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View Full Version : How do you retain a talented cook?



Tristan
07-09-2012, 01:43 AM
Hi, as someone totally outside the industry, I have often wondered how you would actually retain the best cooks/chefs that you hired?

I ask because I imagine that some places would lose the ability to retain food quality if the chef left, or up and coming cooks need new opportunities but not everyone can be promoted etc. How do you prevent the talent drain? Why wouldn't he leave for a better paycheck, or to start his own restaurant with an investor if he managed to get a name for himself?

I'm sure there is a simple way to do it, but I could never figure it out.

ecchef
07-09-2012, 02:17 AM
Don't lie to them.

ThEoRy
07-09-2012, 02:23 AM
Money, benefits, opportunity for advancement. Though you will have turnover regardless.

shankster
07-09-2012, 07:41 AM
$$$ helps, but the best always leave eventually..

99Limited
07-09-2012, 07:52 AM
You have to talk to them. And you have to make sure that they can talk to you, about anything.

AnxiousCowboy
07-09-2012, 12:11 PM
If they are a hardcore "real" cook they will work for you only to learn from you and leave once they've worked every station like a boss. This should take a good cook two years--I never expect a good line cook to stay for more than two years. If he does, he's not ambitious enough or he's waiting for you sous to leave and I would talk to him at that point.

turbochef422
07-09-2012, 12:23 PM
The best always leave. I keep them around teaching and motivating but someone is always waving dollars in their face. You can't blame them. I learned a lot but kinda felt loyal and in the end I think it limited my career possibilities. I'm an executive chef but who knows if I would have moved around more.

Birnando
07-09-2012, 12:55 PM
Make them feel that they matter.
Build a "team-feeling" and focus on making your staff function together socially.
It is harder to leave your friends than your tasks, the good ones will always find other places to work.
So, make them part of the work-family.

JMac
07-09-2012, 02:59 PM
Everything stated above is on the money. One day your best will leave, next man up.

But you most always know, '', ''a Chef is only as good as his weakest cook.''

kalaeb
07-09-2012, 03:19 PM
This F&B industry has close to a 200% turnover rate nation wide, it is kind of expecting the expected.

The idea would be to have lots of great cooks, or some in the pipeline being trained to take over when the inevitable happens. Other than paying them what they are worth and treating them with respect there is not much you can do.

If opportunities come up for my guys that I can't compete with, and it is a better move for them and their family, I urge them to take it and help them do so. It is just the right thing to do.

I have more friends in now from all the places I have worked that respect me because of that so when I need someone all I have to do is make a phone call to any one of dozens of former employees and they always provide great candidates.

bieniek
07-09-2012, 05:23 PM
And youre only as good as your last service.

Everybody apart from the owner leaves eventually. If they dont, the flair is gone.

Eamon Burke
07-09-2012, 07:13 PM
Pay them well, and make them feel important. Its how you keep any and every employee.

sachem allison
07-10-2012, 12:46 AM
shoot them in the knee cap, take their papers and threaten to have their whole entire family deported if they ever try to leave, But do it with a smile. It is always more effective with a smile.

Crothcipt
07-10-2012, 12:59 AM
:spitcoffee::tooth::idea:

Cipcich
07-10-2012, 01:00 AM
I'm with this guy.

DwarvenChef
07-10-2012, 01:11 AM
I get asked that a few times when I was in a couple places I liked. "Why are you still here?" I'm not here to take over, I'm here because I enjoy the place I work at. While I would like to have my own place when I settle down, right now I just watch and see how different Chef's do things and how places are run. As my first Chef Instructer always said, "Do not copy any one Chef, than you are just a copy cat with nothing of your own. Observe and learn from as many situations as you can and take a little from each experience, making that into your own style." Being married and having a child cut me off from being a nomad cook so I made the choice of getting jobs with the most diversity I could find and watch the interactions. My time in the military helped me easaly adjust to just about any situation so far and I have learned what to do and what NOT to do lol.

So far all my Chef's have had a few things in common, the ability to listen and respond, a willingness to try our ideas, and keeping a proffessional front at all times. Sure we would go out and get crazy after hours but they never let themselves gossup about work. I like that as it keeps everyone in a secure space.

MadMel
07-10-2012, 02:58 AM
I think everyone will leave eventually, unless it's your own restaurant. What you want to retain is not your staff per se, but rather the goodwill and respect of that particular person. That is how the network is built up. I think that Kaleb's point is the one that hits the mark.

Crothcipt
07-10-2012, 04:00 AM
+10 to dwarvenchef's post

Sarge
07-11-2012, 04:41 PM
This F&B industry has close to a 200% turnover rate nation wide, it is kind of expecting the expected.

The idea would be to have lots of great cooks, or some in the pipeline being trained to take over when the inevitable happens. Other than paying them what they are worth and treating them with respect there is not much you can do.

If opportunities come up for my guys that I can't compete with, and it is a better move for them and their family, I urge them to take it and help them do so. It is just the right thing to do.

I have more friends in now from all the places I have worked that respect me because of that so when I need someone all I have to do is make a phone call to any one of dozens of former employees and they always provide great candidates.

Very well said. I think this is the attitude more people need to have. You'll never keep a whole staff no matter how tight or successful they are. So you do the right thing and teach and train and help people get the things they want and need. A prime example is Thomas Keller saw one of his sous chefs (Grant Achatz) losing some drive so he set up a stage for him at el bulli, a short while after Grant came back from the stage he left Keller and started his own places. Cooks come and go some will stay but I think if you work with that in mind and continue to train and prep the next guys it never really becomes an issue.

ams
07-18-2012, 08:54 PM
I am a professional cook and I will say from experience never EVER deny a cook the opportunity to advance if he/she is motivated enough. It does nothing but frustrate them and they'll constantly be on Craigslist looking for the next position.

