February 1, 2016

4 Non-cooking Skills That All Chefs Need

Being a cook means knowing how to operate in culinary school.

During your time in culinary academy, you’ll learn what it takes to make some truly decadent dishes. Nowadays, though, being a successful chef is more than searing that perfect steak or an in-depth knowledge of herbs. It’s also much more than developing an inventive menu or crafting the optimal kitchen space. There are plenty of non-culinary skills that chefs must have, and these can be the difference make between a great career and simply an ordinary one. Here are four skills you should carry right alongside sauteing and mincing:

“If someone critiques your food, don’t take it personally.”

1. Master the art of taking criticism
Not everyone is going to love what you do in the kitchen. By the same token, people who work for you may also have some disparaging comments on your abilities as a boss. Regardless, you have to know how to handle these situations effectively. If someone critiques your food, don’t take it personally. Instead, use this as a chance to learn and develop as a chef. If an employee takes issue with your leadership, sit him or her down and discuss what can be done to reach a professional consensus. On the flip side, don’t let praise from anyone get to your head lest your progress stagnates.

2. Use technology to your advantage
As a chef, you’ll probably spend more time with your hands on a butcher’s knife or kneading dough than you might on a computer. However, that doesn’t mean that you get a free pass on using a tablet or PC. Technology is a huge part of most chefs’ careers in the 21st century. According to a 2012 survey from the National Restaurant Association, there are several important technological trends already pushing the culinary world forward. These include QR codes for menus, smartphone apps for ordering and social media, which is a great way to market your restaurant.

Chef preparing foods.

3. Always think ahead
Michael O’Dowd is a chef and entrepreneur involved in several restaurants in the Phoenix area. Speaking with the Arizona Republic, O’Dowd said that one of the most important skills that all chefs need is an ability to set creative trends. Not only with food, but in everything you do inside a restaurant. That means paying attention to what other chefs are doing, understanding the demands of your patrons and synthesizing all of that into recipes and decisions that tantalize people. Part of that is motivating everyone on staff, pushing them to use their own creative juices as often as possible.

4. Learn to prioritize
If you’re a head chef or you run your own restaurant, you have loads of jobs outside of simply cooking. Keeping all these dishes in the air, as it were, is a matter of prioritizing your daily schedule, as Chef’s Blade explained. There will be times when you have to do tasks you may not like. When you get to something you like, though, take the time to appreciate and enjoy the work. Effective prioritization also involves proper time management skills, and making sure each task has enough allotted space on the calendar. Though you may have to sacrifice some tasks, just know you’re becoming a more efficient chef in the long run.