July 5, 2023

5 Soft Skills Chefs Must Develop to Lead Kitchen Staff Effectively

To effectively direct a kitchen, a chef must possess a range of skills, with practical abilities and technical knowledge being the primary focus. However, soft skills are equally essential in this role. While experience is typically the key to becoming a chef, many fail to develop soft skills to improve their performance and leadership. In this article, we will explore the top five soft skills that chefs can cultivate to enhance their leadership, communication, and teamwork in the kitchen. Let’s get started!

Develop chef leadership skills

1. Chefs Need to Learn Leadership

This skill allows teams to move toward a common objective as effectively as possible. Even though it seems like a simple skill, not all chefs can just start leading a team, regardless of their practical skills or experience. Leadership is a complex skill because it requires several other attributes and aptitudes working together to achieve the proper effect. For chefs, these include:

  • Being proficient at delegating work
  • Being organized
  • Having good communication skills
  • Knowing how every process works inside a kitchen
  • Multitasking skills
  • Planning skills

Keep in mind, though, having leadership skills doesn’t mean succeeding. Why? Because a chef can be a great leader but lead toward the wrong goals. To lead effectively, a chef must also know how to set goals – we highly recommend you learn about S.M.A.R.T. goals.

How Can You Develop Leadership as a Chef?

Learning how to lead is straightforward because it’s easy to scale to it. If you’re not a chef, you can start by learning to set S.M.A.R.T. goals for yourself. Also, learn how to collaborate with your team, communicate better, learn about different areas of the kitchen and their processes, and more. Finding good organizational and planning strategies that work for you allows you to help others achieve the same later. If you develop these skills and apply them effortlessly, you’ll be a natural leader when the time comes.

2. Chefs Must Be Experts At Organizing

This is another major skill someone needs to succeed as a chef – it’s always part of formal training and actual work experience with mise en place. The thing is, cooks often learn how to organize specific areas, like their working surfaces. But, as a chef, you’ll need to have a broad overview of control over the organization in a kitchen.

How to Improve Your Organizational Skills as a Chef?

You must get used to seeing the big picture. Organizing for the sake of keeping things tidy is not going to cut it! Instead, try to analyze and pay attention to the details inside the kitchen. Things like the kitchen layout, the workflow, how long standard processes take, and much more. That way, you can work on designing more efficient workflows to improve the kitchen’s efficiency. You can also study the tools you have available. A clear example is a restaurant POS system, like Waiterio. With it, you can use thermal printers for orders, KDS, and more to make organization, leadership, and communication much easier.

3. Empathy Is Vital to Work With Others

In a kitchen environment, chefs must be empathetic leaders to better communicate with their staff, understand their concerns, and provide support when needed. This is vital when working with other people who are not as skilled as you. Empathy can also be a tool for teaching and training – it’s much easier to train someone if you understand and take into account their views.

How to Develop Your Empathy as a Chef?

You can start listening to your team, even if you’re not a chef. Give them your attention and acknowledge their feelings. Put yourself in their shoes by considering their perspectives and understanding their challenges. It’s much better if you also have experience in their job positions to know what it takes mentally and physically to fulfill them. Finally, showing appreciation for their hard work goes a long way in building trust with staff members.

4. A Little Patience Can Help

Not a single cook becomes a chef or fulfills the position properly without patience. It’s a crucial skill, especially if you’re working with others, learning new skills, or preparing complex dishes. Also, kitchens are fast-paced, high-stress, dangerous, and demanding work environments. Not being patient leads to making mistakes, putting yourself and others in danger, altercations, and more.

How to Develop Patience as a Chef?

You can apply patience to both the technical and the social aspects of cooking. In the technical aspect, you can develop patience by mastering complex dishes that take a lot of preparation time, specific skills, attention to detail, and more. For the social aspect, you can develop patience by developing empathy. Working with others won’t always be perfect, after all, and in a kitchen, mistakes are not uncommon. To summarize, don’t berate waiters; their jobs are difficult too.

5. Humility – The Most Forgotten Chef Soft Skill

In a kitchen environment, chefs need humility to lead and work with their staff. Humility makes chefs more approachable and down to earth, which is vital to keep egos in check and improving teamwork. After all, it’s almost impossible to run a kitchen without help.

How to Develop Humility as a Chef?

You can develop humility if you work on the skills mentioned previously. This will have a significant impact on your teammate’s perception of you. Have humility by acknowledging your mistakes, learning from them, giving credit where it is due, and being open to feedback. If you’re a chef, you must also acknowledge you didn’t reach your position on your merit alone – the time, effort, knowledge, and support of others also got you there.

Enhance Your Career With These Soft Skills!

Succeeding as a chef doesn’t depend solely on culinary skills but also on soft skills. The skills mentioned here are all essential qualities chefs must possess to direct kitchen staff effectively. With these skills, chefs can create a positive and collaborative work environment, leading to better communication, teamwork, and, ultimately, better food and service. Chefs must prioritize developing leadership skills to achieve success in their careers and create a lasting impact in the culinary industry. Are you working on them?


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