Hi everyone, I have learnt a hell of a lot from managers tools and have drastically changed my ways of dealing with my team of 70 cooks and dishwashers.  But here is something I have not found:

How do you deal with issues in the heat of the moment?  As you have seen with my title I am a chef (at times angry ;-) 

The feed back tips are great but they cannot be used in the middle of a busy dinner.  Let's say my chef de partie completely overcooked his fish and a table of six is on the pass ready to go.  I can't turn to him and say:  "Hey Craig can I give you some feed back?....."   and you can imagine what most chefs would say.  If not just look up Gordon Ramsey kitchen nightmares!  

What is the best technique to use for critique in a hot situation?

SeaGal2015's picture

Hi there,

Right, it's true that not all MT advice could apply directly to your situation, but I still think the basic advice is relevant to you as a chef. 

Meaning: don't respond to his behavior in the heat of the moment (I do know kitchens as I have friends who are chefs, and I know how hard that is! But recognize that it's a choice and you can choose to deal with this later). Let him/her know that you will address what happened later, and focus now on the *results*: getting that perfectly cooked fish to that table without any further delay. That's really all that should matter to you in that situation: getting the results your customer needs. Table the anger and address the behavior later when everyone is calmer.

Now for your chef's behavior. Do you have 1:1s with your staff at set times? If not, you might want to consider it as it's beneficial no matter what your field. Employees always need to know what they're doing right and what they need to improve upon. If you do have 1:1s, you can let him know you will be discussing this when you next meet. If it's a one-off mistake in judgment that he made, then you might bring it up but not make a huge deal (if he's been near-perfect otherwise). However, if this is a pattern of behavior, I'd suggest that if your 1:1 is too far away you set up a sit-down meeting with him to address what keeps going wrong. Hopefully you will have cooled off by this time, as anger rarely produces the result you need (=getting better performance out of your employee).

Lastly, go easy on yourself as it's tough to manage temper and nobody is perfect. That's a goal you can work towards. Are you keeping lists at the end of each night, around what your staff did well and what they need to work on? This is a great way to improve staff morale, show them that you are invested in them and their success, and get more of the results you want. You may yell a bit - it's hard to completely get rid of a temper, I know from personal experience :) - but at least they'll trust that you are looking out for them and paying attention when they have wins, not just when they screw up. 

Good luck, and please keep us posted!

Kevin1's picture

Hi Chef,

If you assume positive intent, you will realise that he didn't over cook the fish on purpose.  No amount of feedback can change what happened anyway, so to move on, you need to address what needs to be done to rectify the situation as much , and as quickly, as possible.  If he wasn't needed in the kitchen to cook Fish #2, then I'd consider sending him out to the table to apologise and offer them a free round of drinks.

Feedback can come later in a more reflective moment, but he probably has no illusions about what went wrong so it probably isn't necessary for it to be a biggie.

Ask also if your anger provides any help or value to the situation.  If not, then you may want to work on that.

Best regards



chefluke's picture

Thanks for your feedback SeaGal2015 and Kevin1.  Yes, it is true that a lot of the material on M.T. is not applicable for a chef.  But one on ones are very useful and I do use them with my top sous chefs (x3) my Food and beverage manager, my secretary and my chief steward.

In heat of the moment situations one does not have the time for “hey mike, can I give you some feedback?”

I think that sending someone out to a table would be humiliating for a staff member, but occasionally I will send out a chef if I think his dish looks awesome and I want him to present it to a table.

Of course, I pay attention to not lose my temper but often I will raise my voice and deliberately put the pressure on people using speed of speech, my tone, facial expressions and tone to excite people.  Being able to bring people together, follow one lead and put on their best show every dinner is quite a task.  Isn’t that a skill in itself?  In fact, dealing with people in a restaurant situation is similar to a military situation.   At times, we do get upset and raise voices or blatantly criticize people.  But we talk about it after the service and often have a laugh about it and make a joke or two.  It also brings another question:

In one of the podcasts they talk about how humour from a manager is not appropriate.  The examples used in this podcast were very bad and I have trouble to believe that some moron manager has every really joked about firing his employees.  Perhaps that is American Humour?

