What Soft Skills are Employers Looking for in a Chef?

What Soft Skills Do Chefs Need?

Being a great chef takes a lot more than well-honed technical culinary skills and a touch of creativity. Chefs are leaders, and to really succeed as leaders, they need to have the kind of soft skills that facilitate communication and keep a kitchen full of hard-working individuals operating together harmoniously. Let’s take a look at some of the soft skills you’ll need, along with your culinary education, needed to become a real chef.

Working with Both Management and Your Team

Even if you're the head chef, you'll be working for someone else unless--you own the restaurant. Management will have their own ideas about what food to serve and how it should be prepared. While you'll probably have a good deal of creative freedom, ultimately they have the last word. While you're in the kitchen, though, the chef is the authority.

Management has to worry about attracting guests and keeping the establishment profitable. Your team has to worry about cooking the food. You have to worry about both; you'll probably be the intermediary between management and the rest of the kitchen staff. Try to see problems from management’s point of view while relaying information to the kitchen staff in a way that makes sense to them and has their best interests in mind.

Taking Criticism Well

Cooking is a creative field, and a very personal one. On top of that, pretty much everyone you interact with in a professional capacity will have something to say about your work. Whether it's a patron who wants to complain or offer you their opinion, management trying to find a cheaper way to make the same dish, a nitpicky restaurant critic, or simply a cook unhappy with your leadership style, you'll have plenty of criticism coming your way.

Learn to take constructive criticism for what it is: potentially useful information, not an attack on you personally or professionally. You'll become a better chef, and feedback will help. Always remember, good impressions are crucial in this industry. Of course, you'll receive plenty of mean-spirited criticism, too. Let it roll off your back. Some criticism will be valid, some won’t be. Learn how to tell the difference and ignore what won’t help you as a person.

Paying Attention to Detail

Anybody who works in the hospitality industry can tell you that details matter when you're trying to provide a perfect experience to your guests. The chef is responsible for everything from the list of dishes on the menu to getting every salmon fillet and every potato cooked perfectly. This field rewards people who pay meticulous attention to detail, and patrons can tell when you do.

Conflict Resolution Skills Keep Things Running Smoothly

Working day in and day out in a restaurant kitchen can be incredibly stressful. Everyone has several dishes to keep track of, quarters are tight, there's never quite enough equipment, and the shifts are long. It's no wonder they say that chefs and cooks run on a combination of adrenaline and caffeine!

Emotions run high under these conditions. If you're lucky, this will encourage a strong sense of camaraderie among your kitchen staff – but if you're unlucky, interpersonal tensions will arise leading to conflicts, arguments, and people quitting in frustration. Chefs are leaders, and as such, it's their job to make sure that personal problems between staff member don't spill over into the workplace.

Stress Management: Keeping it Cool in the Kitchen

Diffusing potential conflicts between your staff isn't your only responsibility: you have to do the same for yourself. If you can manage your stress constructively, you won't make more problems for yourself and your restaurant by blowing up at the wrong time. While an angry chef makes good TV, it's not good for your reputation in real life.

Whether you do it by by picking up a hobby, meditation, or simply making a habit of counting to ten when faced with frustration, keeping your stress levels down will make you a better leader and chef.

Decisiveness Under Pressure

Chefs don't have much downtime during a service, and they're constantly expected to make decisions about what's being cooked at the moment. People who can make the right decision without spending much time thinking about it and who have good culinary intuition are perfect chef material.

What Soft Skills are Employers Looking for in a Chef?

If you’re looking to develop these soft skills as well as the hard skills needed to make a splash in the culinary arts field, there is the ECPI University’s Culinary Institute of Virginia. Our accelerated Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts allows students the opportunity to graduate faster than a traditional university. For more information on this degree program, connect with a helpful admissions advisor today.

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Learn more about ECPI's College of Culinary Arts TODAY!

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