Whoever said “too many cooks in the kitchen” never worked a shift in a Fresh Ideas kitchen.
Because if they had, they would know that a diverse and multi-talented group of people can come together, hone their skill sets, collaborate effectively, and deliver culinary excellence – time and time again.
That’s not to say that leading a team of people with a wide range of perspectives and experiences is straightforward. It takes time, effort, and dedication to ensure everyone is happy and fulfilled, and to strike the perfect balance between allowing people too much freedom and being overly restrictive. In the food services industry, we tread a particularly fine line in this respect, since stringent health and safety regulations are of the utmost importance.
Nonetheless, we’ve taken steps to uphold the best practices and core values at the heart of Fresh Ideas, while also affording our people the space to innovate, grow, and excel.
The secret to training people
A typical Fresh Ideas kitchen serves a high volume of customers, which means our systems must be well-structured and consistent.
Over time, we’ve figured out what works and what doesn’t; how to serve people efficiently, how much food is required to cater to a specific number of people, and how to keep spaces clean and safe for both colleagues and customers.
Years of experience have enabled us to develop rigorous training programs, designed to ensure new hires quickly learn the ropes and feel confident in doing their job to the best of their abilities. We know that an abundance of rules and regulations stifles creativity, so we’ve kept the format pretty simple.
When we onboard a new chef, we already trust them to do a fantastic job because they have been carefully assessed throughout the hiring process. At this level of seniority, it’s more important that we verify their expertise and provide key information about the inner workings of Fresh Ideas.
On Day One, they are given a training guide, which outlines Fresh Ideas’ core protocols and processes in detail; how the online systems work, when deliveries are scheduled, what to do to prepare for an inspection, and so on. But there are also countless opportunities for new hires to learn from their colleagues on the job; be it in their own kitchen or via our extensive network of chefs across the nation. Aside from this, we encourage our chefs to retain their individuality and express themselves fully via the dishes they create.
Training programs for more junior employees, including everyone from sous-chefs to hourly hires, are a little more formalized. We provide opportunities for them to hone their technical skills, learn the basics of food hygiene, and unleash their creative flair in the kitchen; all of which are designed to support meaningful career advancement.
Our Rouxbe program supports employees as they advance from sous chef to chef to head chef.
These training programs feature both online and in-person learning. While training documents and online assessments serve an important purpose, they can only take our employees so far. Once an employee is book-smart, we follow up with them in the kitchen and put their newly acquired skills to the test. This instills confidence and reinforces everything they’ve learned.
Here are three additional methods proven to drive creativity in the kitchen.
1. Hire for creativity
Hiring for creativity helps to foster a workplace environment in which people feel encouraged to innovate and experiment.
During a Fresh Ideas hiring assessment, for example, prospective chefs are given minimal instruction. We want to observe how they use the ingredients provided, the new ideas or practices they can bring to the table, and their ability to minimize food waste.
The broad demographic of Fresh Ideas employees also advances creativity. Flexible working requirements are easily accommodated, which means we can hire new parents who want a part-time job, retirees who are keen to reignite their enthusiasm for cooking, or college graduates who aspire to be chefs. Just imagine the rich and varied ideas these people can bring to the kitchen. We give them the space to experiment and grow and, in exchange, all we ask is that they show up with a good work ethic and a good attitude.
2. Champion in-person learning and mentorship
The main reason our training programs are so successful is that our employees have the opportunity to learn from a variety of people from all walks of life.
We actively encourage new hires and junior employees to broaden their knowledge by shadowing their colleagues; be it an in-house baker, a sous-chef, or the head chef themselves.
On a wider scale, we like to connect people in different regions. Our communication structure enables employees to build their networks, share recipes and seek advice from like-minded colleagues.
A formalized mentorship program, designed to advance workplace collaboration and further facilitate on-the-job learning enhances the training process and improves engagement and retention.
3. Establish a healthy and happy work environment
Kitchen Nightmares – a TV show that follows British chef Gordon Ramsay as he visits failing restaurants and attempts to revive them – glorified confrontation, burnout, and rigid hierarchy in the kitchen. At Fresh Ideas, we strive for the exact opposite.
Above all, our employees are treated like human beings, not tools; we encourage a healthy work-life balance and strive to foster a culture in which people work hard while having fun.
When employees feel truly valued and respected, their motivation and productivity will increase, as well as their confidence to innovate and challenge the status quo. Far better to see our employees sharing their passion for food than living in fear of reprimand.
All of these initiatives combined ensure that Fresh Ideas is a platform for personal and professional growth.