Running your kitchen more smoothly (with greater peace of mind) Monday 16 November 2020
Peace of mind starts with eliminating worries. It’s a matter of getting rid of the unknowns on your path. One way of doing this is ensuring that your food is good and meets your quality standards. For chef Wout Vereecken, being in control of your kitchen is the other part. He shares his ideas on how to make your kitchen processes run more smoothly and level up your teamwork with smart recipes.
Peace of mind means simplifying
Wout always has to think about kitchen efficiency when he cooks food for his customers on site: “Basically, we build a new restaurant every day. We don't bring in pre-heated food but cook there and then. Here, every unnecessary step is one too many. You have to keep your kitchen small, limit the number of plates you use, create a single flow of work, and look for ways to simplify your processes. How can you make everyone’s lives easier? That's peace of mind.”
Look beyond your menu
It’s a process that goes beyond your menu, Wout believes: “Too often, restaurants turn to their chef and start scrapping dishes from the menu. Use your team instead and take a critical look at all your processes. Is your plate heater in the right spot? Can your service staff easily grab clean cutlery? Where’s your receipt printer? If you don’t like doing a process, this is usually a great red flag that shows that improvement is needed.”
Trim the fat - creatively
Wout believes that the goal should always be to cut the amount of time you spend on things other than cooking. “be critical and have an open mind. Maybe disposables are an option? There are biodegradable, eco-friendly disposables, which could save time and energy. That’s how far you can go.” Wout got his inspiration from famous Dutch chef Richard Ekkebus, who works at the Mandarin Oriental Landmark Hotel in Hong Kong. When he visited the restaurant and sampled the food, he noticed serene quietness in the kitchen: “I asked Mr Ekkebus about it when I spoke to him. It turns out the kitchen uses display screens that tell staff members what to do, much like the ones used in a McDonalds. Everyone is focused on the task at hand and no communication gets lost. The result, he (Mr Ekkebus, ed.) told me, is peace of mind and a boost in quality.” Though it’s not a solution for every business, Wout believes that this is the sort of thinking that can inspire you and help you move forward.”
Cooking is a team effort
As a chef, your job is to streamline all kitchen processes, often while standing at the stove yourself. You’re always looking for ways to make things run more smoothly. Some keywords to get that done are teamwork, skill, and involvement. A good recipe can help: “Chefs can go completely wild with these salmon and sole rolls. You can make everything from scratch or just order frozen ingredients. You might sacrifice quality a little, but with the creamy sauce, the fish will still be as moist and delicious as ever.”
The biggest benefit of this recipe, Wout explains, is that it offers a great opportunity to share information. As we’re still reeling for the pandemic, now is a great time to train your staff and elevate the level of knowledge and craftsmanship in your kitchen. It’s also a chance for your team to work together, learn from each other, and get inspired, which boosts morale and improves the team spirit: “many chefs-in-training don’t learn certain skills, and this recipe requires many skills. Hand them a knife and let them break down the fish themselves and make the mashed potatoes. Use this recipe as a learning experience to elevate the level of craftsmanship in your kitchen. Even the mashed potatoes require skill to make. You’ll need it in the future, as trained staff is hard to come by. Your guests aren’t just coming in for a snack: they dress up and take their time to enjoy your food. If your kitchen crew is trained to make fresh, quality, and hand-prepared food, you’ll instantly find yourself at the top of your range.” Wout believes that running a restaurant is like a team sport: you can’t do it alone and need to work together. Knowing that you can rely on your team will greatly boost your confidence.
Peace of mind in your kitchen
For Wout, these are the things that will keep your kitchen harmonious and at peace: “making sure your staff is skilled, keeping your kitchen stress-free, and having a team that enjoys itself, serving food you believe in and are passionate about, these are things that give you peace of mind.”
In summary, Wout’s most important advice for restaurant owners and chefs to achieve peace of mind:
- Simplify your internal processes and make life easier for you and your team.
- Make sure everyone knows and understands each other’s jobs.
- Work together with your team, because running a kitchen is like a team sport.
- Make sure you create a festive atmosphere for your team during the Holidays.
- Involve everyone in finding process solutions and kitchen creativity.
- Cook food that makes you happy and that you believe in.