Unlike in the back of house, chefs working at display stations must be able to engage customers while simultaneously making sure food retains its quality and is prepped quickly. When training chefs who are about to tackle the art of display cooking, consider providing these pieces of advice.
1. Make a plan
With an eye on speed and organization, Douglass Dick, executive chef at Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Pa., recommends that chefs take the time to plan out their stations and have everything set up before customers get in line. That way, “[a]s the rush comes in, [the chefs] are organized and they can take their time having everything together and moving it through,” he says.
2. Keep ingredients small
Along with ensuring ingredients are organized, making them a particular size can be beneficial, too. Eric Tate, executive chef at Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo, Mich., recommends cutting ingredients into smaller pieces, which allows them to cook faster and keeps the line moving.
3. Have a sense of urgency
While excelling at small talk is essential to engaging customers, Dick warns that chefs who are too chatty can cause the line to back up. He suggests that chefs try to connect with customers, but retain a sense of urgency. “I always say be friendly and have an individual personality with these people, but you have to keep them moving.”
4. Ask questions
Tate recommends asking customers questions while they watch their food being prepared. “I always ask ‘What do you like to cook?’ or ‘Would you try and make this at home?’” Tate says. He adds that tossing produce high in the saute pan increases the fun factor for guests.
5. Role play
For chefs who are nervous about interacting with customers, Chris Studtmann, district executive chef at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., recommends having them do a test run with coworkers. “I like to make it fun by role playing, and letting the staff practice by serving each other where they are comfortable.”
Photo courtesy of Loren Murphy, Unit Marketing Specialist
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