Stephen Hickmore gives us his opinion on temperamental chefs:
They live amongst us; red faces contorted in anger contrasting against the white of their uniform. Bad tempers and short fuses seem to be part of the territory, almost an acceptable quirk for a chef. But why do we tolerate swearing and histrionic shouting in the kitchen? Is it that the industry attracts people with delicate egos? Or does the environment and the influence of others create the monster? I am not saying that all chefs are this offensive, but there are enough “pot throwers” around to make bad behaviour appear like an epidemic.
I don’t blame Gordon Ramsay only. I cite the culture of abuse that has existed since Escoffier chewed out his first trainee. Putting the fear of God into young apprentices does not in any way inspire them, or keep them excited about the industry. Resultantly, there are too many youngsters taking on the persona of their abusive mentors, and so the culture of maltreatment continues.
I believe that Drama Queens should only perform in burlesque cabaret not dressed in a chef ’s uniform representing our proud profession. Let’s face it, chefs make food. They are not saving lives. So calm the f*#k down and show some leadership!
Don’t get me wrong, though, I quite enjoy Ramsay. I like the way he inspires by being honest and pragmatic. But, when he starts throwing tantrums, I don’t believe he is worth all the song and dance – he gains attention but loses respect.
From an industrial relations perspective, any form of verbal threat, man-handling, insulting language and belittling others is gross misconduct, which can lead to dismissal and possible legal action. A hot sweaty kitchen and pressurised environment is not a mitigating factor.
If an office manager, an accountant, a company MD or a waiter threw his toys every time something went pear-shaped, they would be gone in a second. Is it a case of double standards when it comes to tolerating poor behaviour in the kitchen?
Not all well-known chefs are tyrants. You can be an enormous success by following the lead of chefs such as Raymond Blanc and Anton Mosimann. Mosimann is known for shaking hands with every single member of his brigade each morning. He is sympathetic towards each team member’s circumstances and they work the harder for it. There are plenty of South African chefs who inspire and mentor without lowering themselves to constant verbal profanity and occasional intimidation.
A head chef needs to have a tool kit full of different skills these days. including Public relations, financial controls, training and coaching. He needs to be an HR manager and a psychologist too. Embracing modern methods of leadership will pay dividends when motivating and mentoring a brigade. Promotion may then become swift and lucrative.
So, if you’re as attention seeking as a Kardashian, as narcissistic as Kanye West or as puffed up as P Diddy, then it’s time to get help and make a change before you get fired.