Edward Leonard, CMC, Director of Culinary Operations and Executive Chef at The Polo Club of Boca Raton (Fla.), offers advice to strengthen your resolve as a chef, a mentor and a person.
There has been so much good done in the culinary world over the years. Chefs and cooks are passionate and caring souls. Many get involved with the community, do charity, and help those in our brigades by mentoring and teaching. But we’re not all wired that way all the time. It’s difficult to assess our own attributes honestly and look at things unselfishly. Chefs often have egos and at times those egos drive our behavior. (The world of reality food TV it has not helped.)
But to look at something for the good of the whole when it may leave you out of the process is hard. For a person to do something unselfishly, only because that person wants to do well or give back, is rare in today’s high tech, me-centric world. I hope you take the time to read the following, share it with your cooks, the FOH team and other department managers. Give it some thought, and try to practice some of these points in your everyday life.
As a member of this great profession that consists of chefs and culinarians who all work hard and give of themselves every day, I believe together as a group we are strong and can make a difference. Individually, no matter how talented one may be, we are nothing on our own.
Chef Leonard’s Food for Thought:
- The most valuable thing we have is our health. Take care of yourself. Without good health, happiness for yourself and those around you is difficult to achieve.
- Always maintain a reasonable sense of values and integrity and resolve to make a difference by doing what is right.
- Resolve to be a positive person who embraces and mentors rather than attacks. Angry people with abrasive attitudes are vengeful and self-serving.
- Resolve to help others in their quest to be what they want to be. This will come back to you in kind.
- Practice “’naïve listening” with those you work and spend time with. Remember that we have two ears but only one mouth. No one can keep learning when always speaking.
- Resolve to not have all the answers all the time and to search out what you do not know. Wise people know what they know and what they do not know.
- Resolve to make a difference in our profession by whatever means you can. Making a difference in other people’s lives is the most rewarding thing we can do.
- Resolve to teach the young and be patient. Make a place for seniors so that they can still be a part of what we do. Guide those who strive to achieve so that they do it humbly. Be tolerant of those who want to be heard with nothing to offer because we have all worn those shoes.
- Understand that cooking is a craft with great traditions. Resolve to ensure that those traditions are never lost as they are the foundation of even the most modern dishes and fads that are worth eating.
- Continue to learn.
- Resolve to understand that it’s what you learn after you “know it all” that really matters.
- Resolve to make time for those in your life who are important. Without balance and support, all else is senseless.
- Resolve to be the kind of person who contributes in a positive, giving way without expecting to receive anything in return. Attacking and making noise is for the insecure and selfish.
- Communicate daily. Ask what you do not know. Speak when something bothers you. Communicate with those around you regardless of their stature for the woods would be a silent place if the only birds who sang were valued.
- Resolve to understand that success is not equated with money or fame but with what a person is and how he or she gives to others and achieves success. There are many people with money and fame who are miserable.
- Resolve to mentor those around you positively and teach for the good of those you are teaching so that they may succeed, and not for any other reason.
- Resolve to put yourself in others’ shoes before you lash out and criticize them. Wearing blinders makes the picture hard to see.
Plain and simple, resolve to be a better person every day. Let it be the start of something special in your life and for those you work with and come home to.
Together, Chefs, we can make a difference.