TEAMWORK IS THE BASIS OF EVERY GOOD BUSINESS
Teamwork makes the dream work. It may sound like simple marketing wisdom, but there is a kernel of truth in it. Because as a chef you are worth little without a strong team next to you. People who assist and help you to take your creations to an even higher level. Some top chefs talk about their vision of a successful team.
From Australia to France, Morocco and Slovakia
“To me, teamwork is a group of people who share the same vision,” says Christophe Roesems, pastry chef at Wittamer in Brussels. “They are people who have the desire to achieve something together. And importantly: no one is left behind. You go for it together. If someone falls behind, you will guide that person as best you can. Does that always work? No, but that's exactly what a team should do: stand close to each other, to help each other.”
Pascal Molines, elected world champion patisserie and manager at L'Atelier Sucré, sees working together again as a process that is not always easy. “Working as a real team is difficult,” he says.
“As a chef, the leader of the team, you have to make sure that your people really work together. And you do that by letting them communicate with each other. And that is the hardest part: because everyone thinks that he or she knows everything. How do you deal with that then? Listen to your people and occasionally put their feet back on the ground. We make patisserie, of course. We are not doctors. What helps with that? Humour. That way you get a lot done. Shouting is never a good idea.
Pascal De Deyne, pastry chef at chocolaterie Van Dender, agrees. “A good team is one where everyone can count on each other,” he says. “You stand behind the vision of the business and never let your colleagues down. A team must also be well attuned to each other, just like the gears in an old-fashioned watch. Teamwork is the basis of any well-run business.”
Getting and keeping your team motivated is also quite a task, Molines testifies. “Inspiring and motivating people varies from person to person. Everyone reacts differently, and it's important to keep that in mind. Like I said, listening is the most important thing. You have to know your people. The egos know how to estimate, so to speak.” De Deyne sees experimentation as a way to motivate his people. “You have to regularly try out novelties and involve your team in the process. Their opinion and experience are too important not to include in the creation process.” But how do you keep a team sharp, according to De Deyne? “By being part of the team,” he says. “You have to be on the same level and adjust where necessary. And if something goes wrong, you have to respond in a humane way.”
THE PERFECT TEAM
Perfection, every chef looks for it every day. But is there such a thing as the perfect team? “I would say I have the perfect team,” says De Deyne. “But I don't think the perfect team exists right away. Everyone has their own character and is not at their best every day. And unexpected twists and turns can always throw a team off-balance. Just think of someone who has to drop out due to illness, or a sudden, large order. Then it is up to us to find that balance as quickly as possible.” Molines sees the basis for the perfect team with the leader of the group. “It is up to him to coordinate the talents of his team. To see who works well together, but above all: how others can complement each other. Because putting together people who are complementary: that is how you create a perfect team.” For Daniel Álvarez, owner of Spanish Dalua, the perfect team is one that doesn't feel like coming to work. “The whole team has to come in in the morning and be happy to be able to do what we, pastry chefs, do.”
Roesems also thinks that the perfect team does not exist. “I believe in the perfect combination of people,” he says. “The perfect team, that is a group of 'anciens'. People who have the necessary baggage. But if you only have "kings" in your team, problems arise, because everyone wants to be a chef. And with a team that only consists of young people, you are only busy learning everything with them. If, on the other hand, you combine experienced people who want to teach someone something with young, enthusiastic employees, then your team is just right.”