Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em... chefs, that is. I am fed up with cocky young chefs who think they are indispensable. So much is my frustration and lack of sleep through worrying about the kitchen in general that I have decided to do what many have before: take the bull by the horns and de-skill to a maximum.
"Oh no," I can hear you say. But what other choice do we have?
Ninety per cent of complaints that we get are food-oriented: too slow, not seasoned enough, or tastes different to the last time. This is not due to lack of training, but mainly due to the fact that (a) we cook everything to order, and (b) each chef's interpretation of the recipe is slightly different.
At the end of the day we are a "fast-food" operation, and really what we need are kitchen managers - young people who understand portion control, do not mind batch cooking, enjoy prepping up, and are interested in working in a fast-moving environment.
In return, we are looking to teach management skills: how to produce a weekly profit and loss; an understanding of budgets, including food cost, wage control and recipe explosions; training and communication skills; health and hygiene; and the importance of team building.
I question whether Joe Bloggs will actually notice the difference between a product that has been cooked to order and one that comes from a recipe batch-made from the same fresh ingredients.
We've done the experiment and I have to say that I really couldn't.
Joe Bloggs could, in fact, be happier - his food will be on the table at least 20% quicker and the standard should never alter.
If he orders a pizza today and it has 15 pieces of pepperoni, then so it should tomorrow. So many restaurant chains have gone the same way and they manage to produce good food at excellent value.
Not only this, but due to the simplicity of the operation they are able to train those who normally might not have considered a kitchen position.
With the chef shortage that we are encountering this can only be a positive move. If the theory works, then we should also be able to offer better working conditions. Until now we have relied on our head chef and sous chef to cook main courses, and if they were off, or had left, we were well and truly stuck.
Now we will be able to rotate our kitchen team, which in turn should lead to more stability, more weekends off and more straight shifts.
We may be only at the experimental stages, but if this theory pays off and we manage to conquer the daily kitchen problems, our ambitions of being among those great restaurant chains will be closer to being realised. Here's hoping...
PS. We are recruiting.
Next diary from Tammy Mariaux will be on 26 February