RenĂ© Redzepi Is Working Out, And Why You Should Be Too

A few days ago Men’s Journal came out with an article about the importance of exercise for those with high stress, intense jobs, like chefs. It detailed how chef RenĂ© Redzepi, of Noma, started feeling stronger and more energetic in the kitchen and at home once he began working out. “A few years into this, I started noticing that I was incredibly exhausted. I felt so drained on weekends, I didn’t have the capacity to do anything. Even creative work made me tired — I was tired all the time,” he said.

Wellbeing is a hot topic right now in the restaurant industry, but has been mainly focused on mental illness and tough working conditions. Restaurants can take a huge toll on one’s mind and body, and if we don’t do something about it, it can quite literally kill us. It’s so important to not just take care of our mental stability, but also our physical one as well. There are many healthy benefits to exercise that can combat these rigorous tolls restaurants have on us. It alleviates stress and anxiety, can help you tap into creativity, and can help control addiction.

I’ve been working in restaurants for almost 10 years now. I would have these ebbs and flows of working out and then taking months off. I could always tell the difference in my energy levels, nutrition, and performance at work when I wasn’t doing some sort of physical activity. I would sleep in late, drink more alcohol, be bothered by small guest requests, and overall make more and more exceptions to my healthy lifestyle.

In the past, my workout of choice was running. I would run every day for about 2 months, take some time off, feel like crap, then start running again. It really wasn’t sustainable for me as a work out, mainly because I hate running and so does my body. Since playing soccer for so long, my knees are weaker than I’d like, so after a while I’d start taking more and more days off from running so I didn’t aggravate them. After about 6 months of feeling like complete crap, I decided to join a yoga studio.

REV-A-LATION.

I took yoga when I was in high school to supplement my soccer workouts, but I never took it seriously and rarely thought about it once I was in college. However, I learned quickly, that yoga was not just about meditation and relaxation. There were days when I was sweating so much I couldn’t see, days when my arms were so sore I could barely hold an empty tray. Yoga was much gentler on my body, but demanded much more focus,  thus much more sustainable for me to continue. The results came slower than they did when I was running, but I’m much happier with them. I’ve been practicing yoga for over 3 years now, and it has become a sort of release for me. It has completely changed the way I work both mentally and physically. I don’t get heated over people’s mistakes, which gives me a much clearer mind to work to find solutions quickly.

While I am fully aware that yoga is not for everyone, I do think that those of us that work in such intense and stressful environments need to find something physically challenging that will in turn empower some mental positivity. It could be running, boxing, rock climbing, cycling or yoga. What matters is balancing out that intense part of your life with something that makes you stronger in mind and body.

I would love to hear some of your favorite ways to release stress!

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Lack Of Fashion And Femininity In Fine Dining Restaurants

There is a growing population of women in fine dining restaurants these days. While I’m nothing short of happy about that fact, we are still a small number comparatively, especially when looking at the fact that the restaurant industry as a whole is comprised of 52% females. For ladies in the kitchen, only 19% are hired as Chefs. Yes, it’s growing, but the numbers are still too small in each individual fine dining restaurant to gain traction.
Over the years as a server in several fine dining establishments, I’ve found, through personal experience, that women are not taken as seriously by guests as their male counterparts. The degrading remarks that I’ve heard are appalling, and they aren’t just coming from guests, but co-workers as well. Almost 37% of all sexual harassment claims have been from the restaurant industry, and in all honesty, I wasn’t shocked. I’ve had a table of men ask me for the gentleman, their real server, that they didn’t think I knew as much – when in reality I was the Captain of that table and the gentleman they were referring to was my server assistant. I’ve had a man tell me that he thinks it’s cute when I try to get everyone’s attention and he can’t help but laugh when I talk. Then there are the men who’ve tried to barter back rubs for larger tips. These are just a handful of instances that have happened to just me, and they go on like that almost every night.
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Then there’s the lack of benefits, mainly due to the fact that many fine dining establishments (and others) are small businesses with less that 50 employees, which means they don’t have to offer benefits at all. While not having benefits affects both males and females, the issue with maternity leave can put women in an unsatisfactory position. Either they take the leave they need and risk not having the same job to come back to, or they don’t take the time off their body and child needs. Eater just did a fantastic piece on this topic here.
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While uniforms are rarely ever brought up, especially when there are much larger issues like maternity leave and sexual harassment claims, I think this is one of the easiest ways to feel forgotten as a woman – to feel like you’re femininity has been stripped. My uniform has always been a second thought. I’ve been asked to purchase a men’s suit for work and told to “just get it tailored” because there weren’t enough women to order the proper uniforms. There are other instances where I was able to purchase my own suit, but it had to match the others, and because I wasn’t part of the larger (male) group, I didn’t receive any discounted price. Beyond the clothing, I’m restricted to minimal make up and jewelry, and even my nail polish can only be certain shades. I’ve seen a girl get sent home from work for having the wrong color nail polish. For me, it has always been an issue that dulled my femininity. Everyone has to look the same, be a team. Since the majority of my team has always been male, well, that’s what we have to be. These are my personal experiences within the fine dining sector of restaurants, but I know it affects women in other areas of the industry. I may be the only person that has ever seen this as an issue, but for somebody who is passionate about fashion and femininity, it’s a problem worth talking about.

