Alex Hardy 5 chefs on improving communication

Good communication in the kitchen can make all the difference between a calm shift and a chaotic one. We asked five chefs to share some tips that have helped their kitchens remain a productive, joy-filled place.

Respect works better than rage
Jametta Raspberry, Executive Chef at Eat for Equity, thinks too many chefs are used to working in high-volume, fast-paced, chaotic environments, where respect is overlooked. “It’s difficult to produce great dishes when you’re stressed. Take the time to make each person feel good and valued. Next time someone is struggling with a task, why not ask them, 'Hey, can I help you?' or see what they need to do better, to help them succeed."

Take the time to get everyone on the same page.
For John Winterman, Managing Partner at Bâtard in Manhattan, New York, group training sessions are a great way to help people feel heard.

“When we change any policies, we organize a group training session to support it. This allows the entire team to come together to understand the changes while also allowing them to ask questions. This strengthens the team because they realise we’re all in the same boat and have the same concerns about change.”

Set the right tone
Antagonizing your team is counterproductive, according to Paul Pelt, Executive Sous Chef at Miriam’s Kitchen, a non-profit organization working to end chronic homelessness in Washington, DC. “Some chefs think that it’s ok to raise your voice and act out in a kitchen environment to gain respect and authority. This often creates an unpleasant work environment where the team won’t open up and don’t feel heard. Taking the time to talk openly about menu changes, shifts and orders creates a more productive and positive environment for all".

You don’t have to be best friends.
Allison Burnham, chef and owner at vegan fast food concept Plant Lyfe and vegan bakeshop Coconut Baby in Barbados, believes autonomy and respect help her chefs work as a united team. “The most important thing is getting the food done well and respecting the people you work with. You don't have to be friends, but you do have to work together to get the job done to the best of your ability because it reflects in what we serve.”

Invite collaboration.
Dario Morillo, executive chef at The Hungry Lion hospitality consulting firm in Miami, Florida, thinks participation is key. “Try to mentor people, include them in every aspect of dialogue and change in the kitchen. You get a better response from people when they’re involved in what’s happening around them.”