Long ingrained habits it is said, take at least 21 days to break and move to a new way of doing/ being. The cheffing industry has long suffered from the habit of being precious, precocious, arrogant, aggressive, dictatorial and any number of other adjectives which have been used to describe this group of professionals. Shifting a centuries old cultural norm might take longer than 21 days, however Chef Network Ireland are certainly doing their best.
Attending the industry trade fair Catex last week, Chef Network were holding a series of discussions on fostering a positive kitchen culture. One of the most interesting points heard was that the industry needs to stop promoting ‘bad boys and gals’ as beacons of culinary perfection. O.K., so they can cook but they are laying waste to budding talent in the process. We are no longer going to be subjected to known bullies sitting on industry panels pontificating about themselves (usually), known bullies being invited on media to comment, known bullies cosying up to investors to get their name in lights. This is sensationally good news. It is not going to be an instant shift but then seismic shifts take time to build. Maybe we will start to see the good guys and gals centre stage, the quietly grafting mentors who lift others up rather than crush them. Maybe we will start to see good guys and gals calling out the bad ones in public. Now, that would be a shift worth seeing.
A cultural shift ‘derives form the experience of encountering new ways of doing things that challenge the basic belief that your way of doing things is the “correct” way’. This is a gradual process. Chef Network and their members who are committed to the Kitchen Workplace Charter are daily moving this forward. There is no drama in being good, chefs make good movie subjects but only when they are throwing knives and burning interns with boiling soup. Meanwhile, the cultural shift is happening, whether they like it or not and very soon, it just won’t be O.K. or cool to be a bully. Well done Chef Network and all concerned.