C+RC’s Editor, Joanna DeChellis, encourages chefs to use this rare time to better themselves and their teams, so that when business returns, this industry is stronger, smarter, and more skilled.
First, let’s be really clear about something: I’m not a chef.
I have written about nearly all aspects of the culinary world over the course of my career, though. And in doing so, I’ve learned a lot about the world of chefs, as well as cooking.
When I graduated from college, my very first editor asked me to write a story about what chefs should consider when buying potatoes. I was clueless. I had plenty of experience writing and I had a portfolio with dozens of bylined articles. But what would I write about that would have any impact? I didn’t know what a chef should consider. I didn’t even know any chefs at that point.
My editor saw me struggle (and probably heard me ask lots of silly questions during phone interviews). He decided to send me to an accelerated culinary basics program. He then continued to drive my education while we worked together, by encouraging me to attend workshops at the Culinary Institute of America and elsewhere. That helped me learn what parts of the cooking process are important to explore, how an operation works, what terms are important to use, and why my role as a journalist covering this industry is important to the continued progress of the culinary arts.
A decade later, I still ask lots of questions (and some of them are probably still silly). But I am confident enough to unpack the answers, so I can fully digest the subject and turn it around to tell a story that’s useful to you as a professional chef.
I’m also a very tactile learner. When all of you were asking about sous vide, I got my own immersion circulator and cooked everything I could with it. When sushi moved mainstream, I read a dozen books on the history and process, and then forced my best friend to teach me how to roll sushi—a skill she learned from her mother and aunts. When everyone was shifting their approach to serving plant-based meals, I went vegan for a couple of months.
I like a challenge. And I know many of you do, too.
During quarantine, I decided to level up on a whole new culinary skill: ice cream making. And while I still have a way to go to perfect it, the process has been fascinating (and delicious).
Right now, your operations are slower than you want them to be. Your staff is probably also smaller than you want it to be. Are you “just getting by?” Or are you using those small bits of open time to better yourself and your team, so that when business returns, you’ll be stronger, smarter, and more skilled than you were going into this?