I have found that humour is lubricant for criticism and a buffer for conflict.  Almost everyone likes to have a joke or a laugh and everyone working in a restaurant does.  If we can take our job seriously but joke about our own mistakes and that of others than what is wrong with that?   If you have ever read the book The Fish! Philosophy.  This was a book that really marked me as a young chef and I said that I would love to run a team like that when I am the boss.  Now that I am and I do run it like this.

All the guys in the team now that even if we have a run in that it will be ok later and we have the freedom to joke about other mistakes.  That includes them being able to make fun of me if I make a mistake (I must make sure that I don’t!)

What do you think about humour in the work place? 



pucciot's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge


There is a Cast for that  "When Angry Disengage"

This may be helpful


Good Luck



G3's picture

Chef -

I like pucciot's suggestion. 

Similarly, I'd be interested in hearing more from other MT fans in restaurants and the food & beverage service industry.

You might want to consider trying out the modified feedback model by saying "When you do abc behavior then xyz happens." This skips the 'can i give you some feedback?' part. But, I know that the modified model is intended for peer to peer not boss to subordinate relationships.

As for humor in the workplace, I think that MT/CT guidance aims to be timeless and do no harm. So, I would imagine that it's very difficult (especially given different cultures, backgrounds, languages, etc.) to suggest anything more then keeping jokes out of the workplace. Sometimes directs are laughing at their bosses jokes out of respect and maybe even fear and not because they find them funny. I don't know you or your directs. I would like to assume that your use of humor is appropriate. But coming from a professional guidance stand point I don't think that MT/CT can make that blanket assumption about all of the aspiring professionals who listen to them.

With all of that said, I think that Mark & Mike do mention only giving feedback when in a light joking/playful state and not coming from a place of Anger. So, maybe you've already answered your own question in a way? I'd love to hear how this works out. 



SeaGal2015's picture

Hey Chef,

Although humor definitely has to be watched in an office environment, I've worked at a company where it's absolutely how we functioned. Sounds a lot like how your restaurant does. Now there were only three females there: me, and two others - and about 100 guys. And yeah, everyone joked around. If you couldn't joke then you were kind of an outcast - so luckily I grew up with three brothers and could hang. It was probably similar to your environment and good-natured ribbing was the way we all showed each other love and mutual respect. The other two women struggled with it, as they weren't used to guys joking and didn't quite know how to take it. It didn't cross the line (except in one instance I remember, and the person was reprimanded) - but they didn't like the "jokiness." It made it a very tough environment for them, but I also once worked with a large group of women who tended to not include the men in any conversations, so it goes both ways when there's an imbalance. 

Anyway, sounds like you guys have your rhythm and it works for you; I'd just be aware if you get a new person on the team who doesn't understand your sense of humor. It's all well and good until one person feels uncomfortable and left out. That's why MT suggests keeping jokes like that out of *most* work places. 


chefluke's picture

Thanks everyone for your ideas, stories and feedback.  

Sorry for my delayed reply I was trying out some of the ideas proposed.

It is funny that there are not a lot of people in the restaurant business and especially the kitchen, interested in management tools.  I can personally say that some of the management practices in kitchens range from bad to illegal!  Including verbal and mental abuse, being punched in the face, having plates smashed, getting clipped over the back of the head, being kicked, throwing hot pans at people and more and more, I kid you not!!

We need to offer a different type of management with our audiences.  Many of you will be in large corporations with highly educated employees in structured businesses.  The role of motivating, leading and managing people is quite different in my (and most restaurants) situation.  I have 70+ staff, almost all without a university education (myself included) or even high school diplomas (Yet we provide a service that amazes and intrigues the most discerning palates and entertains the highest of classes, professors, politicians and more!) Funny business. 

