Communication Breakdown

A continuation of my earlier piece on Interpersonal Communication, I’d like to start by mentioning the importance of communication in a kitchen. A chef may demonstrate a recipe for a sous to replicate, and that sous may be called upon to show members of the line the same recipe. This brings me to the idea of the children’s game; telephone.

In class, chef LeBlanc demonstrated to us the importance of communication and how it goes beyond listening, to true understanding. We had seven people leave the classroom, with only one person remaining. Chef then told him a little paragraph about one of the chefs at school, his 10 new menu entrees, four of which were to be wild game, three vegetarian, and three seafood. He said that he wanted them mailed to his headquarters in Chicago, on the 26th of June.

Suffice to say, that the second person who came in basically lost track of most of this information, and by the last person’s entrance, they could only offer that six items were to be made, three of which were vegetarian, and delivered to his office on March 26th. Could you imagine if this was a chef telling his staff to make a complicated mole, using more than eighteen ingredients?

Another point of communication was made when chef had us break off into teams of two, sitting back to back from each other. He then gave one person in each team a paper with some sort of geometrical abstract drawing on it, to which we were to describe to the person behind us, drawing it out. Immediately the room filled with loud yelling, each person trying to convey some veryawkwardshapes which wasn’t easy at all. I tried using my fingers, numbers, nothing seemed to help. The final product of pretty much each team was some extremely varied and scaled drawings, none of which really looked like the original picture.

I guess that after this class, even though simple it really was, it really sunk in to me. I know all too well the feeling, and the fear, of having to ask a chef to repeat themselves, especially when feeling the pressure of a deadline. On so many occasions, students will answer a long lecture with a “Yes, Chef!”, typically scurrying off to their section often saying this and not really understanding what the chef wanted. This of course would be easily avoidable if chef’s only talked a little less, but don’t tell them that.

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