Step Up 5 – The Kitchen Teamwork Jive

A professional kitchen (heck, even a home kitchen, if more than one person is working in it at the same time) depends on teamwork.  Teamwork is key.  You need to work with each other as you figure out the ‘dance’ of moving around each other while carrying hot dishes, as you co-ordinate your work so all the food finishes preparation at the same time, as you make sure that your coworkers are set up for success in whatever comes next.

Teamwork is the only way this all works.

Unfortunately, in this current world, people are losing sight of how to actually accomplish this.  There is a culture of the Entitled Individual that is sweeping through the world, where ‘I’ is supplanting ‘team’ Simply put, unless you are the only one working in said kitchen, this doesn’t work.  A kitchen will always be a hierarchy – there needs to be someone in charge, who can coordinate what is going on.  That being said, once the cooking starts happening, the cooks have to come together for a common goal — a coming together of equals.

If one part of the team fails, the whole team can go down.  If everyone on the team splits their work according to ability, and each gives their all, the entirety will succeed.  If one person tries to be the ‘rock star’ and go it alone, treating everyone else as nothing other than backup performers… well, I’ve seen this in professional kitchens, and it rarely ends well.

This leads to something we all need to do while in the kitchen:  hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.  Hope that the people around you are going to contribute to the team as much as you are going to.  Be prepared in case they don’t.  You’ll never be able to control the actions of others… heck, even the greatest chefs in history couldn’t control their teams more than their teams allowed.  So again: you will never control the actions of others — so learn to be prepared, to try and foresee possible breakdowns in teamwork, to be ready to shift the steps of your kitchen dance so you can be where you’re needed to keep the team moving forward.

Most important is this, though: when someone on the team lets you down, when their steps falter, don’t take this as an excuse to do anything other than step up and help the kitchen team through.  If someone falters in the teamwork ‘dance’ and you take that as your own excuse to stop ‘dancing’ (“Well, night shift didn’t prep for us, why should we prep for them?!?”), then the dance is going to come to a full, hard, humiliating stop.

The music dies, and the dance is done.

Instead, again – Step Up!  Take the lead!  Show your moves, and contribute to the Kitchen’s team as best you can – guide them through the rest of the dance until the others get their footing underneath them, and then you can all dance to victory on the Hot Tamale Train.  And you know what – it may not always work.  No matter the intentions and skills, sometimes the team will just fall a little short, but if you worked as the team, supported each other, had each others’ backs, and refrain from all the finger-pointing and backstabbing, well… at the end of the day you’ll have your pride, you’ll know you were a part of a team that swung for the fence, and who put on their whites and cooked like well-oiled troupe that you are!!

Your guests (and your food) will thank you for it!


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