Egoyte
07-18-2012, 09:53 PM
Everything above is correct. One other thing that's really basic (and could even be inferred from a few statements above) is to let the really good cooks occasionally get something of their own on the menu. Obviously this isn't something you'd want to do with every cook you have - but if they're not skilled enough to come up with at least one excellent dish that would fit your restaurant well, then they're not really good enough to worry too much about holding onto.

Also, if they ask for a raise, don't laugh at them. The owner of the last restaurant did that to me because he thought it was intimidating, instead of just explaining to me that he couldn't afford it... 5 minutes later he was begging me to at least finish out the weekend.

Respect. Show them respect, give them a chance to feel like there's a part of them on the menu, and let them work to advance in the kitchen as other people fall away. But yeah, as it's been said before, any one cook who doesn't at least seriously entertain thoughts of leaving your place for a better deal/bigger role is at the very least unambitious. Turnover is just the nature of the beast.

pumbaa
07-20-2012, 10:00 PM
I am a professional cook and I will say from experience never EVER deny a cook the opportunity to advance if he/she is motivated enough. It does nothing but frustrate them and they'll constantly be on Craigslist looking for the next position.

This is why I left where I was. I asked a million times to move and do other things but the reply was always I don't have anyone that can do those 3 stations by themselves, so you are the guy. I also left because I am now a pastry chef at a very popular local place and that is a goal I wanted to accomplish

ncowan
07-27-2012, 04:56 PM
Dont lift his ego, it will make him want to leave more. Keep an open line of communication, being firm direct...all the time. Establish respect, and be the boss. Cooking is a counter intuitive process, cooks need to please someone other than themselves to be happy.

Sara@JKI
07-28-2012, 07:24 PM
Japanese people say that employees tend to stay in one place if he/she has two out of the three important things in a work environment. The three importance are: People, Motivation (Incentive), and $

Sara@JKI
07-28-2012, 07:26 PM
ok... there was something wrong in my translation. I meant this:

People, Spence of Reward (Satisfaction or Incentive), and $

Sara@JKI
07-28-2012, 07:27 PM
No. i can't type right. I meant this: Scene of Reward (Satisfaction or Incentive)

stevenStefano
07-28-2012, 08:26 PM
I work in a sorta mid-level place and have worked there for 8 years. I had trials at 2 of the best restaurants in the country where I live not long ago and got offered less than half the pay I get now and I'd have to work 20 more hours a week for it. So much for ambition.

Salty dog
07-29-2012, 12:11 AM
Fulfilment. The trick is picking the ones who's needs you can fulfill.

bieniek
07-29-2012, 02:06 AM
I work in a sorta mid-level place and have worked there for 8 years. I had trials at 2 of the best restaurants in the country where I live not long ago and got offered less than half the pay I get now and I'd have to work 20 more hours a week for it. So much for ambition.

Ha! But you could argue that Britain has the strongest restaurant scene globally. Im not only talking London and any other city. You can find 3 rosette restaurants in total dumpholes.
Or Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, not a hole you could say, near Oxford, but still pretty small place to accomodate two star Inn.

You remember the story of Hibiscus few years ago[2007-8?], they moved the whole restaurant from, uhm, Shropshire? to London just to be able to get the second star?

But thanks for reminding me, when I started in London, after my room was paid, I earned 1 pound per hour!

So yeah, sense of reward:)

bieniek
07-29-2012, 02:09 AM
Or the Walnut Tree Inn, from total nowhere in Wales?

hambone.johnson
07-29-2012, 12:11 PM
2 years ago i probably would have answered this post very differently, and with much more vigor of work and move on! so it really depends on where you are in your career.

i will completely agree that quality of work environment is important, and money doesnt fix everything. i left one place as a sous chef because i was being abused and i felt a little like a whore selling my services with no quality of life at the end of the day. As a line cook you leave to move up through the ranks and eventually make it to sous chef. Young line cooks have a shelf life and there is no denying it. its just part of being young and wanting to move and push your career. i think some young guys are too concerned with constantly moving to get that first sous chef gig and they dont take time to smell the roses and line cook to their best abilities. i dont think enough cooks reach their full line cook potential before becoming sous chefs, because there is always someone out there willing to make you a sous if you leave your current employer. and too many take the bait and become sous too early.

old line cooks are different, at my current place most of us are old line cooks who have been sous chefs and are there because its a nationally recognised restaurant doing very progressive food. But people like us are few and far between. maybee not, but i have never worked in a kitchen where the average line cook age is well over 27. We all work sous chef hours, (11-15 hrs a day) we are all in charge of our stations and the ordering for those stations, and at the end we make almost sous chef money. Now im kinda an old guy, at least i feel like one, and i dont see leaving my current employer for several years. i make really good money, we are closed on sundays, my hours are better than most places in my city, and my restaurant has a little name drop to it. eventually ill have to go back to being a sous chef, and doing that dance. but its splitting hairs at this point between that and what im doing.

so i think the majority of line cooks are concerned with "moving up", getting that first sous chef job, learning and moving on, ect ect and there isnt much you can do for it. if you find a solid line cook treat them well, but not spoiled, ( thats always a pit fall too) and realise that in the end, your gonna lose that person. its just the way of the beast.