Chef Jason Albert on How to Manage Your Team and Kitchen
When it comes to the world of foodservice, there isn’t a single track to a management position. For Chef Jason Albert of Hard Rock Cafe, his journey began with a little white lie to score his first kitchen job and eventually he was off to pursue a culinary degree. Little did he know, his resume would also include ice sculpture carving, catering at a prestigious resort, and even helping to reinvent the Ruby Tuesday menu. Chef Jason Albert has definitely made his way around the culinary block.
Taking a detour as a financial analyst for a few years, he has the rare combination of quality culinary skill and business know-how. He’s more than happy to look at the profit and loss statement between meal services and makes a point to remind his team of the price his guests are paying for both the food served and the service expected.
Today, Chef Jason manages the culinary pursuits of Hard Rock Cafe as the operations and kitchen manager in the bustling tourist town of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Here his team is responsible for turning out an average of 900 meals each day and providing for various corporate events and the company’s local catering. With the combination of demands, Chef Jason looks to his decades of professional training and experience to ensure his team is prepared to meet or exceed the expectations of every customer. Find out a few of Chef Jason’s tips for operating a busy kitchen and see how he keeps his team effective and inspired.
4 Keys to Foodservice Management
1. “Know who wants your job and let them know you’re aware.”
When Chef Jason first came to Hard Rock Cafe, he identified the others in the kitchen that were gunning for his job. He approached them, and let it be known he was aware of the situation. The simple act cleared the air and created an environment of clarity and respect. Chef Jason’s team knew from that point that he would be transparent. It also created the opportunity to challenge the line cooks to better themselves and prove their worth to the new executive chef.
2. “Don’t tell your staff you’re good at your job.”
After breaking the ice and identifying the individuals in the kitchen with the potential for creating friction, he got to work proving his worth. Knowing he had the talent and desire to see his team succeed, Chef Jason knew he had to offer more than lip service. He focused in on solidifying the team dynamic, guided them through a complete menu overhaul, and began bringing his personal influence to the entirely scratch kitchen. By showing his skillset in action, he was able to build his team’s confidence in his leadership and culinary abilities.
3. “The difference between a good chef and a great chef is what’s done when the record skips.”
When a dish comes back to the kitchen, it’s a prime opportunity to throw off the entire kitchen’s vibe. The cook can freak and the waiter can get angry but it’s just completely ineffective. Chef Jason opts to turn the “record skip” into a chance to make the guest’s night. He empowers his staff to do whatever it takes to make things right and works with them on alternative mindset approaches. Instead of placing blame, the focus is turned to finding a quick and effective manner to satisfy the guest and move on. After all, diners have been known to order the steak dinner and swear they ordered the fried chicken but even the best waiters in the world can’t decipher your subconscious desires.
4. “Don’t forget, that plate’s going to my mom.”
No, his mom isn’t table-hopping to bum free meals but during a busy meal service, this can be just the phrase that turns a mediocre dining experience into a superb one. On the great nights and the tough ones, Chef Jason will holler out to a waiter, “Hey, that plate’s going to my mom.” The meaning behind it is that everyone should be treated as if they are an in-house celebrity. When people come to dine at Hard Rock Cafe, they are usually celebrating or they’re on vacation, Chef Jason wants to make sure they get the very best service every time.
Be sure to stop by and visit Chef Jason Albert the next time you are in Pigeon Forge. To learn more about the history of Hard Rock Cafe and the multiple locations, visit www.HardRock.com.
On September 9, 2014, Chef Supplies by KaTom will host Chef Jason Albert for a tailgate themed cooking class and demonstration. Contact 865.225.1545 for more information.