The idea of if you do ABC you get XYZ works very well as it is quick and efficient.  Even if it is a peer to peer option, this is a good option for me.

Where does one draw the line between boss and colleague?  As Chefs, we are employed primarily for our culinary creations and do need to spend a good amount of time in the kitchen not just in the office (unless you are a fat old hotel chef that can't cook anymore!). To work side by side with your team as a colleague and fight with the troops, so to speak.  The army with the general on the battlefield always gets more respect in our business. 

My idea is to create a serious, yet playful work environment where we can openly make fun of each other’s mistakes and even my team can make fun of mine (or I will make fun of my own mistakes) in the middle of a dinner service, to lighten the ambience. 

Is this a good manager practice, allowing your team to point out your mistakes? 

Of course, you would not want a team of clowns, cracking half assed jokes all day.  Or for the staff to think that they have the right to criticize us whenever they like.  But it seems to work the open dialogue and the idea of humuor.

As an employee, I hated that my boss could criticize me all day and in fact he made mistakes himself!  Is my approach ok?  What should we do when we make errors?

Thanks for any ideas.


Chef Luke



arik's picture

Hi Chef Luke,

Glad to see other restaurant people on here. We definitely have some different challenges than the main consumer of M-T guidance. 

I’m a fellow chef. Also own two restaurants, including the one I spend most of my time. 

Humor: unfortunately this is not a terribly precise word, and many behaviors shelter there. Some I have found to be less effective than others. 

As a young kitchen manager I frequently employed sarcasm as a way for me to remark upon behavior and results while (I thought) softening the blow a little. 

What I found to be true for me was the blow wasn’t softened, but my attempts at feedback were diluted and my cooks did not take my overall communication as seriously. “Oh, I thought you were joking,” was a pretty reasonable response, and inefficient and ineffective. 

As you pointed out earlier, kitchen environments are very different than office environments. I used to try to impose discipline and fun by pulling a cook into the store room and wrestling them down if they screwed up a recipe or didn’t label or rotate appropriately. It was never done in anger and everyone was smiling and engaged…but yeah. Apart from the obvious danger of doing that in a spot where we deal with fire, knives, and blood anyway, my message would get through, but inefficiently. A lot of time and effort that should have been spent better. Physical humor is not a real good idea. 

Innuendo humor is an art form in the kitchen and highly tempting. The main issue I’ve come across is that 2 people will have a certain rapport and go back and forth, everyone’s having fun. And then there is a line crossed. And unfortunately, that line is different for everyone. It may go on for months in playful harmony, but then somebody gets hurt and then there’s lots of picking up of emotional pieces and trying to restore relationships. Work suffers.  And really, the whole time the innuendo playing was going on, the focus was off of work processes and product where it should have been in the first place. 

I now like to give a more generally understood definition of feedback on the individual’s behaviors and results. “That crispy skin on your red snapper looks amazing. Great job.” “Your Duck is still cold in the middle. Drop another. Remember - it needs 6 full minutes. And don’t use high heat. You’ll burn the skin and still be cold in the center.” “That burger topping is sloppy. Get everything coast-to-coast and not piled high in the center. Looks good open faced, but eats terribly.” I try to do a lot of that before it gets busy so the explanations can be much more abbreviated and direct during the rush. “Pork’s falling apart. Drop another. Don’t fuck it up.” It’s specific, no gray (or grey!) area to misunderstand. Behavior changes and I get the result more frequently and quicker than before. 

I use humor differently now. Lots of word play. I’m told I’m a high level user of dad jokes. Let’s some tension out where no harm is done. I will also use it to make a point. Toss a spoon on a cook’s cutting board saying “you will get better cuts and crush the scallions less with this! Dude, go sharpen your knife!”




G3's picture


Saw this podcast and thought of our conversation thread. The professional sense of humor episode gives guidance on:

  • "What kind of jokes can I tell?
  • What standards should I set with my team about humor and jokes?
  • Why do my directs laugh at my jokes?"