The world's top chefs all share a set of personality traits that have helped propel them to success. It's a given that they all have an enduring passion for creating beautiful dishes, but it's a learned, acquired or even innate skill set that distinguishes them from other chefs. The good news? Patience and perseverance can get you there, too. Here's the skinny on the five personality traits of a successful chef:
1. The Determined Chef
You want to be top toque? Then you already know that means putting in long, irregular hours in a fast-paced, demanding environment. While your friends may be out on the patio enjoying a beer, Sunday brunch or Mother's Day lunch, chances are you'll be working — and working hard. If you have the stamina and determination to get ahead, you'll work through the back aches, sore feet and physical discomfort.
As a new chef, you'll find yourself doing a lot of repetitive tasks until the head chef feels you've mastered them. You'll find yourself making the same cuts on those steaks for what seems an eternity. This is, as a lot of chefs would agree, a marathon, not a sprint.
2. The Organized Chef
Top-notch chefs are always organized. From mise en place to impeccably clean kitchens, organization is crucial to getting the job done well. For those who are organized by nature, this part of the job will come easily. For those of you reading this and thinking, "I'm creative, I don't need to be organized," you're in for a rough ride.
Once you begin taking on any sort of leadership role in a professional kitchen, you have to be ready to answer to your brigade, to customers and to management. How effectively you allocate tasks, direct traffic flow during kitchen rushes and analyze food costs to make your menu more profitable determines how successful your operation will be. Knowing how to make great food is important, but so is being on top of food safety regulations, employment laws and smart cost-cutting techniques in the kitchen and on paper.
3. The Team-Oriented Chef
The best chefs know that to make a kitchen run like a well-oiled machine, it takes an entire team. There's a hierarchy in almost every kitchen to keep processes running efficiently, but smart chefs know that shouting matches inspire fear at best. Jacques Pépin is known for saying that respect, mentorship and the guidance of chefs so that everyone can perform at optimum levels are keys to a good kitchen, a solid team and excellent food. You want your team behind you, not despising you.
4. The Chef Who's Willing to Learn
Even the most renowned chefs know that to remain at the top of their game, they need to keep learning, improving and refining their craft. They learn from peers or from masters of certain techniques. They keep on top of new cuisines from other parts of the world and study the latest industry trends.
5. The Customer-Focused Chef
Without paying diners, you don't have a job. Good chefs know that to be successful, they must know how to handle customer complaints, even if that sometimes means just listening respectfully. The best chefs know that there are lessons and concrete takeaways to be gained from even the smallest customer complaints and queries.
Keeping the personality traits of a successful chef in mind will help set you on a path to professional success. Add a dash of passion and you have the makes of a top chef.
Photo credit: Mary Luz Mejia