Staffing a kitchen – 101
Whilst writing about kitchen stuffing, i noticed that there is not a magic wand or a standard procedure that indicates exactly how many people are needed. This procedure is depended on many variables like the the style and nature of our business, the product and services that our business wants to provide, the value that we want to give to our product etc. Yet there are specific guidelines that can really help in order to pick the right candidate and place him in the right working position.
The nature of labour in a commercial kitchen
Like many of your customers, restaurant owners have a really hard time on understanding the complexity of operations in a commercial kitchen. From large hotel kitchens to small scaled pastry workshops, various operations that need to be executed vary, not only in terms of procedure but also as different cognitive skills are required. For instance in the same kitchen, we will find that some procedures need special financial and accounting knowledge, like the chef’s costing control procedures, and on the other edge in tasks that only need good physical stamina and abilities. That said, when it is time to decide to staff our kitchen, we need to have in mind that in order to have a strong brigade, we must find and place the right person in the right working station.
Working station structure and obligations
Fellow restaurant managers and wanna-be restaurateurs need to understand that a kitchen brigade in has an army like structure and for a good reason. Imagine a kitchen with a chaotic structure that produces a few hundreds to thousands of dishes every day. This will cause kitchen staff to quarrel and the final result will be bad. Thus it is really important to have specific and clear obligations between each working position in order to obtain the necessary consistency within the brigade.
A first attempt to organize kitchen personnel was done by none other than August Escoffier. As a former military chef, he ranked cooks in such a way that every single person had to do a specific job. Modern kitchens though, have different needs of those in the early 19th Century.
Nowadays, in any modern restaurant, we can clearly distinguish three large groups of employees, ranked according to their technical an academical knowledge and of course their working experience.
There are many job titles in this team that its sole purpose is to manage the whole kitchen. You can find Executive Chefs, Head Chefs, Sous Chefs etc. Their main role is to programme, manage, organize and check all kitchen operations from making and developing the menu to human resources. In small scaled kitchens, we may find an experienced cook playing that role, amongst other duties. But in large and well organized kitchens and restaurants, this role is entitled to a well educated and experienced cook that has both academic and technical knowledge.
Escoffier’s kitchen brigade system, consisted of cooks that specialized in a specific cooking process (e.g. sauces). In modern kitchen, cooks and chefs have more complicated tasks to accomplish. In small restaurants we may find that cooks are divided in three sub – categories: preparation cooks, line cooks and pastry chefs. In large hotel restaurants, task segmentation is more specific and we are going to find more specialized job positions, depending on the restaurant’s model. Cooking team is in charge of the production and preparation of food and each cook is tasked with a specific job depending on their expertise and technical knowledge. This team is guided by the managerial team.
In this team, tasks do not require much knowledge on experience yet they play a major role in a smooth kitchen operation. A clean and well organized kitchen can perform over a 45% better that a chaotic and dirty one. From cleaning and organizing kitchenware to assisting in rinsing vegetables an peeling potatoes, we know for sure that physical effort rather than mental is required. Yet that does not mean that these tasks are not important and trust me when i say that an assistant or a hard workin dishwasher is a really important asset.