It has been said that to be the best, you must learn from the best.
We often hear of success stories such as that of world-renowned chef Joël Robuchon, who started off as an apprentice chef at the tender age of 15, only to later take on the job of head chef at Harmony-Lafayette restaurant in Paris when he turned 28. Just a year later, he attained his first Michelin star, and has been named chef of the century.
You must be wondering, what does it take to be a culinary genius like him? The chef himself once said in an interview that it takes an incredible amount of hard work. He also emphasized on being determined –when he first made up his mind to be a chef, he made sure to be the best.
But that’s not the only trait you need to make it to the top. What else does one need in order to become the next Alain Ducasse, Wolfgang Puck or Anthony Bourdain? Here are seven habits you can adopt to set yourself on track for an extraordinary career as a chef.
1. Always have a plan
Great chefs are also great planners. They think ahead and organise everything they are going to do. This is an essential skill in cooking, because poor planning almost always results in disaster. The best chefs know exactly what and how much ingredients they need, where all of their utensils are located, how to pace themselves during crunch time, and what they can do to make the day as efficient as possible.
2. Be in control of your time
Food that’s ordered must be scheduled and prepared in minutes. As such, time management is crucial, which means paying close attention to how you utilise your time down to the last second after an order is received. With proper planning, you can have a highly effective kitchen, which helps to reduce the pressure on the kitchen crew while keeping diners full and satisfied.
3. Focus on the task at hand
When your office is full of fire, knives and people, you cannot afford any slipups. Even a tiny distraction can lead to a ruined meal, or worse, a complete kitchen disaster. Hence, a good chef is one who always focuses on the task at hand. This skill takes a good amount of discipline, but is worth nurturing, as it’s essential to running a successful kitchen.
4. Keep your kitchen organised
Staying on top of things is crucial if you want to achieve great things in the kitchen. The best chefs know exactly how many minutes it takes to prepare each dish on the menu, how to direct servers in and out of the kitchen, and where every utensil and ingredient is located.
Top chefs also keep up to date with food and diner trends in the industry to ensure that they are catering the best dishes and providing the best dining experience to diners.
5. Never stop learning
How do certain chefs stay ahead of the game and know what foods will be popular before a trend starts? How do others create new and innovative dishes that are completely original? Simple. They're always learning. Great chefs keep themselves updated with food trends. They study the cooking methods and cuisines of other cultures and spend time experimenting with different dishes. Doing so allows them to constantly discover new skills and recipes that they can incorporate into their food.
6. Stay conscientious
Being conscientious in this context can be applied to different areas, from food quality to kitchen practices, personal and food safety to plating standards. Top chefs always make it a priority to scrutinise everything that goes into their kitchen, from basic ingredients to the final dish.
7. Keep it simple
Many great chefs spend hours refining their key dishes. This could mean offering set menus and limited items (a common practice in numerous Michelin star restaurants). As the saying goes, “quality over quantity”, focus on offering a few top-notch dishes rather than creating a huge variety of dishes that are of mediocre standard.