How To Be a Better Chef….Leader of Cooks

I humbly wish I had learned this a long time ago.  I sincerely wish others would learn this now.

Our last day of class at the CIA featured a lecture on leadership.  As a former president of the largest advertising agency in the United States, our teacher is currently on the Board of Trustees at CIA.  He is a keen wine enthusiast and consultant with many restaurants in New York City as well as the West Coast.  He knows his food and his people.   These are my take-away notes from the time he spent with us on Friday afternoon.  I believe it should be shared.

Leadership Features:

  • Show you care. Be Compassionate. To Everyone.
  • People listen to your words and try to understand what you said.  Be Specific.
  • People watch everything you do and evaluate how you do things.
  • People want you to lead them.
  • Be technically proficient.  Be better, faster, cleaner than your people at their jobs but never wield that as power.
  • Know yourself and constantly seek improvement.
  • Know your people and look out for their welfare.
  • Keep your people informed.  Transparency on all matters builds relationships.
  • Train people as a team.
  • Develop a sense of accountability, ownership, and responsibility within everyone you work with.
  • Take responsibility for all of your actions.  Everything is your fault.
  • Tell more stories, the context makes it easier to interalize values and lessons.
  • Have a purpose.  Define that purpose clearly.  Have a purpose.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Just a few days ago I spent an important amount of time on the farm in Pocantico Hills, New York. It is harder to describe the moments we shared with the chef and farm manager Craig Haney that afternoon and evening. I had eaten at Blue Hill in NYC last fall so this trip was indeed at the top of the bucket list. The biggest take away was learning about the ‘recipe for the recipe’; how the grasses are important to the diet of lamb, how they rotate the fields and how much of the grass is eaten. Best example was the land next door to the farm was a grain fed cattle farm. Significantly different. The tastes, sights, sounds, and textures of planting, barns, fields, and extensive lamb butchery all before an amazing dinner. Maybe the photos will help but best to visit yourself, put it on your list. The food does not get better than from the farm.
Blue Hill
Stone Barns













Hudson Valley

It was an honor to have a tour of this campus. Amazing place, one I’ve always held in high regard. I have worked with and for many chefs who graduated from this venerable program. Many of them good chefs, some better cooks, and a couple of hacks. The culinary program is well invested and the students who attend are fortunate. Thankful culinary students have this campus to attend, beautiful location on the banks of the Hudson River.