What impact do you want to make as a chef?

Ishwariya Rajamohan

Ishwariya Rajamohan

Other 1st July 2019

What impact do you want to make as a chef?

This month’s post is aimed at getting you to think with greater depth about yourself as a professional. As chefs, we’re shaped so much by outside forces that influence both who we are and what we do. It’s the feedback from colleagues and customers that reflect to us how we’re ‘doing’ at work and where we need to course-correct. When it comes to our ‘being’ qualities, those we work with keep us in line with the team’s culture and objectives. If we’re lucky, we find a mentor who draws out our future potential before we’re ready to recognise it.

But what actually shapes who we are as chefs lies within each of us. It has little to do with which cuisine we excel at or which chefs we train under, but everything to do with the values we hold. And we each have an inner compass that guides us here. Our kitchen culture doesn’t really give much space for this kind of reflection; unlike doctors, we don’t take an oath as we begin our careers. But my belief is that these questions are incredibly important. Yes, “it’s only food”, but we have to remember that we’re professionals who serve.

The exercise below will help you get in touch with your values. You’ll find three questions below, designed to help you see your impact as a chef. My invitation to you is to take the time to think deeply about your answers to each one of them: this is about what you bring to the table.

● What do you want to contribute to service today?
“You are an instrument of your work.” - Tara Sophia Mohr

Like any instrument, it’s the tuning that determines how you show up to your work. This brings us to the all-important question: What do you do to prepare for service each day, chef? Do you set an intention to bring the best version of yourself to every shift?

● What kind of chef do you want to be?
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou

What are you like to work with, chef? Do you think about the bigger impact of your words and actions on your team? Do you treat everyone well - especially those who appear to be less important?

● What do you want to contribute to the restaurant industry?
“Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don't have.” - Anthony Bourdain

What do you want your legacy to be, chef? Are you constantly learning from someone and are you constantly teaching your skills to someone? Do you bring integrity to who you are and what you do as a chef? Because whether you’re behind the scenes preparing inflight meals or showing off your talent on MasterChef, you’re an ambassador for the profession in every moment.

Read a tribute to any chef and their accomplishments will sound like they have been copied and pasted from another source. But people will open their hearts when they talk about his or her character. And that’s what stays with you as the reader.

What would you want others to say about you, chef?

(Ishwariya Rajamohan founded Love Letters to Chefs to help chefs navigate the challenges of the profession. It's about really seeing the human being who shows up to work in a chef's jacket. Her current focus is the #BetterCheflife project (loveletterstochefs.com/bettercheflife/), which is aimed at helping chefs find more balance through work-life integration.)