So, What’s The Difference Between Service And Hospitality Anyway?

 

The discussion delineating the differences between service and hospitality has been a staple in restaurant pre-shifts, meetings and marketing for a while now. There are only a few shades between, but the discrepancy can make a huge difference to the guest. So what is it and why does understanding their variation change the way guests view a restaurant?

By definition, service is the act of helpful activity; to provide accommodation. The key word here is act. Service is an action. It is a set of guidelines, penciling the base-level of activity to be considered part of this industry. Regardless of what service you are providing, actually performing a service is necessary. It could be cooking food, pouring drinks, offering a room, or a seat on a plane. At the very elemental level, when paid a certain amount a restaurant must provide food, a bar must provide drinks, a hotel must provide accommodation, and an airline must provide a seats. Service is the direct exchange the customer expects to receive.

So, what then is hospitality?  Well, it is the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, and generous way. In other words it is the way a service is provided. It is the quality of the act of service. It has been said that “hospitality is the virtue of a great soul that cares for the whole universe through the ties of humanity.”  Hospitality transcends service. It is what some of us would call “taking it to the Next Level”. Service is bland, dull, nondescript – hospitality gives it color, texture, and movement. It is the substance.

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So, service is the action and hospitality is the quality of that action. While service is only offered when there is a need to fill, hospitality is something that, once you have it instilled in you, you can’t turn it off. It begins to cascade through everything you do. It is where kindness and thoughtfulness meet. With service we fill our guests needs, but with hospitality we anticipate them and go beyond. We are able to take information and create something unique for our guests, something no one else can or will experience, and isn’t that what we all crave – to feel special in a world growing in sameness?

It’s the difference between offering your guest water, and knowing they always order sparkling – so you bring them sparkling without asking. Or finding out the couple you’re waiting on is on their first date since the birth of their daughter, so you pack them something special to take home to her. Those are the things that set certain businesses apart from others. Many people believe that it is only the things we present guests that make the experience what it is – wine, food, amenities, valet, take-aways etc. Absolutely not. That’s all just service. Hospitality is the way they are presented. It is the feeling that evolves from a thoughtful and genuine presentation. Hospitality is not just going through the motions, it’s making each motion full of genuine care and kindness for each guest. In that, the guest will feel your generosity, and that’s something that no object can create. It is the exact feeling that will make them want to return again and again.

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Restaurants Should Be Investing In Their Social Media Accounts

Social media has just recently become a hot topic in advertising and marketing for businesses. It’s becoming more and more the norm for advertising dollars to be spent on Instagram or Youtube influencers than print or television ads. As our purchasing habits move towards e-commerce, and our influences are being determined through social media outlets, it’s a no-brainer that we’re buying things directly from what we see on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube, and countless other sites.

The audience is also much more reliable. Those that we follow on these sites give us an intimate view of their lives. We connect to them on a more personal level, and thus build trust with them. We trust their fashion sense, recipes, brand choices, and travel destinations. This connection delivers with it a dependable following and trackable spending habits.

Keeping advertising influences on the web makes it easier to track where consumer dollars are going. Embedded links and even hashtags can clue in brands as to where, when and how their products were purchased. Influence and spending have become so close that we can literally buy something as soon as we see.

Recently at New York Fashion Week, designers were offering up iPads to attendees so they could purchase items as they were being shown on the runway. Typically what you see on a runway isn’t available in stores, or even online for months. This year, designers like Rebecca Minkoff have tapped into this “buy now-wear now” phenomenon. She even decided to forgo a new Fall Collection, and reshow her Spring 2016 collection to some of her top buyers, this time giving them the opportunity to purchase the items as they walk the runway. This is a MAJOR change in buying habits, giving in to the “want it now” mindset.

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Death To The Stock Photo

While the fashion industry has leaned heavily into the growing influence of social media, other industries, like food and beverage, haven’t quite figured it out. Many restaurants and chefs don’t have the time to waste taking and editing appealing photos. However, I think they are doing themselves a disservice. We constantly talk about first eating with your eyes, and right now everybody’s eyes are scrolling through Instagram feeds and Pinterest inspiration boards. A grainy, unfocused and dark picture of a dish  doesn’t make anybody want to stop scrolling and dream about coming to your restaurant to eat it.

