I recently observed in class how teamwork and leadership play an integral role in the kitchen. As CTP 188 embarks on a new month in the full-time Chef’s Training Program, our group is developing into a cohesive team.
From the start, instructors constantly told us “you have to think about others,” as we continued to approach our tasks as individuals and thought mostly about ourselves. For instance, when we had to get our cutting boards, all 10 of us would rush to the front of the kitchen to get them. Or when we finished with our assigned recipes, we didn’t think to help someone else or clean up. One time we spent our entire lunch break washing dishes because we did not clean up as we were cooking.
Various instructors gave us advice on how to work more effectively as a group and how to work more efficiently. That advice included talking to our group members about how the recipe production could be shared to save time.
Normally, during class, we divide into groups to cook an array of recipes. In our Grain Practicum, we had a list of grains to cook. As a group we agreed who would prepare what. We had two recipes left – bulghur and cous-cous – which we decided we would come back to once we finished the rest of our grains.
While we were plating our dishes for critique, Chef Barbara asked us, “Where is your cous-cous and bulghur?” Yikes! I went over to the rest of my group members to see what happened. No one had made the dishes. We hustled to make them, but we only had time to make the cous-cous. At the end of class, it felt like the Donald Trump’s Apprentice, where the loser waits to hear, “You’re fired! Pack up your knife kit and go home.”
I didn’t have to pack up my knife kit, but I did reflect on what went wrong and how things were going these past few weeks. I knew it could be better. In an ideal situation, we would all take turns being accountable for the group; we would make sure that each of us understood our responsibilities. This reminded me of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra case study I read in my MBA program at Simmons College. Orpheus is a Grammy Award-winning orchestra in New York City, known for its collaborative leadership style in which the musicians, not a conductor, interpret the score.
The “Orpheus Process” is built on eight principles:
- Put power in the hands of the people doing the work
- Encourage individual responsibility for product and quality
- Create clarity of roles
- Foster horizontal teamwork
- Share and rotate leadership
- Learn to listen, learn to talk
- Seek consensus (and build creative systems that favor consensus)
- Dedicate passionately to your mission.
I wondered if, adopting the Orpheus principles, our team could improve their performance in the kitchen. Informally, our group was following some of the principles: we did start our tasks by assigning recipes, and we made sure everyone knows what he or she has to do. Still, I would like to challenge us to take more ownership of the group. At the end of the day the goal is to make sure – as a group – we produce quality food, brought out on time.
Overall, I’m happy to say that CTP 188 is starting to make some beautiful music together. A classmate called out in the kitchen the other day, “I’m making extra ginger juice, if anyone needs it.” Perfect, I thought to myself, it saves me time and I can help someone else.