What’s the most important quality I want to see in the kitchen?
It’s certainly not a culinary degree, which is not useless by any means, but knowledge does not a great chef make. Knowledge can lead to arrogance, and while arrogance can serve as a motivating factor in a person’s drive to advance (take any random Top Chef episode and you will see my point), it will eventually catch up and take over if not held in check. Arrogance makes you an asshole. Knowledge and Arrogance makes you an informed one. Neither are that important in my kitchen.
And while I respect a hard worker, it’s still not the most important characteristic for which I am looking. I love it when I see my staff busting their tail on a busy night, taking the heat, staying cool under pressure, knocking out the dishes with excellence, staying focused and not complaining. To see someone make the effort to scrub the floor a little harder or clean out the smelly grease trap makes me smile, but it’s still not the cornerstone on which I want to build a team.
Experience might seem obvious, but I will still allow one other attribute to trump this one when evaluating a person’s place in our ranks. I am willing to forego experience, because I had none when we started this restaurant, else I would not be able to hire myself.
Above all else, give me a person that cares and that person will quickly gain my attention. It doesn’t matter if you are back of the house, front of the house, washing dishes, making bread, polishing glassware, on the line; if you don’t care, I don’t want you around.
If you care about what you are doing, regardless the task, you will find yourself with more and more responsibility.
If you care about your work, I don’t have to scrutinize your every move. I can give you a duty or a recipe, followed by some instruction, and feel confident that you will get it done.
It matters to me that you care, because that’s what drives me in this venture.
I care about our restaurant and what its name has come to mean in our city.
I care about the food that gets set in front of every customer, who trusts us with their money and bodies, that it ultimately makes them happy.
I care about comments that people make, both positive and negative. I use the pluses to remind us how to diminish the minuses.
The reason this trait is hard to find is that it requires one to be vulnerable. Show me a person who doesn’t care anymore and I’ll show you a person who got hurt because they feel they cared too much. And once you stop caring, it’s hard to get it back.
A person that cares will find a place in my kitchen, and I guarantee will find a place most anywhere, given that the boss still does.