As the newly appointed Executive Chef of The Mirabel Club, Jon Hearnsberger is working to align his team and build relationships with members.
Have you ever been the new kid in school? That’s how I feel when I start a job in a new kitchen. In my imperfect analogy, the chefs are the students, the board is the principal and the GM is the teacher.
How do you present yourself when you’re an outsider in a new setting? Do you come in hot, all rough and tumble, marking your territory? Or do you observe, get your footings before speaking up? Or are you somewhere in the middle?
Regardless of your approach, your primary focus should always be on the kitchen staff. These individuals will make your operation or break it. You cannot succeed without them. Especially in these days of limited kitchen labor.
For me, it is of utmost importance to work with all my new staff to understand what they can and cannot do. I need to understand where each one of them is in their culinary careers so I can motivate them to achieve the desired performance in the kitchen. It’s not about manipulation. It’s about finding what motivates each of them, what they want, what they need even if they do not know it, what they like, or what they do not like. It’s about having your staff engage with you, and ultimately, with your plans for the menus, kitchen, and club at large.
Only by understanding the staff can you build the team you want. Your goal should be to help these individuals feel fulfilled by their work. When the kitchen staff is learning and growing, they will be eager to overcome the challenges in the kitchen.
Their wellbeing is linked to your kitchen running smoothly.
The next part of the puzzle is building relationships with the other executives within the club. Different executives will shine more or less as different subjects are addressed. This is a great opportunity to learn how they run their departments and what they need from your department. We are there to support each other and understand how all the departments work together. You have to understand what each department’s executive needs from you and you need to have a clear understanding of what they need to know about what you are doing and what you need from them. Showing an interest in their departments and a genuine interest in how the departments interact will create a solid foundation so you can begin to build a healthy professional relationship.
The relationship with your GM, of course, is of great importance. The GM, as a teacher, sets the tone. They are the main conduit of information from the board, are in constant contact with the membership, and interact with all the departments on all topics. They are involved with everything. I try to have at least one meeting touching base with the GM every week when time permits. Don’t get into the day-to-day, but rather the 10,000-foot view of what is happening. It is a great way to stay on course and to develop a relationship.
All of this is my view of entering a new kitchen and club. Build from within. Show respect for your staff’s needs and your fellow executives, listen to and foster the relationship with the GM. The one piece of advice that will serve you best beyond these topics, is spend time on the dining room floor. Get to know your membership. Listen to what they tell you and be responsive to their requests and you will go far.