Need Help With My Chef

Hello Everyone....I need a little advice...Our chef has been with the company for over 10 years but was recently promoted from sous chef to chef. He is a little "green" when it comes to the leadership side to his job. Recently we have been trying to really make an effort to tighten up how we run our kitchen....Our recipe book needs work and alot of the sauces, bases and recipes are done by memory. We also have been pretty inconsistent in performing official "line checks" where the chef really makes sure that the sauces, ingredients and prep are done properly on a shift to shift basis.


I think that part of our chef's resistance to this is because he has not done it for so long that he feels its not necessary. I want to make sure he doesn't thinks it is simply me telling him how to do his job. I want him to know that successful kitchens follow procedures such as line checks and keeping current recipe books.


So what i am looking for is any chef out there that can drop me a line....maybe even send me their line check willing to let me use them as a example of what we should be doing....I want my chef to know that with these upgrades and stricter guidelines in his kitchen, his product will be better and more consistent.


Thanks and I look forward to hearing back from anyone who is willing to help. - Christa

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  • Calling an executive chef an executive chef is a bit of a misnomer because they're more like a "CCO" or a "Chief Chef Officer".  In other words, the executive chef is less a chef and more an executive.  It may not be a good choice to promote a sous chef to an executive position because the skills are very different.

    Some people are more suited to creating recipes and wowing the customers, while others are more suited to taking care of the numbers.  It's actually unusual that a good chef can also be a good executive.

  • Hi Christina, I too agree with Michael. He makes a few very valid points. Namely the difficulties faced in this type of transition period. If this is your Chef's first gig as an Exec, it can be overwhelming at first. But as long as you believe they have what it takes, and you show your Chef  "you've got their back", your BOH will see great progress.

    One way you may be able to get him to see the benefits of completing these basics you're asking for is by outlining the bigger picture.  Show him what you expect to see, as far as advancement in procedures in the BOH, over the next 6 months. Explain to him that the tasks you are asking him to do now are tasks the previous chef never got around to doing and because of this he had continuously wasted time training staff on recipes and checking to make sure things were done. With all his time absorbed, the BOH has not been able to make the advances it's capable of.

    Every new leader wants to prove themselves worthy of their predecessor, or to even one up them. This will present a challenge to take his kitchen to a level it has not yet reached.

    If you have this same conversation with him every couple of months and set a schedule of procedures to implement on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, you will be amazed at what your kitchen will be doing 6 months and 1 year from now.

    The key is follow up. Always be checking to make sure the schedule you set is being adhered to and implementation of the procedures is real.


    Keep us all updated with how everything goes!

  • Hi Christa, Michael makes some great points and having systems in place are keys to success. Making sure line checks are done daily and having a recipe book are keys to making sure your kitchen is consistent. I tell you one thing that has helped me promoting from within is to set a ground to build on. I will lend my experience and let the newly promoted communicate that with the staff as if it where "their idea". Being in this business for a long time gives me the creditably to do so. This also opens up the door to making them a part of the senior team as Michael mentioned.
  • Hi Christina,

    If I had a nickel...:-)

    Moving from Sous to Executive Chef is a bigger jump than most people think. Systems are critical to control costs and ensure product consistency. Your new executive chef must learn to think like a manager, trainer and developer of talent and organize the BOH his way. But to do this, Chef really needs to get a handle on operational procedures and be invited (pulled) into the executive team. 


    I remember promoting a Sous Chef to Executive Chef in an emergency situation. One day she was #2, the next, #1. The reality of what her boss did on a day-to-daya basis was a real eye opener. She had no idea how much more of a job this was and frankly, failed quickly. 

    What we did to help was slow things down a bit for her. I suggested that she train her replacement first, because naturally she was still doing her old job out of habit and, taking on the responsibility of Executive Chef at the same time. This was one the problems. the other, was out fault. We treated her like a Sous Chef and not a member of the senior team. This wasn't intentional. It was out of habit.

    Systems and procedures are important, for sure. But, I discovered that managing transition was even more important.

    Our process was:

    1. Bring her into our senior team so she knew we had her back.

    2. Put a 4 week transition period in place to transition #3 Chef (new Sous) to #2. Giving her time to understand the importance of systems and procedures so the new Sous Chef could take over.

    3. During this 30 days period, we spent considerable time helping with BOH duties, demonstrating how we "had her back". At the end of this period, she felt more part of the executive team. We discussed the need for BOH system improvement, now that she was developing her Sous to replace herself, it  became obvious what needed improvement. Together, we helped she set reasonable goals for this.

    Transition isn't easy and not everyone is a naturally gifted manager. Most of us learn on the job and if we are lucky, have a mentor. In the restaurant business we are always in a hurry to stabilize operations. We succeeded because we embraced open, honest communication and mentored our "new" executive member of the team and learned patience.


    I hope this helps!


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