If you’re thinking about pursuing a career in the culinary field, you may be curious about what separates average chefs from great ones. To answer this question, let’s look at the five most important traits of an amazing chef:
There’s simply no substitute for experience. Specifically, experience in the kitchen. You would have a very hard time finding someone who’s considered a great chef with less than ten years of full-time experience. While there are plenty of chefs with less than ten years of experience who are highly respected and on an exciting career path, the ten year mark seems to serve as a type of minimum milestone for greatness.
What’s interesting is this coincides almost perfectly with the 10,000 hour rule that was researched by Dr. K. Anders Ericsson and popularized by author Malcolm Gladwell.
This ties into the previous point. A great chef should have a strong educational foundation. The reason this trait is so important is a strong foundation means they know the ins and outs of every part of a kitchen. While professionals within many other fields only need to worry about focusing all their attention on one or two things, that’s not the way the food and hospitality industry works.
Since there’s always the potential for something to go wrong in a kitchen, a strong chef needs to have the knowledge necessary to understand what went wrong and the most efficient way to solve that problem.
Truly Knows the Area Where They Live
This is extremely important for two reasons. First, in order for a restaurant to succeed, a chef needs to know what people want to eat. Although that may sound simple enough, every city has its own unique characteristics and preferences. What may be a complete hit in one city can be a total flop in another. Plenty of restaurants have gone under as a result of basing their entire theme and menu around a concept that wasn’t the right fit for where the restaurant was located.
Second, this type of knowledge allows chefs to resolve staffing and food sourcing issues in as little time as possible.
In an industry where one of these major problems can occur thirty minutes before a restaurant starts serving for the evening, nearly instant crisis resolution is a must.
Cream of the crop chefs are not only artists in this kitchen, but they are also pragmatists that understand the harsh realities of the restaurant business. Understanding the ins and outs of business allows them to keep the restaurant’s operations on the right track.
Although chefs are known for their big egos, the truth is that the best ones aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and start washing dishes if that’s what needed to keep things in the kitchen moving. The greatest chefs are those that never forget that there was a time when they had absolutely no idea what they were doing in the kitchen!
Guest Author: Bob Smuckateli is a writer that blogs about culinary programs schools in addition to other higher education courses.