the team effect

I’ve been reminded a lot lately just how blessed I truly am, and I’ve really been trying to remind myself of that on the daily.

Restaurant staff is hard to find.  Like super duper hard. Let’s be honest, the lifestyle doesn’t always coax the best habits out of people, the hours are tough….and so is the pressure.  I don’t think I’ve ever worked in or run a properly staffed kitchen…which is incredibly hard to believe, but true.

It’s pretty common that outsiders think my business isn’t a “real job”. College students wait tables mindlessly for extra cash, cooks work paycheck to paycheck until they get bored and move on in six months for a dollar an hour more.  Managers that hole up in a back office somewhere only to venture out when someone has something to beef about at a table. I won’t lie to you and say in my career that it’s never been true, because I truly have seen it all. (If you run into me, ask me to tell you the story of the cook who drank warm kitchen wine from the line midday…you’ll be in for a serious laugh) I’m lucky enough to say I’m not living it now.

Maybe all those things are exactly the reason I feel so thankful.

A few months ago, after being frustrated for what seemed like an eternity, I had an epiphany.  I could be as frustrated as I wanted and annoyed by all the interviews I arranged that no one showed up for, but that wouldn’t change one single thing.  There was something I could do though…

I could focus on what I had, not what I didn’t.  

There really is something to be said for this whole “cup half full” thing.  

Maybe I didn’t have ENOUGH cooks, BUT I had a TEAM of great ones.  So I dug in even more than ever. I spent as much time as I possibly could building them up, playing to their strengths, teaching them new things all while trying to inspire them and support them along the way.  I gave them projects, worked with them one on one and challenged them. The tough love and pushy kind of challenge. You know, the kind no one likes in the beginning because you feel like you are getting picked on, only to eventually look back and realize… “oh wow, that’s why”.

So many amazing things happened in such a short period of time. Things I can’t take credit for. The credit is theirs.

*one cook became a qualified and amazing right hand to me, absorbing so much, and pushing so hard she has now become someone who removes stress from my life.

*another became such a quick, efficient, qualified cook that he now takes the place of two every shift he works, allowing me to use someone else’s hours to fill a scheduling hole (this very rarely ever happens).

*a long time prep guy with the most amazing knife skills ever is now working the cold station solo on a Friday night, and really well I might add.

*one of my fantastic dishwashers is learning to prep, and loving it.

*my pastry leader saved us one night after a call-out and now knows how to make every item on the cold station.  It’s always nice to have a pinch hitter.

I would say I am 70% closer to having a fully cross-trained kitchen, morale is way up and I really look forward to just cooking with my team again.  

When I look around, I see so much heart in my place. I have a partner who always has my back. We have bartenders that really care how a drink tastes not just how many you buy.  Our managers care about guests and want to talk to them even if nothing is wrong…fancy that? Our front door is welcoming because of those first faces you see. My food liasons, (aka….the servers), are passionate about my food, well educated to answer all of your questions and remind me often they are also trying to make me proud.  

I have a TEAM, and they have made me a better leader without even realizing it.

It’s funny how things happen just by shifting your view.



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