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Family | The name of a meal or a philosophy of leadership?

Some of my best memories as a cook coming up in the industry were made around a table with my kitchen "battle" buddies. It was usually a quick meal, often made by a different cook each day and was reflective of what they loved about food. The stories that were shared and the inside jokes that were created helped solidify our bond. Most of us know this as "Family Meal." This was a group of people that you spent most of your life with and often, more time than your actual family. We refer to our teams as 'family' every day. I think about that and I start to think about how things go the rest of the day. After all, family meal is, at best, thirty minutes of a long shift. I don't remember ever hearing the word used away from that table. If you took a step back and really looked at your team and your management style, could you say that you treat your team the same way that you treat your family?

This thought ties into my previous post, "The Power of Empathy." In that post I explain how helpful it is to have an understanding of the perception that your staff has of the operation. The "family" dynamic is equally helpful for a leader as it develops a whole other level of trust and opens a unique line of communication.

I can personally say that many members of my team at Farmington know more about my personal life than most people. That's just the type of person I am. I have never been very private and have always been willing to share, what some may call TMI about myself, but I believe I know why I have developed this willingness. I find that the more I share with others, the more they share with me about their own lives and experiences. I realize that this is a fairly unconventional practice in most professional settings and certainly not typical of the majority of Chefs that I know, but it has served me well both personally and as a leader. I also believe that it has saved me boat loads of money avoiding the services of a professional counselor.

Last March, I was invited to be a speaker at the Chef to Chef Conference in Charlotte, NC. During that session, I spoke to two hundred chefs and the last twenty minutes of my presentation was about mental health and self awareness. I shared my recent experience preparing for the Certified Master Chef Exam and gave a detailed recap of what I went through mentally and how it led to a pretty significant meltdown. In front of two hundred strangers, I took accountability for the flaws in my preparation plan. I had no idea how the audience would respond to this kind of personal disclosure. When I walked off the stage and got to the floor, there was a line of chefs in front of me. Some of them were teared up and many of them began sharing some very personal struggles that they were experiencing, or had experienced in the past. One after the other, I had complete strangers unloading their demons on me, simply because I let my guard down and shared my own struggles.

A family has a certain kind of bond and nobody knows more about you than your own family. It is because of this bond that you are able to get through anything together. You can relate to each other because you are related and connected by experiences and confidence in one another. Imagine if you were able to harness that kind of power in your kitchen. Whether it's a bad service, financial issues, a negative review, or even a global pandemic. A true family is unstoppable.

Contact me at to learn how to create the family dynamic in your kitchen.

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