Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, hundreds of newly qualified chefs enter the industry every year, full of optimism and promise. Integrating these freshly minted chefs into your kitchen is not without obstacles, but is ultimately one of the most worthwhile contributions you can make to your restaurant and the industry as a whole.
Benefits of newly trained chefs
The largest benefit to having newly qualified chefs in your kitchen is that they haven’t been corrupted by the industry. This may sound dramatic, but it’s true; as chefs go through the industry they develop and ingrain their own way of doing things, and can pick up bad habits and techniques, leading to conflict in your kitchen. As new graduates, they haven’t had the opportunity to develop these habits and thereby they won’t cause conflict with their disparate skills.
Newly graduated chefs haven’t been surrounded by kitchen politics and the negativity, which is unfortunately quite pervasive our industry. This negativity typically presents itself in older chefs, as many of them grow disillusioned as they progress in their careers.
Fresh from the oven, you will be able to mould these chefs to the needs of your kitchen and your organization, and they enter your kitchen with the energy and vigour that youth and inexperience promises. Their lack of experience benefits your kitchen as you are able to influence them in the ways and style of your cuisine.
Drawbacks of newly trained chefs
Benefits aside, integrating new chefs into your kitchen is certainly not without obstacles. By definition, these chefs lack experience and therefore will not be able to integrate into your kitchen without proper guidance. If you are hiring graduates, you have to accept that this will require some time and investment on your part to properly mentor and guide them.
This can be quite a balancing act, because, as we all know, the client is the most important component to any functioning kitchen, and their needs must be prioritized- no clients, after all, means no restaurant. The head chef in your kitchen will therefore need to walk the knifes edge to balance between integrating and guiding new chefs and keeping clients happy. With this information at hand, it is unsurprising that mentorship programs will typically lead to a more successful kitchen. It is unrealistic to expect a new chef to manage on their own with no guidance, and it is critical to train new chefs in order that they may seamlessly integrate into your kitchen.
This system is successful as a result of one overarching, inter-industry principle; if you show interest in your employees, they will be the greatest investment and asset that your business may make.
Think of new chefs as an opportunity to instill greatness. Don’t just give them a recipe and leave them to it- explain the techniques involved, and the reasons why your dish is cooked in a certain way, or plated in a certain way. Teach them how to combine flavours and textures in a dish, and how the creative process works. Instill the building blocks of greatness, so that you will have great chefs in your kitchen.
Key points to remember
Always to bear in mind that new graduates lack the experience that seasoned chefs have accumulated in their careers. At most they will have attended internships while studying, but they do not have actual depth of working experience. Forget that and you risk causing problems in your kitchen. Always remember to guide and mentor new chefs.
It is equally important to remember that new chefs should not be given too much responsibility too soon. This may seem counterintuitive, but too much responsibility without the appropriate guidance will ultimately result in an overwhelmed chef, rather than a successful kitchen. Build their confidence slowly.
After all, we all know that there is a shortage of trained chefs in our industry. These days this is countered by giving young chefs promotions quickly, accompanied by the responsibilities that go with these promotions. It is not to say that they’re not willing to work, but they just don’t have the experience to cope with the pressure they’re under. This results in burn-out and early exit from the industry, resulting in a shortage of trained chefs; it’s a vicious cycle which is ultimately counterintuitive.
At Hurst Culinary School we tell all of our graduates the same thing; don’t accept promotions too quickly, as it doesn’t have long term benefits for their career. These youngsters, if promoted ahead of their abilities, will burn out and exit, and the thousands of hours invested in them are lost. They’ll go into another field, and we’ll lose their talent.
Some people in the industry choose to hire newly qualified chefs in order to keep their wage bill down, while expecting these graduates to do the same job as an experienced chef. As explained, this will only lead to fewer trained chefs in the industry. Remember that graduates and young chefs live in the same world we do- a litre of petrol is the same cost for them as for us. Groceries, rent- it’s all the same cost, no matter what you earn. With this in mind, and where possible, we have to give young chefs a fair starting wage.
If you’re willing to invest in graduate chefs, your kitchen will reap the rewards. Giving fair monetary compensation, mentoring correctly and giving responsibility mindfully is ultimately a winning combination.
So hire new chefs, and invest in the future of our industry.
This article was written in collaboration with the founder and owner of Hurst Culinary School, Rebecca Hurst.