output if you don’t care.”

Is gender inequality in kitchens still a challenge or has it changed?

Anna says gender inequality is still there in hospitality but ‘it’s not a barrier.’ “I just think you are aware that you are around more men than women on a day to day basis. I think there are a lot more men who now adopt feminine attributes. There are more who know how to manage themselves and can be a lot more empathetic and sympathetic.

“Sometimes it is a bit of a battle, but they are starting to realise that it’s a great way to approach managing a team. I’ve always worked in places where it’s about respect and I do think it’s becoming more about being approachable, more open and more sensitive to situations.”

She added: “If a female chef starts crying, trust me they don’t want to be crying – she literally cannot control it. A man won’t know that, he is just going to assume she is weak.

“But she’s not, she has hormones she cannot control and she has no desire to be crying in front of her boss. Half of them have wives or girlfriends so they know this, this isn’t new information. It’s about being able to speak about it openly having gender balance at the top.

“I’m a huge part of the culture of the team. I hope I have taught them about how we deal with certain situations, and I’ve learned a lot from them too in terms of being a bit tougher in certain situations that don’t come naturally to me.

“Having men and women, all the way down, is the best mix you could have, the problem is there aren’t enough that are sticking to the top.”

How do we make hospitality more attractive for the next generation of chefs?

It’s the million-dollar question, how do we attract more talent and new talent to the industry? Anna says we’ve got to find a way to balance hours but that is easier said than done.

“Our selling point is we only work three and a half days a week, but there are nine to fives who offer four-day weeks so why would anyone coming out of uni or college want to work every hour under the sun?

“We can’t put prices up anymore as customers won’t come so it’s hard to increase staff to cover the hours. There needs to be more support in terms of the expenses a restaurant covers – our electricity went from £5,000 to £25,000! That’s 20k that would’ve been able to go into staff.

“I don’t know what the right answer is but we need to be more competitive with hours and salary to be able to compete with a regular job.”

About #FairKitchens

The #FairKitchens movement was founded in 2018 amid growing awareness of wellbeing issues at the heart of foodservice and hospitality. Believing that this industry will thrive only when the people who work in it thrive, Unilever Food Solutions joined a group of chefs and partners including Naama Tamir, Michael Gulotta, Kat Kinsman, and John Vitale to initiate the #FairKitchens movement as founding partners. Four years on, the movement has expanded globally and attracted the support of chefs, operators, hospitality businesses and experts from all over the world, including Chris Galvin, Ruth Hansom and Alain Roux. It opens a conversation around unhealthy working conditions, recognising the underlying issues and focusing on bringing solutions. These solutions take the form of sharing success and challenges from operators around the world who lead Fair Kitchens, plus resources, training and tools from #FairKitchens and its partners.

Find out more and sign up here: https://www.fairkitchens.com/en/stories/fairkitchens-leadership-training.html

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th December 2022

'How you behave is how someone else will behave towards you – it’s a domino effect'