Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Too Many Chiefs

by The Foodist

With all the positive aspects about attending culinary school there are negative ones that should be address as well.

The Culinary Institute of America prizes itself as being the top culinary school in the country. It's an idea that's drilled into the heads of the students from the time we arrive on campus until we leave. In conjunction with that, you have the individual students. Students from all walks of life, from all kinds of places, and with many ideas on how things should be done.

The combination of all of this in classroom here causes what we refer to as "The CIA Ego". It's not always a bad thing. It instills in us pride in our work, a strong work ethic, communication, and understanding. Well, in most cases. In other cases it causes some of us to become bull-headed, stubborn, and downright lazy. These individuals see menial tasks like peeling potatoes or cutting herbs as beneath them and feel as if [I] "have more important things to do".

When you cram 19 bodies into a kitchen here -which is ten more than should really be there- you have very little space, a lot of work to do, and things go from a normal state of organized chaos to uncontrolled chaos. With so much ego and so many bodies tension builds and tempers flare.

Being a few weeks from graduation my class has the problem of "Too many chiefs, not enough Indians". My station has two other people assigned to it, and has struggled for the last few days to produce a quality product. Part of the reason is that we are not used to the kitchen. It always takes a few days to feel comfortable in a new kitchen , but besides that is the fact that my group members have decided to take "sick" days. As a result, Chef has been on my back about family meal.

In response I have taken de facto control over the station, and have since produced better quality meals. But then today a group mate returned after missing his second day and is screwing things up by trying to get over on me and take control of the station.

Here-in lay the problem. With me at the helm Chef has been more pleased with family, and as a result I plan on staying in control of the station to ensure it continues to improve over the next 2 weeks. The other student ignores direction, does what he wants, and undermines what little authority I care to exert.

Frustration sets in while the pressure to come up with different and exciting dishes increases. Through it all I cant help but look at the situation from an outside perspective and wonder if the students graduating and going out into the world will carry this attitude with them. The idea of being "Holier then Thou" has never been one that interested me, but seems to be standard operating procedure here.

The food we cook demands more humility, patience, and understanding from us. Food cooked with ego instead of love is awful. So I am faced with a challenge in this kitchen of producing good tasting food while dealing with a control issue. Given time to think on it, a new perspective on the matter has emerged. I will take this as a real-world lesson. There will always been employees who are difficult to work with, to get on your side to do things your way. How I handle this case will help me handle future ones.

With so many chiefs, I will have to play the roll of a wiser, calmer, more focused chief.

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