Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I thought the dinosaurs were extinct!

Wow!!! Someone has finally said it. It has been forever since I have heard the saying, “the fish stinks from head.” Thank you David S. Reading it reminded me of some other words of my mentors, you know, the people who gave me the knowledge I have today.

Maybe the hospitality industry has forgotten that HOSPITALITY REQUIRES SERVICE.

Yes, we are all guilty of some ego. Most people have worked very hard to climb the ladder of success. I have to wonder though, which step on that ladder is it, what big management “title” causes some to forget the number one rule of this industry, SERVE THE CUSTOMER! We have all seen the butt kissers who believe that massaging the right management ego will get them a better job and the sad reality is it actually works in too many places. That is time, energy and money that could be spent on bettering service to the customer. BIG MANAGEMENT EGOS DO NOT TRANSLATE INTO BIG REVENUES FOR THE COMPANY.
Managers need to remember their responsibility to serve those who work FOR them. Their responsibility is to TRAIN and TEACH the art of SERVICE. To get REAL rewards from this industry, not just a big paycheck, a manager needs to exhibit some humility. In the old days, before micro management (another word for “it’s not MY fault”… just my opinion) the management had the ultimate responsibility to assure that the job was done well and that great service was executed at all cost. That meant wash dishes, peel shrimp, whatever it took. They worked hands on and SET THE EXAMPLE.

Too much is lost and over complicated by being “politically correct.” It has become a disservice to the up and comers, those people who really WANT to succeed. Instead of pouring countless hours and money into how we should spare feelings, inflate everyone’s ego and pat the a _ _ s of staff and management we should look from a different prospective: SERVE THE CUSTOMER! If you cannot or will not learn then MOVE OVER! EDUCATE OR AMPUTATE. Producing successful staff and management takes a lot of talent, good old-fashioned HARD WORK and pain, yes PAIN. Only then can we produce not only top quality products and services but top quality employees who go home EVERYDAY knowing that 1) they are good at what they do, 2) their contributions have made a REAL difference and 3) the customer knows it!

The hospitality gods have been good to me, I have been fortunate enough to have worked for some of the most impossible, slave driving, questionably abusive, insatiable, rude, know it all, tail kicking bosses that history has ever recorded. What a blessing! I am grateful now that they cared more about my career than my feelings. They instilled in me (more like CHISELED it into my …at that time… thick skull) that I am only as good as the people that work for me. Their success is my success and I had better pass it on. The icing on that cake is even sweeter. The people we teach take their training on to other jobs. They use that knowledge to better their own careers and the careers of others and the customer gets great service!

The bottom line is this: Happy customers WILL RETURN. A prideful staff is confident in their CUSTOMER SERVICE. Managers are OBLIGATED to train and teach, and everyone gets their egos massaged by the PRIDE OF A JOB WELL DONE instead of useless stuff like Skippy boy washing their cars on the weekend.

See you in the dish pit!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Old Man and thoughts on age discrimination.

When I was young and full of piss and vinegar, trying to sponge up all the experience and responsibility the Chef would allow me, I always remembered, (even though the consequences of any mistake I could make would be intimidating, painful and humiliating) the "Old Man" could and would ALWAYS be able to pull me out of the shits.

My mentors were the guys who had been through everything a million times and maintained their cool through the most horrifying and impossible situations and afterwards kicked my ass for my mistakes.

In my culinary adolescence, I felt I may have been a better cook than some of them, that I had better menu ideas and ways to implement them, sometimes I was right. I still had the attitude that I NEEDED the "Old Man."

As I worked through my culinary adulthood I could recognize that even though I was an outstanding cook and could operate kitchens with much success, I still NEEDED the "Old Man."

Now I have reached the decrepit age of maturity, 48, have opened, owned and operated several of my own restaurants, trained countless cooks and servers and dish washers, many who have gone on to better their careers in the industry with the knowledge I had instilled in them, I've passed through business plans and p&l statements and all sorts of other crap...and yes I still NEED the "Old Man." (Maybe now more than ever.)

There are plenty of ego driven, flashy, "show" chefs out there, finger pointers, without so much as a spot of marinara sauce on their starchy whites. I sometimes wonder who their “Old Man” is. Who pulls them out of the weeds by something so simple as telling them to get off their ass or pull their head out of it? Will they have the stamina to go the distance that will teach them what only time can, what the Old Man knows? No matter how hard it is to ask him and catch a bunch of crap for it, THE OLD MAN KNOWS...he always does!

The Old Man is the LEADER, not always the strongest or most creative or the best at everything, the Old Man is the shoulder that our worlds rest on, the security we can always count on, the one who got us this far.

Every operation is defined by its leader.

I wonder if our culture is now to take credit for a foundation that was built by those tough, crusty old SOB’s that got us where we are today. Will we forget to carry on in their tradition, will we get caught up in an ego war with those young whipper snapper "I've got the world by the tail, fresh out of school, get out of my way, I know what I'm doing” snot wipers? We owe it to the "hot shots," to teach them (even if we make them get a little dirty) so they will bring up the future generations, so that our craft remains a craft and doesn't end up becoming just some fancy title.

How could the Old Man be discriminated against? Who else do they have to ask?

And hey don't you ever forget: old age and treachery will always overcome youth and stamina!