One of the most critical relationships in the operation of a private club is that between the General Manager and the Executive Chef. When that relationship is one of mutual respect and admiration,
wow – the Club operation is in perfect harmony. But when the two positions collide, exactly the opposite happens – cymbals clash, the entire operation suffers, and working conditions become tense.
The most successful GM/Executive Chef relationships are found at clubs where the Executive Chef is a team player, and the General Manager has a genuine interest in the kitchen operation. It just makes sense. The Chef cares, and it’s obvious to membership and staff. He/she interacts with the other department heads and has a keen interest in all aspects of the Club. On the other hand, Chefs appreciate it when the General Manager is proactive and finds a new product, enjoys a great dish, or learns of an interesting piece of equipment and willingly shares it with the Chef. When the two leaders collaborate in their efforts to be the best possible food operation for the Club, the result is an engine running on all cylinders … again, the perfect harmony. And it’s a given the GM and Executive Chef have each other’s back. Anything less is simply not acceptable.
General Manager and Executive Chef relationships that end up being not-so-perfect are usually a result of a break-down in communications; most often based on misunderstandings that don’t get resolved. As in any meaningful relationship, it is extremely important to keep the lines of communication open, honest, and timely. If there is a problem, don’t let it fester, talk it out. Check egos at the door, communicate in business needs and terms, come to a respectful resolve, develop an action plan, and move forward.
By nature, Executive Chefs like certain freedoms such as trying new products or menu items. At the same time, the Executive Chef needs to recognize it is the GM who ultimately holds the reins and the responsibility, so it is essential to know the boundaries of your position. Equally important, an Executive Chef must understand the Club’s culture and business practices, play by the rules, and follow human resource procedures when it comes to staff administration, i.e., hiring, coaching, termination procedures, and controlling overtime.
Obviously the General Manager is on the front line to Board and Committees for the food and service operation at their Club. But the Executive Chef should feel that same sense of responsibility. And although difficult, it is very important that the Executive Chef maintains visibility outside of the kitchen. Get involved in the House Committee meetings; invite the Board on a tour of the kitchen; plan something unique for new members to see or do “behind the scenes,” walk the dining rooms, and walk them often. The Chef should experience the other side of the club operation – beyond the kitchen threshold.
As I often suggest, “Relationship” can trump “Perfection” in clubs. The best relationships are developed through honest and open communication. The General Manager is counting on the Executive Chef consistently creating great food, and following through with administration duties on a timely basis. But it is their honest and open communication with each other that defines and nurtures the GM-Executive Chef relationship and keeps it in a positive, productive light – resulting in the perfect harmony. ♦
It gives me great pleasure to introduce Alfonse Contrisciani, CMC, WGMC, ACE, AAC, the “chef, farmer and educator” as our “Chef at Work.” Executive Chef Contrisciani is a Certified Master Chef who has a passion for farming as well as being a restaurant owner and Academic Dean/Director of Hospitality Programs and Practicum at Hocking College, Nelsonville, Ohio. I know you will enjoy and appreciate this interesting story.
Thank you again for your ongoing support; we really like what we do and it’s because of you! Please visit us on the web at www.meyersassociates.com
David Meyers, President
David Meyers Associates, LTD