Saturday, September 25, 2010

Executive chefs and football coaches

I am going to share the similarities in a hotel executive chef and American football head coach.
I have used American football here because: a) I like it, b) I understand it more than any other sport, c) it works for this example, d) it is the only sport that exists in my universe, and, e) to all my international friends out there, soccer and rugby is for girls :)

Below is the hierarchy for football and hotels.  I have then explained each position and the similarities among those positions within the two professions.

American football hierarchy from top to bottom.
-General manager
-Head coach
-Offensive or defensive coordinator
-Assistant coaches-coaches who specialize in one area such as a quarterbacks, receivers and so on
-The players

Hotel hierarchy from top to bottom as it pertains to the kitchen.
-General manager
-Executive chef
-Executive sous chef
-Chef de cuisine
-Sous chef

Please note that when I use the term "team," I am referring to both, the football team and the kitchen  staff because at the end of the day, in both cases they are a team.

Owner.  Do I need to explain that?

General manager (GM)-The top guy in both professions, under the owner. It is a more administrative position and he is ultimately responsible for the team and operation.  He sets the goals, does the hiring and firing of the head coach/ executive chef and has the final say over salaries.

Head coach/executive chef- Responsible for creating, hiring and firing of their teams. They create, implement and enforce the vision and goals for their teams in accordance with the GM's. They run their operation as they see fit although the amount of freedom they have depends on the relationship they have with the GM.  These positions report directly to the GM.

Offensive and defensive coordinator/executive sous chef- Assistants to the head coach and executive chef, respectively. Just as the offensive or defensive coordinator has specialty coaches he is in charge of, the executive sous chef has specialty chefs he is charge of. The executive sous chef is in charge while the executive chef is absent. The offensive and defensive coordinators report directly to the head coach and the executive sous chef reports directly to the executive chef.

Assistant coaches/specialty coaches and chef de cuisines-These positions focus on a specialty.
In football these coaches would be, for example, quarterbacks coach, receivers coach, defensive backs coach and so on.  In a hotel, the executive chef and executive sous chef oversee the entire kitchen operation while the chef de cuisine is in charge of only one kitchen that focuses on one specialty.
In my previous hotel I had an Indian chef running my Indian restaurant, an Italian chef running my Italian restaurant, an American chef running my grill, an Indian chef running the banquet operation and another chef running my all day restaurant. Assistant coaches report directly to the offensive or defensive coordinator and the chef de cuisines reports directly to the executive sous chef.

After the assistant coach you have the players but in the kitchen hierarchy there are a few more layers which we won't go into in much detail as you probably get the picture now.
The next position under the chef de cuisine is the sous chef. The word "sous" is French for "under" so literally translated it means "under chef."
For those of you who don't know, chef just means "boss" in French.  Many people think chef is specific to the kitchen but it is not.  Chef de cuisine is specific to the kitchen with the key word being "cuisine."

Just as a football coach cannot be expect to be equally strong in all positions on a team, an executive chef cannot know every single cuisine.  A head coach cannot kick the ball better than the kicker or run better than his running back and I can't cook Italian food better than my Italian chef or Indonesian food better than my Indonesian chef.  What I can do is make them better chefs just as a head coach can make his players better at their jobs. A chef or head coach is like the director of a play; teaching, training, coordinating, supervising and ensuring each player does their part. In either case success isn't based on one person, it is the individual parts that make up the whole and each part must work together in unison in order for it to work.

A head coach knows what to look for in his players and can recognize talent.  As a hotel chef who has overseen many different restaurants featuring different cuisines, one question I am often asked is "how I can know all those cuisines and oversee them?" I am not an expert on all the cuisines I oversaw but I know quality and have the experience and knowledge to know what to look for in a chef and in food much like a coach does with his players.

Until next time

Burnt toast and dry eggs,


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