Chef and meez Implementation and Process Manager, Sarah Hassler, explains how her approach to kitchen management has changed over the years and why meez is a game changer for Executive Chefs.
When I was the Executive Chef for The Stoop Kitchen, a farm-to-fork fine dining concept in Syracuse, NY, I wrote 90 recipes every six weeks. As the kitchen leader, I was the chief of staff, accountant, inventory manager, customer support specialist, and a whole lot more. Flexibility and adaptability were just as important as establishing processes with my team. However, running an operation where recipes are constantly changing complicated things even more.
From team communication, costing, training, scaling, and delegation, effective kitchen management was extremely difficult to pull off. A good leader wants to find a way to improve the quality of life for the whole team. That’s why I’m writing this blog, to help you become a better leader and manager.
As the chef, you are central to the whole operation. You are the person holding the kitchen together because of all the information stored only in your brain. Streamlining your processes is really hard to do when you’re in this type of position, especially without the right tech by your side.
How to improve your kitchen management duties as an executive chef
1. Supervising portion sizes and plating
I was one of those chefs that relied on really bad drawings to show a new recipe. On menu change day, right before we’d go to plate for the first time, I would draw a little picture with details and portion sizes. Or, make diagrams for my prep cooks on what to do.
After the first plate was done, we’d do a staff tasting and take actual photos of the dish and upload it to Evernote for the team to follow the rest of the time. However, navigating between different recipes was really hard to do. It just wasn’t a very user-friendly experience.
That’s why I wish something like meez existed back then. If one of my cooks wanted to go home and study a recipe, they would see a prep step slideshow with photos or videos. Plus, substitution notes and food allergy details. All the information they needed would be in one place.
2. Delegating BOH responsibilities
Figuring out what my team was going to do was a very manual process. At the end of the night, I would sit at the chef's table and my cooks would go through and note what they were low on. From there, use a whiteboard with names on it and write down a prep list for my cooks.
The issue with the boards is that someone might accidentally erase the information or things would get really messy. Plus, cross-team communication was really inefficient. There was no easy way to communicate when prep was done or where something was located.
In meez, you can update each other in real-time by leaving comments on a recipe. Prep lists can be uploaded into the platform as well, so your team will know exactly what to do the next day. It also gives the prep cooks a feeling of safety because they don't feel like they're going to mess up
3. Controlling recipe costs and menu pricing
Like a lot of chefs managing a restaurant, I used to cost my recipes using Excel. I had product catalogs and order guides with price sheets attached to them. I would link up every ingredient to a cost and break down everything into grams, which doesn't always work. It very time consuming.
In meez, it's much easier because you can price recipes how you buy them. It takes way less brain power because the tool does the math for you, accounting for yields and other factors.
When it came to menu prices, it was a rough estimate based on protein costs. We’d add a couple of bucks times three and a half because I was in fine dining. And then there were certain times we would knock the price down a buck or two because it was too much. Or add a couple of dollars if we thought we’d sell less.
Menu pricing was more of an estimation. But if I had access to meez’s food cost calculator back then, I would have been able to figure out the exact food cost percentage and profit for each recipe before our menu changed every six weeks.
4. Recipe scaling and conversions
Scaling recipes up and down or converting recipes used to be a terrifying concept. I would often be the only one doing all the conversions and math in a notebook and then pass the information along to the team. Occasionally, there were people that just got it and were math savvy. But it would vary from prep cook to prep cook.
Assigning math to anyone takes a lot of trust. And even if you think you’re great at scaling and conversions, you just don’t know if your calculations are 100% accurate. One mistake can be really expensive and cause you to lose profit for the night.
This is another big reason why I really wish meez existed a few years ago. It is such a fantastic tool to help you prevent food waste. You can make precisely the right portions of a recipe every time, and make adjustments on the fly if you’re low on an ingredient.
As an Executive Chef, you’re like an octopus tugged in many directions. From servers, cooks, or dishwashers, you get inundated with questions all the time. Your team needs to know knowledge that only you hold.
If I had meez back then, I would have treated it as my external brain. Kitchen management would have been so much more efficient. Plus, my cooks would have had an easy way to communicate back and forth instead of using me, or someone else, as the middleman.
With the right kitchen management system in place and the right tools like meez, you can create consistency, stop repeating yourself, and just generally be less anxious and stressed because you have a source of truth for your staff.
About Sarah Hassler
Sarah is a classically trained chef and a lifelong tech geek. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Sarah spent the next ten years climbing the ranks of farm-to-table kitchens to Executive Chef.
Specializing in restaurant openings and dietary restrictions, Sarah branched into consulting for others. During Covid Sarah pivoted to help restaurants get through the worst of the shutdowns by opening Dining Inside Out, a virtual dining company granting local restaurants national exposure.
Sarah joined Meez in spring of 2022, helping customers fully use Meez, with a deep understanding of what it is like for our restaurant and chef clients.
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