7 Ways to Maintain Motivation in the Kitchen
Working in the kitchen is hard. You're on your feet all day, maybe all night too, running around the place with very little down time. For many it's the passion that drives them, but over time that can wear out. The motivation becomes drained. The cook forgets why he's going through hell every day for only small sums of money. Why is he still working his ass off, still dealing with all the bullshit? Why has he settled with being yelled at constantly? Why does the heat seem almost intolerable now? Maybe it's time to get out the kitchen.
When these feelings strike, it's time to take a step back. Breathe. Think of the customers and what they get to experience because of your hard work. Look at the good things you're doing. Sure, it may be rough for you right now, but weather the storm. Clear skies are ahead. Put on a brave face and focus on the good.
Methods for renewing motivation:
Take a break. Simply taking some time off and letting yourself relax will help a great deal. It's hard to take time off in the restaurant industry, but you need to if you want to survive long term.
Learn something new. Pick up that cookbook you bought ages ago and never actually opened. Read or flip through, see what catches your eye and try it out. Try learning a new skill from a friend in the industry. Or maybe it's time to specialize.
Watch an industry related movie, like Chef or Burnt. Or a TV show, like mind of a chef or Netflix's new Chef's table. They help remind you why you do what you do, while maybe even giving you new ideas.
If you can, get out from the kitchen and talk with customers in the dining room. Ask them how their meal was and just have a little conversation. Most people will compliment almost endlessly if you're doing a good job. It'll make the customer's visit special because they got to meet the chef and it will boost your motivation at the same time.
Eat at a different restaurant, or do some research online to see what other people are up to. Lack of motivation is usually a manifestation of boredom. So, see what's going on. Find something new that you want to try, will get you excited again.
Talk it out with others in your kitchen. Do you hang out after work? If not, perhaps you should. It will build the bond of the team and lead you to work better together. Take a minute to let one of your friends know you're feeling a little unmotivated. Chances are, they've already noticed. They should be able to help you refocus or give you the kick in the ass you may need.
Write a remotivation paper for yourself. Sit down with only a pen and paper. No distractions. Write about why you do what you do. Why did you start cooking? What do you want to learn, but haven't? Where do you want to travel? What do you see in store for your future? Answer a couple of questions and see where your writing takes you. Put the date on the paper and keep it somewhere you can access it. Next time you're feeling unmotivated, reread the paper. You'll remind yourself of the truth behind your thoughts.
Losing motivation can be crippling, especially in the kitchen, a field which requires the physical and mental dedication of all teammates. Usually, motivation gets sapped by stagnation, boredom, or as the result of an argument or reprimand. The key, when you've lost motivation, is to remind yourself of why you got into things in the first place. Sure, you maybe got a bad review, but look at all the good ones. The menu may be boring for you to prepare, but take the time to learn something new and hone your basic skills to a razor's edge.
A new challenge will almost always renew motivation. What can I learn next? What can I do on the new menu? What new equipment can change the game for us? What do I really want to do?
What's your next challenge?