Making the case for discipline in a "Fair Kitchen"

A commercial kitchen is a hectic and high-pressure environment, with little recognition for the hard work that goes into preparing every plate. In many kitchens, anger still rules to get the job done - but leading with fear rarely gets the best from a team.

Whether everyone sticks to strict roles in your kitchen, or there's more of a natural flow, a team has to act as one to get the job done.

There’s a fine line between aggression and assertion and, while abuse is never ok, discipline is key to keeping standards high. So how do you create a team discipline that strengthens individuals, rather than weakening them? We spoke to chefs and industry professionals for their thoughts.


Make sure it’s discipline, never abuse

“People thrive in an environment where they don’t have to be perfect. However, it needs to be a place where we don’t throw things at each other but instead we can have really constructive conversations. We can still be really badass, we can maintain that part, but without the abuse.” – Stacy Carroll, Director of Impact: Women’s Leadership & LGBTQIA+ Programs, The James Beard Foundation


Be transparent about your expectations

“I won’t sacrifice discipline - I think it’s necessary in order for the industry to survive. But it’s important to be very transparent with staff. I’m a disciplined chef and I have high expectations of my staff, because I have high expectations for myself. I make it clear what those are going to be and if there are bumps I’m open to engaging other people to be a part of the dialogue.” – Chef Kathleen Blake, Owner, The Rusty Spoon, Orlando


Be direct, without judgment

“In the past I’ve had chefs throw out my tools and tell me I’m no good, I’m useless, I’m worthless… I don’t use words like that, words that are really cutting and hurtful. I try to build people up, not just professionally but personally as well.

I try to be very direct in my management style: ‘This is what you’re doing, this is how I would like it done, please do it this way’. I make it easy for you because I tell you what you need to do, not what you don’t need to do.” – Chef Jamie Knott, Saddle River Inn


Chefs, do you lead with discipline? Let us know how at