Q & A ask Chef J Stephen… As a server, how do you not let rude customers get into your head?

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As a server, how do you not let rude customers get into your head?Q&A

You have to understand a person that exhibits rude behaviour is expecting a reaction to that rude behaviour. The usual reaction is poor service and a bad attitude ( giving them back exactly what they gave you).

Never provide them with what they are expecting. A polite, friendly, business as usual reaction is not what they would expect

Don’t take this as personal. Think of their behaviour as a game, a game where they are expecting one thing and you, as the controller of your own destiny, are going to provide something entirely different. In this battle only YOU control what YOU will do.

By controlling the situation, you win on two levels :

  1. You eliminate any excuse they have to stiff you on the tip
  2. You win the battle of wits by exerting YOUR control over the situation. You, in effect, made THIER game, YOUR game

Have fun, enjoy your job. Make it everything YOU want it to be.

J Stephen

Q & A with Chef J Stephen… Why do celebrity chefs like Gordan Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain dislike vegetarians & vegetarianism and diss them so much?

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Why do celebrity chefs like Gordan Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain dislike vegetarians & vegetarianism and diss them so much?

Because it severely limits your eating options. To use another example, if you told those same chefs you only eat meat, you would get the same reaction.

To a chef (and the millions of foodies in the world), dining is much more than simply re-fueling your body. There are so many ways to craft unique dishes that please the palate.

To a chef, limiting your diet, eliminates so many possibilities to enjoy the experience of sampling all the great dishes crafted by chefs (and home cooks).

What do we look for in a employee? The interview questions we ask for front of the house candidates and back of the house candidates may surprise you?


For me, the key ingredient for front or back is always attitude. A person can be taught process. They cannot be taught attitude. Whether it’s cleaning floors or crafting a soufflé, I want someone that is driven to craft a masterpiece that will assuredly provide the ultimate guest experience.

With regards to capabilities, we do follow a few guidelines.

For chef’s, I have found that offering externships for the local Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Dallas is the ideal way to get classically trained chef’s that have not yet formed bad habits.

Our biggest challenge is servers. Our fine dining Forney, TX Bistro is in a town that does not have any other fine dining establishments. Accordingly, we have a hard time finding servers that understand the difference between food delivery (which is what you get at most chains) and fine dining. In this case, I would rather train a new server from scratch. More time consuming but more rewarding to our guests in the end.

I also want someone who has compassion for others and easily assimilates with other team members. I learned many years ago, that one employee who has a bad attitude can quickly destroy a team.

My favorite questions are ones that Apple’s retail boss Angela Ahrendts uses in her interview process.

ME vs. WE
I want to gain insight into how they see themselves in the world.
• How big is their ego and what role does it play in their everyday life?
• Do they focus their energy on being an individual contributor, or on connecting and enabling a wider group?
• Do they care more about their own success or about the greater good of the whole?
Ask simple questions about their family, friends, peers, personal interests, sports, spirituality, and community to glean a better understanding of their true motivation and leadership attributes. This is usually the easy part, because people love to talk about themselves.

Two of our favorite quotes that sum up our leadership philosophies. See how the candidate responds to these:
A great coach used to say, “When ordinary people connect, extraordinary things can happen.”

One of my favorite quotes is from management expert Gary Hamel, who was once asked, “How will you know if you are a great leader?” He replied, “Turn around and see if anyone is following you.”

IQ vs. EQ
Now that they are comfortable and their guard is down, you want to understand how they naturally navigate in the world.
• Do they typically think or feel first?
• Do they instinctively use their head or their heart?
Ask a few business questions about how they handle challenging situations and optimize opportunities. Ask what their team and peers would say about them to gain deeper perspective on how balanced they are intellectually and emotionally.
Once you have satisfied that they are knowledgeable in their field, you’ll want to make sure they are culturally compatible. Are they empathetic, compassionate, caring and giving of their mind and heart?
A quote  from Maya Angelou is what you should be looking for in every hire: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” You want to sense if they truly care about the impact they make on people.

LEFT BRAIN (create pristine stacks) vs. RIGHT BRAIN (have a natural urge to sprawl and display)
You should then go a little deeper to discover what lens they look at the world through.
• Do they lean into analysis or their instincts? Do they get into details, or carry on a more conceptual conversation?
• Do they make linear decisions, are they a creative thinker, or do they use their whole mind?
Then go back to asking more personal questions, as you’ll find that you can better assess their left brain-right brain balance by understanding what they studied, what they do in their spare time.
• What do they read, watch, listen to?
• Do they light up when talking about the arts, their kids?
A company’s success is predicated on you putting the right people in the right place at the right time. You know what you need, and you need to find out who they truly are so both can thrive over the long term.

A good example of this is where we place our chef’s. Most new chef’s will tell you that they are equally proficient as a savory chef (cook) or pastry chef (baker). But through experience, I have learned that right brain persons make better savory chef’s and left brain people make the best pastry chefs.

Lastly, learn what guides them in the world, or frames their reference points.
• How much do they look to the past for trends, and how aware are they of the underlying influences impacting their business today?
• Do they have an opinion on the future and how their organization and strategies will need to evolve to keep pace? Are they adverse to or do they thrive on change?
This is how you should wrap up the interview, and before they leave it is important to let them know how you feel.
If you loved them,  tell them so and say you look forward to continuing the conversation. If they are not right for the position, it is best to be honest while you are together so they don’t get their hopes up. Always treat them as you want to be treated, and make sure they leave feeling positive even though they are not right for the current position. It is important we all sleep at night and that they leave with respect for themselves and the company.
Good luck, and remember: Building a brilliant team is your job. Nothing you do is more important or adds more value.

If they pass these questions, only then do we explore their actual hands-on capabilities.

J Stephen

Cinnamon May Be Much More Than Just Another Pretty Face!

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We use plenty of cinnamon in our cakes. Most home bakers don’t realize that there are many different types of cinnamon that produce many different flavors. The finest cinnamon is Saigon Cinnamon and that is the only cinnamon we use. It produces a rich, full bodied flavor that is much improved over the common cinnamon sold in most U.S. stores.

But, did you know that any cinnamon you use boosts metabolism in your fat cells?
In a study, recently published by researchers from the University of Michigan, researchers found that cinnamaldehyde (the base oil that gives cinnamon its flavor) has a direct effect on fat cells in humans.

Their tests confirmed that exposure to cinnamon oil triggered human fat cells to start burning calories through the process known as thermogenesis. In addition, that cinnamaldehyd increased the activity of not only the fat cells but also several genes, enzymes and proteins that are known to enhance fat metabolism.

Fat cells store energy in the form of lipids. This stored energy is used by the body during periods of food shortage, or converted to heat during cold periods.

But in todays society, where we don’t usually run into food shortages or exposure to cold, that same stored energy has nowhere to go and is instead converted into unwanted weight gain. Researchers at the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute, believe that consuming cinnamon on a regular basis may be one way to make fat cells burn some of that excess energy.

Although the study looked not on an actual human bodies but at the fat cells directly, more research will be needed to confirm exactly how cinnamon actually effects the body but the implications of burning some of that excess energy is an exciting find.

So keep that cinnamon shaker busy. It just might help in the battle of the bulge.