A strong social media presence is what will set restaurants apart. Sinking dollars into getting articles written about you in publications nobody reads makes no sense. Save some money and invest some time and thought into how your presenting yourself and connecting with your customers. If a potential customer goes to your feed will it make them want to book a table immediately? If not, you may want to think about how to change that.

Restaurants who I think look as though they invested some time and thoughtfulness to their social media presence are Cafe Robey, Dominique Ansel Kitchen, The Nomad, The Progress, Contra and Husk Charleston

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The Non-Alcoholic Life Of A Beverage Director

 

 

As a Beverage Director of two restaurants, my role is not only limited to alcoholic selections. Non-alcoholic options are essentials to creating a well-balanced program. Coffee and teas are standard, but juices, tonics, and virgin cocktails are becoming more  sought after.

As I’ve become aware of my own wellness, looking for more natural and organic ways to nourish my body and mind, I am intrigued by this non-alcoholic phenomenon. I’ve been choosing the non-alcoholic pairings and trying house-made sodas, an exploration I was never interested in before. To my delight, they have been delicious, and sometimes rival the alcoholic options for dinner.

Coffee will have a strong presence in both restaurants from the coffee savants at Sparrow Coffee. We are using a different brewing method in each space with coffee tailored to each specific method, as well as beans that will be rotated based on seasonality. For instance, in the summer we will have a single varietal Ethiopian heirloom coffee with bright acidity, peaches and raspberries, while the winter may be a blend based on the richer sumatra with woody chocolate notes. I’m also working on infused milks to complement.

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For the tea program, we are taking cues from the seasons as well. With our partnership with The Farm, we are fortunate to have accessibility to the freshest and most seasonal herbs and flowers, which we will dry , blend, and use as tisanes. Spring and summer have the most abundant options such as, chamomile, nettle, red clove, rose hip, and spruce tips, but fall and winter will see more spice and wood blends like cinnamon, anise, ginger and licorice root.

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I am looking forward to working with the bar and kitchen to create tonics and sodas for guests. It’s all in the works right now, so stay tuned!

Drink Well,
KC

The Battle to Find Time

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Photo: Hermes Dreamoir 

One of the hardest issue I have come across while working in the hospitality industry has been finding the time to attend friends and family events. Unless given months, sometimes  up to a year of notice, there is basically no chance I will be able to go. It’s very difficult, because I want to be there, I really do. Even when you do request days off, sometimes they are not given, and when they are you usually have, maybe, a weeks notice. So let’s say you do get the time off to, say, attend your friend’s wedding. There’s the chance that when you come back, your schedule has been filled by somebody else and management won’t change it back. There’s also the fact that you thought it was ok to take a weekend off, and now your commitment to your job and the company is questioned. Unfortunately, what I’ve come across time and time again is that the people who move up the ranks quickly, rarely take days off, and those who do feel it’s important to attend these special events are knocked to the back of the line.

 

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Photo: Deep Down

This is the conundrum I’m finding myself in right now. One of my closest friends, since I could remember, is getting married. It’s a day my parent’s told me I could not miss; it’s important. The wedding’s a local affair, so it’s not like I have to travel far. However, it’s on a Friday, two weeks after we open our first restaurant and two weeks before we open our second. Oh, did I mention, I am the General Manager…of both? How can I even think to take a day off, let alone a weekend night?! Of course I won’t go, I really don’t have the choice, a lot of people are depending on me.

When I told my friend about my situation, she said, “nobody ever regrets going to a wedding, but people do regret not going.” It hit me and stuck with me. It makes it all that much harder, because I know I will regret not going. I know my friend who is getting married will be disappointed. I would be saving my working relationships and reputation, but at what cost?

BUT…I guess in the words of Charles Bukowski:

“Find what you love and let it kill you.”

KC

Communication in a Techie World

 

 

Communication breakdowns can be some of the most detrimental moments in any relationship, personal or professional. Intentions and perceptions often miss each other and can cause unnecessary trouble.

I can’t stress how important it is to keep  clear, concise and transparent communication between you and the people with whom you are working. I have found the best way to keep the wires untangled is through face-to-face meetings. Any important discussion that happens over the phone or, especially, over e-mail is easily misconstrued. I always recommend to approach a situation in person and offer your opinions in a thought-out and clear manner. We are consumed more and more by technology, and we have endless options to remove us from face-to-face situations. With all of this, it is even more imperative to use more intimate ways of communication so you’re completely understood.

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Try to stray away from accusatory words, stay open-minded and calm. State your views and be open to the other person’s response. Make it a two-sided conversation rather than one.

 

With Peace,

-KC

 

 

Photos: Career Girl Daily, Huffington Post