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I recently started a mentoring program for head chefs, as I saw a growing need for such a service. The move has been welcomed by fellow colleagues as they recognised there’s a gap in the market for it too.

The idea came about following a discussion with hospitality recruitment specialist Geremy Glew about the current industry landscape. We uncovered there are two scenarios at present.

The first is that on one hand, there are long-term head chefs who stay current by updating their skills and knowledge, but there is also a cohort who have not. Often, the latter excel at cooking, but gaps start appearing when it comes to their management and leadership skills.

The other situation is that many head chefs end up in the role because they were the so-called Johnny-on-the-spot after rising through the ranks as a longtime employee – from apprentice to sous chef – like myself. People who end up as head chefs through this career path often have little or no outside experience. With limited experience elsewhere, these cohort of head chefs can fall short in knowledge and end up rehashing previous menus and operating systems.

We discussed how it’s clear that head chefs in both scenarios require support, training, and mentoring to achieve a club’s KPI goals. Without such investment, disagreement can ensue, resulting in the need to seek another head chef with proven skills. This, in itself, can be both successful or unsuccessful, depending on the candidates and the unknowns that reveal themselves.

I recently gave a presentation to my local Rotary Club on peace and conflict resolution in the commercial kitchen environment. It was peppered with situations I have witnessed over the decades and the lack of skills many head chefs have displayed, resulting in poor behaviours and outcomes. I mused over how different it would have been if timing and correct training was carried out beforehand.

So, it’s perhaps it’s time clubs have a think about staffing and whether it’s wiser to mentor or replace your head chefs.

There are many excellent leadership trainers that work within our industry and reviewing what they offer could be a smart move.

Enjoy building up your staff and have a great month.

Paul RifkinHead Chef Mentoring and Fine-Tuning Specialist for Club Catering chefpaulrifkin consulting

Paul Rifkin

Paul Rifkin is a former club executive chef and now chef consultant to the clubs industry on menus, kitchen design and catering analysis.

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