Catering in the perfect environment

Keeping chefs happy is an essential recipe for a positive work environment in the kitchen space.

Whilst usually hidden behind closed doors, the spaces are often white and minimum, the hours long and tough and the environment demanding and intrusive. They are squeezed into areas with no natural daylight and in older buildings they are often designed to fit into unusual shapes which can create numerous difficulties.

Keeping the atmosphere positive is an essential need and one which allows for delicious food to come out. It is also a significant factor in how it influences how employees work, from their relationship with co-workers, company culture and personal development.

Max Uyanik understands this and always wants to make sure his brigade of chefs are happy to come to work every day. Max has worked across a number of prominent restaurant kitchens and catering companies. After joining Food Show in 2008, Max moved up the ranks with his intricate knowledge of food and flavours. Since 2012 he has been Director of Food and in this role he oversees food strategies, operational and logistical food planning and reiterating the important of his food philosophy.

“When it comes to managing your chefs, one of the most important things you can do for them is set the right tone in the kitchen. I call this firm but fair.” Max explains. The experienced chef believes that a positive environment is sustained by this approach and also sustains the chefs throughout the day. “We all have good and bad days wherever we work, but I truly believe that a chef’s motivation in the kitchen is heavily influence by the Head Chef.”

Max’s firm but fair philosophy is one where he wants the kitchen to respect the person in charge, but not fear them. It is a balance that can be hard to achieve. “Equally as a leader in the kitchen, you need to have confidence in your ability, skill and technique to roll up your sleeves every day and set the standard. You must keep yourself sharp and be the example leader.” Being a role model who influences and inspires others begins with the right attitude and this can flow into into the team.

“As a Head Chef, you set the tone for your kitchen team. If you are grumpy and negative, the rest of the team will react accordingly. However if you stay positive, the work environment will reflect that in exactly the same way.” Max explains. His vision is clear and by making himself visible Max knows a harmony of sorts allows the team to learn and achieve their goals. “I always say a smile is a contagious and powerful tool, we also always say that manners do not cost anything! It is this positive attitude that can create kitchen environments that bring respect, integrity and trust.”

“Transparent and open communication shows that we value each member of the team and we want them to feel they are part of the business. I must inspire, educate and motivate everyone – it is a daily practice for me.” Max says when addressing the role he plays.

The work life balance is a difficult challenge for many chefs, especially with the long hours. “Having a positive work environment makes chefs feel good about coming into work and this really does increase their motivation. Being able to sustain this thorough out the day is a quality most valued by chefs. We encourage our teams to say how they feel and also make sure what they say does hold value in the company. It makes them feel they belong at Food Show and therefore that the work is meaningful.”

Max is in a fortunate position where he can treat his team with trust and delegate and assign ownership where needed. “In our business we do treat everyone like part of the family. This is part of our ‘philosophy’ and I have been very blessed that we don’t churn out lots of staff. My core team have been with me for 10 years now. This low turnover of staff does allow us to build on the continuity and the passion we have installed in the team has never left us.” Coaching, getting to know them and investing time in the team have all built on this trust.

Max is transparent with his team and trusts them at all times. He argues that it’s down to having a positive work environment which other kitchens may struggle to achieve. Max and Food Show are a confident move away from this and now use their created environment for more beneficial and successful work.