Teamwork the best way to operate any kitchenPublished on June 1, 2015

  • Executive Chef Geoffrey Morden; Shaw Centre

  • Executive Chef Geoffrey Morden; Shaw Centre

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As Executive Chef of the Shaw Centre, I have the privilege of serving guests from across the city and around the world. On any given day, my team could be preparing meals for up to 10,000 people. Some days, we have multiple events taking place simultaneously with some groups that number in the dozens or hundreds while others are a thousand or more. The Centre is a very versatile, dynamic place so our kitchen must be especially nimble and flexible to satisfy many different culinary requirements.

As you can imagine, I would be lost without the talent and dedication of my entire kitchen brigade which includes four sous chefs who also serve as kitchen managers as well as 30 cooks. We are also supported tremendously by a spectacular stewarding team of about 70 that runs dishes, plates food and handles many other critical tasks needed to keep the kitchen humming. Sometimes we have to work in astonishingly large quantities, such as the event for which we prepared a huge one tonne batch of braised Wellington County beef short ribs. I'm pleased to report that they turned out exceptionally well.

Several of the managers have been here with me since we opened five years ago, so as a team we have really learned how to collaborate effectively. Our core menu has been developed not only in recognition of the scale of the building but also to suit the calibre of dining we want to offer. We also want to maximize what our technically advanced equipment can do to help us produce excellent food. With the level of organization we've put in place, things run very smoothly most of the time, and when there are tiny hiccups, we have the experience to set things right.

The biggest difference teamwork makes is that I cannot be everywhere at once when food is being prepared and served, so I rely heavily on my managers' observations and opinions. They are the ones who notice what dishes have been particularly popular - or not - and we then work together to look at ways to improve and better cater to guests' tastes and desires.

I think there is probably a parallel happening in many home kitchens. If spouses take turns cooking, or are encouraging their children to learn to cook, collaboration is essential. I like to suggest that families work together to set menus, and over time gradually push the flavour boundaries to develop kids' palates and encourage them to try new things. Even young children can get involved in food preparation and one essential step is to take them out food shopping, especially to farmers' markets. These experiences will expand their food knowledge and help them understand the difference between whole and processed foods. You will develop more enlightened, curious eaters and you just might be inspiring your own kitchen brigade. There's nothing more satisfying than preparing delicious, healthy food together as a team.

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