6 Ways to be Steps Ahead in The Kitchen

The road to become an Executive Pastry Chef is full of competition; Chef Rahmat Kusnedi showed us some tips to be steps ahead.

Working in the kitchen is tough, both mentally and physicaly (this is why you see more male worker in the industry). It is said that culinary and patisserie are the favorite among other majors in Vocational High Schools. Of course the competition in the kitchen is inevitable. As someone who has walked down the road from scratch, Chef Rahmat Kusnedi (CRK), President of Indonesia pastry Alliance (IPA), gave us 6 tips to win the competition in the workplace so you can be The Executive Pastry that you’ve always dreamed of:

1. Formal Education is not Everything

As one of the practioner who’s also active in education, CRK is often confronted with the same old questions. “To be professional chef, should I take culinary class, vocational high school, college, or go abread? If I were to become a famous chef, should I got to America, Austraia, or Switzerland?”
CRK’s answer is simple, “whatever your profession or dream, you can take any education as high as you can, but schools don’t determine your career. Is vocational high school enough? For basics, I’d say it is. Vocational High School have specific character development to become a professional, it’s different from the regular high schools.”

As a “mere” graduate of Farm vocational high school in Bogor and D1 Hospitality in Food Production, CRK admitted that he felt left behind from his colleagues. “Since the beginning of my career, I thought if I just sit back and rely on my daily activities, I wouldn’t go anywhere. How can I be successful just as D1 graduate? Meanwhile my colleagues came from famous universities and graduates from abroad, I would have been completely wiped out.”
However an Executive Pastry Chef doesn’t see formal education as the main factor. “Don’t worry about it. I am the living proof, I’m just a villager who came to big city for fortune, but I can prove my quality, even to Europe,” stated CRK.

2. Give More
Realizing his disadvantage in education, CRK decided to make it up by pushing the pedal to the metal through working 2 shifts/day, “for the second shift, I work for free. I just want to learn and understand the situation in the evening shift,” said CRK.

It is important to note that now is the time for efficiency. both owners and employees have to be able to address the issue accordingly. One of the most frequent object of the efficiency is the number of the staffs. As someone who has walked down the road as staff and owner, CRK has his own view.

“Owners won’t desert their staffs, perhaps they have their own policies. Perhaps we can deal with this issue by giving more salary as long as the company has higher productivity and achievement. In developed countries, a person can do the job of 5 people. I can safely say that because I’ve experienced it on my own. When I worked in a cruise, every person has his own responsibilities and he has to do it on time,” said CRK.

3. Avoid Complaints, Give Inputs
According to CRK, one of the most dangerous mindset is the mentality of expecting salary raise when the workload increased. “In my junior years, on the contrary, I expected more work because the more troubles and adversities I had, I’ll have more skills. Don’t worry about money as it tends to follow your skill level. Nevertheless, there’s no business that runs without any pressures, it’s up to how you measure your capacity in order to compete in the real work situation.”
For example, when the budget is tight, you can propose breakthroughs, perhaps with the target-based production, what will be the reward when it’s achieved, and what are the consequences when it didn’t. “It’s a win win solution. You have to give inputs and solutions, not just complaints. These kind of people will be sought after, that’s what we call talent!” stated CRK.

4. Identify Your Own Capacity
Perhaps we see doctor as prestigious job, however, behind the white coat lies many unpleasant things. For example, taking care of people with infectious disease to autopsies to badly shaped corpses. The chef is not that different. Behind the tall hat, a chef has gone through many things, from cracking thousand of eggs, grating great number of chocolate, lifting flour sacks from storage rooms, and standing to the scolding of seniors.
“Before doing anything, I always conduct the SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) analysis, both for friends and enemies. My belief is that their weaknesses should be my strengths. You have to be able to identify your skill and mental capacity form the beginning. Can you stand the adversities? It’s true that we got to have wide knowledge, but it doesn’t come solely from formal education, it’s more to your will to learn,” stated CRK.

5. Have a Role Model
Having role models will encourage you in doing your daily activities, even better if you know them personally. “There was a time when seeing someone with back pants, black buttons, and tall hat was extremely cool for me. In the beginning it’s like an unachievable dream for a D1 graduate like me. But along the way, my Chef at that time, Munawir Arifin, recognize my spirit and share much of his knowledge to me,” CRK recalled.

6. Know When to Resign
On the other hand, CRK understands that not all companies are worth fighting for. He warned us a specific signal to resign, “it’s when your inputs and solutions are rejected, not because any logical reasons, but because of emotion, without any analysis. But of course, basically, when you began work nicely in a company, you have to leave it peacefully also.”