What is a critic? If you google the definition of a critic, it will state that it is a person who judges, evaluate, and express an unfavorable or favorable opinion of something. In the food industry, a critic can be anyone. A customer, a co-worker, someone that is in the higher arc of the food industry food chain, or just a random dude across the street that you haven’t seen before. This can be a double-edged sword. Let me show you how.
When it comes to working in the kitchen, I’m very open to criticism and improvements because, like everyone else, we tend to have blind spots. Meaning that it is better to have a second opinion or a second set of eyes and brains to help catch those small mistakes. I’m also an over-achiever. Meaning that I will do whatever it takes and work twice as hard to get where I want to succeed. Yes, I know that whatever comes out may be something that I will probably won’t like to hear. But at the end of the day, it needs to be heard in order for me to improve and for the business to improve.
Something I will never tolerate when it comes to criticism is aggressive behavior (passive-aggressive counts). The rule is that if you come to someone combatant, they will respond back combatant. It doesn’t mean that we’re going to throw down. It means that you need to apologize or I will have to ask you to leave. Luckily, I rarely encounter those situations. When it comes to criticism, giving out details is key for communication. I hate it when people tell me something is bad but don’t give out any information about why it was bad. I rather have someone tell me that my balsamic dressing is a bit too peppery rather than a person just said it tastes like shit. Please fix it. It not only gives me more of an idea of where it needs to be fixed, but it tells me that the critic cares about my business. These days when people say that the food tastes bad and they give no other information why, the staff will just walk off confused and sometimes laugh.
When I’m the critic or when I’m criticizing someone or something, I will always ask questions before I go make assumptions. Did you change the recipe for this soup? What happened to your ingredients? Did your supplier screw you over? Why is the service slow today? Are you short staff? These are the questions I would ask because it will give me a better understanding of what’s going on behind the scene. It also gives the staff a sense of care because they know that there’s also another person outside their organization that really cares about what we do. One of my biggest pet peeves is that critics don’t know the big picture and jump to conclusions way too soon without any knowledge of what’s going on.
There was one time at my workplace (I really hope I don’t get in trouble saying this) when we were understaffed and it was just me and one other person that are opening the entire kitchen. It was early morning, around 7 am and we got one hour to set up 5 stations for the second wave of employees to come in. An employee came to the kitchen at 8:05 am (5 minutes after the doors open)and said that we need to make or find products to fill the shelves. I kindly told them that we were working on it and we got a ton of stuff on our plate. She was slightly confused and irritated and just walked out of my kitchen. Fast forward two days later, my manager told me that two days ago, we got a complaint that our shelves are empty. I told her that the past couple of days are very busy and we’re trying our best to make as many products as we can. She then showed me a picture of my empty shelves that was taken at 8:05 am yesterday. That fucking snake. I explained to my manager the whole situation and how I got my ass fucking railed that day by both customers and employees outside the kitchen. She just smiled and laughed. She totally understands the situation and will follow up with other front-of-house staff so that it will not happen again. That’s good to hear. But still. Fuck that guy.
At the end of the day, it is not just the critic that counts but it is the one that is in the ring that his body has been marked, scared, and bleeding. You can question the food. You can question the products. You can question the whole organization. But I want to hear your opinion. Your constructive criticism. And if you don’t have anything good to hear, you’re just a hater, And we all know what we do with these kinds of people. We just ignore them.