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This time of year is always busy, especially for those working within the hospitality industry. That’s why we’ve created a guide on how to survive the festive season to ensure you get through the rush season unscathed.
Christmas is closing in. Most people are having nightmares about braving the crowds at the shops but you’re breaking a sweat thinking about demanding customers, dry turkey and over-beaten soufflé. What’s a chef to do when faced with an entire season of super-stressful service?
It’s easy to get caught up in the mania that is the kitchen at busy times. Ensure you set time aside to relax with your staff and have a laugh, a drink and something nutritious to eat that’s going to carry you through hours of running around.
From Chef Chris Wright: “Love your team and they will love you back! Good relationships make busy times much more bearable.”
Top chefs say understanding the requirements of both front and back of house ensures appropriate resources can be allocated and nothing gets missed when things get busy. Invest in a whiteboard and make lists of what’s required to stay on top of your game and communicate easily with staff. Keeping calm, particularly when things go wrong, really brings out the best in your staff and creates a relaxed, functional working environment.
From Chef Dennis Grainger: “Be a strong leader. Keep calm and in control and hire a loyal crew. Never show stress. Have a knock-off drink with the team at the end of a crazy shift and let them know how well they’ve done. A simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way.”
Getting in the right frame of mind before each service brings positive vibes to the kitchen and your staff will pick up on it. Meditation can help with maintaining your cool and smiling (even when you don’t feel like it) has been proven to be a powerful stress buster and can improve the mentality of those around you.
From Chef Pat Lim: “If you’ve been doing busy services for a few years, it can help to tell yourself you’ve survived it before and you can get through it again!”
Make the right preparations. Sharpen your knives. Consider pre-freezing desserts, pre-prepping sauces and purees and preparing a schedule for defrosting meats. You could also introduce pre-prepped cold share platters for entrees. Take the time to think about your current kitchen processes and how they could be more streamlined. Try keeping a dedicated space for a single dish run rather than lots of little ones and ensure all staff are up to speed on the first in, first out rule.
From Chef Brooke Krunze: “Keep a clean station and remember mise en place! Your workspace is a reflection of your headspace.”
Meet with your teams to explain your expectations and plans for the season but keep things fun and inclusive to get the best out of everyone. During a shift, ensuring all staff get a good meal will give them an energy boost and customers will notice.
From Chef Sarah Daryl: “Our team stand around the fryer to burn a sacrificial chicken Kiev for the chef gods and pray this is our only casualty for the night. It’s a fun little ritual that brings us together and reminds us that we’re all working towards the same goal.”
Delegate tasks to your team where possible so you can oversee the food going out and make sure quality is consistent. However, don’t assign new tasks to staff during the busy festive season – it’s a recipe for disaster.
From Chef Daniel Mcfarlane: “Share the load! Make sure everyone knows the jobs they’ve been given and their responsibilities. There’s no ‘I’ in team!”
Holiday menus should be specialised for the season, but don’t overcomplicate things. Most diners want simple dishes that are big on flavour and a little bit nostalgic. Think about implementing set menus for key dates, and ensure you use quality products in the kitchen, which reduces wastage and impresses customers.
From Chef Ingrid Jensen: “At Christmas time, my rule is always, ‘go fresh!’ Australian holidays are remembered by fresh prawns, bubbling champagne, cold glazed ham and gourmet salads.”