The day begins at 6:30 a.m. Lights turned on, equipment warming up, the crew sure that everything is working ... In corporate kitchens, memorable experiences begin with careful thought and preparation.
... And then the students arrive.
As Henny Penny's corporate chef and lead trainer, Tom Douglas knows that for executives, customers and foodservice chefs, the kitchen is the classroom, and the experiences are the lessons. A day in a life of a corporate chef is more involved than one might expect. Helping individuals experience the brand encompasses more than just the taste of the food: it's about submerging the students and our guests in the awareness of which solutions can be brought to the surface with a well-designed, superior-functional foodservice kitchen. In sharing knowledge about what equipment to use and how to best use it, we're building a story – a story with a beginning, middle and exciting finale.
To effectively tell this story, it's critical to engage students in the art of the experience – offering world-class training with compelling demonstrations that connect students to the kitchen. In one of my recent blog posts, I touched upon the critical importance of "tableside magic." From coast to coast and continent to continent, we find that it's the world-class experiences such as these – those that involve the participant in the story in a very real way -- that make for relevant and lasting impressions.
Every great story hooks you from the beginning
At Henny Penny, we're engaged in several different types of training, ranging from introductory courses to expert-level sessions in cooking and equipment mastery. Our Equipment 101 Class is an introduction to Henny Penny's family of foodservice equipment. Often, it's here that new team members and potential customers first learn the capabilities and common uses of open and pressure fryers, and combi ovens as well. Some of our guests have been around business or restaurants for decades, but have never been introduced to food equipment before.
So, we start from the beginning. Helping guests and executive students to better understand what each piece of equipment is, what it does, how you make it work, are all essential elements to the course. It's also here, in the introduction of the story, that people have the potential to get engaged in the kitchen at a whole new level.
The three most magical words in the learning model
Because credibility is important in the kitchen and in the field, the next part of the story is built around the details – speeds and feeds, specs and decks. Chefs are, ultimately, teachers, helping other culinary workers (and those who depend on them) to gain a greater appreciation for discipline and art of cooking. In a quest to accomplish this, Chef Douglas tries to encourage people to communicate with three small words that go a long way in building kitchen credibility: "In my experience ..." These three small words powerfully build lasting credibility and instant attention to the details and dialogue that follow in the learning process.
Every great ending has a compelling finale
At the conclusion of a three-day experience in Chef Douglas' kitchen, he wants every participant to walk away with a new appreciation for their cooking abilities and kitchen know-how. Ending any training with a great experience, like a great story, is the very best way to solidify the lessons learned.
At Henny Penny, we've found that our own version of the Iron Chef competition (dubbed our "Stainless Steel Chef Competition") provides just that. In this competition, everyone receives a set of ingredients, 30 minutes to design a menu, and then another half hour to prepare the meal.
The dinner is prepared. The meal is judged. Awards are given. But in the end, everyone wins because they've experienced it for themselves. Whether they've won matters far less than the fact that they rose to the challenge and met the goals of the competition – most likely doing something they've never done before.
Thinking of training unfolding like a great story makes the learning experience meaningful and long-lasting. Whether you're deepening knowledge of a particular piece of equipment or cooking for the very first time, embracing the story and getting involved within the roles is a recipe for success. And in the end, the teacher can create the gateway to a new passion, profession or art. The story is one students will tell – themselves and others – over and over, and will add to as they continue their professional journey.
Rob Connelly is the President for Henny Penny, the leader in high quality foodservice equipment designed for easier operation, greater flexibility and lower operating costs. For more information on the company, visit www.HennyPenny.com