Delving right into hotel kitchens as ‘temper hot’, unless you have worked in such a kitchen, it is hard to understand the chaotic ‘dance’ at peak periods when pressure from customers is mounted on servers either discreetly or openly. Few hotel kitchens get that busy on a daily basis in Ghana, however it becomes a normal sight during special occasions, events and food promotions.
Many other situations give rise to this constant personality clashes which occurs among personnel in the kitchen, between servers and kitchen, servers and managers and servers and servers; the latter two, using the kitchen as their ‘fighting ring’.
Hotel kitchens run at least two shifts and each shift has at least a senior person to supervise the operations, cooks and a dishwasher /kitchen cleaner. Just among them equipment and tools may easily be misplaced, initiating a clash.
Imagine looking for a small tool to complete a cooking task and having to pace up and down the kitchen looking in drawers, turning them upside down just to find that small tool.
Food orders are usually taken by servers and written on checks, the duplicate of which is given to the kitchen. If handwritten orders are not legible or the server fails to use the appropriate abbreviations for the order, the kitchen will be mesmerized.
Let’s assume the server takes the order for Fufu and Groundnut soup with fish and beef; he writes it as F/Gdnut/FBf. The cook wrongfully interprets it as Fufu with Groundnut soup with an extra fufu and beef, overlooking the fish. The server, upon picking the food observes the mistake and requests for it to be corrected.An open door for a clash.
Sometimes the wrong order is observed by the guest who then pours his anger on the server. The server returns to the kitchen with the rejected food in exchange of the ‘correct order’, another open door.
Kitchen has announced,”86 it”. The server takes an order for the same food item which by the expression meant the kitchen is out of the item.
Hotel guests can be quite sophisticated. Assuming a guest comes for breakfast and prefers a poached egg instead of the boiled/scrambled/fried egg on the breakfast menu. The waiter who has no knowledge of the terminology, assumes the kitchen would understand.They spend the longest time arguing about whether the server heard right. Sometimes kitchen will just not perform to the specifications of the server perhaps for some ‘good reasons’.
Add all the above scenarios to the ‘temperature hot’ hotel kitchen. How would you respond? By vulgar words and curses as some of them do? How would you describe these scenarios? Unprofessional? Immaturity? Or sheer throwing a temper tantrum which is excusable?
Many other things that happen in hotel kitchens seem to be beyond their control; workers call in sick, a piece of equipment suddenly breaks down, there is a delayed delivery by a supplier.
Aah, and there are these other factors too: kitchen staff stand for a long time with hardly any breaks, they can spend long hours preparing for dinners; after cooking for large groups, cooking for one or in small portions seems impossible, they have no personal space, they are around food all day and must resist eating it. Cooks do not get tipped!
While coded kitchen language may be kitchen specific, terminologies tend to be industry based and therefore generally understood by the professionals. In hotel kitchens words are minced, communication is staccato, sentences are incomplete, orders are shouted, and sometimes their gestures speak volumes.
It is believed that unless they are wearing a chef’s coat, people in kitchens are generally treated like they don’t exist. Ghana still has a very long way in the development of its culinary arts and sciences. Elsewhere, all that goes on in the kitchen, the prep, the tone of the kitchen all has to do with the Chef. If Chef cannot control himself under pressure or stress, then that shows a complete lack of professional behavior. Chefs are expected through example, to influence how staff will deal with challenges in the kitchen. Their positive influence can create an environment that invites growth, respect, integrity, trust and dignity to this honorable profession; a wake-up call for Institute of Hospitality, Ghana and Ghana Chefs Association.