Each week our class of eleven students is divided into two teams with one of us having the responsibility as team chef for each group. This was my week. My job included reviewing the menu for the day, assigning tasks, ensuring our production stayed on progress for an on-time meal service, making decisions on flavor profiles and plating… and I would also argue keeping my team happy through the whole process. Some, as you might imagine, are easier than others.
I’m pretty sure I learned a heck of a lot more than any of my team members did this week. And not just about shellfish. Leadership isn’t a new concept, but leading people who have more knowledge and more experience… that is completely different. It’s hard to have the confidence to say “Take the shrimp out. I think they’re done. Don’t overcook them” to someone who has worked in restaurants for years. “Can I put this leek and fennel confit cooked in duck fat on top of the bouillabaisse?” No. That one was easy. Duck fat in our bouillabaisse? Definitely not.
And I made mistakes. I removed boiling water from the stove that someone actually still needed. And I pulled the darker anchovies from the fridge instead of milder white ones. I reduced a red wine pear liquid so much that it was a dry charred disk in the bottom of the pot.
All those things started my musing on how I would respond to working under someone who knows less than I do, in whatever situation. It wouldn’t be easy. But my musing was interrupted by a phone call. A classmate- one of the much more experienced from the group- just called to tell me I’d done a really good job this week and that he appreciated my leadership and patience. It’s funny how those things sometimes happen before you even realize you need them.
So we made it through the week with mussels in our bellies and no mutinies on our hands. And that’s a good enough start to me.