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“Today’s pot washer might be tomorrow’s executive chef” - Ritz-Carlton Riyadh's Robert Stirrup: Essential Culinary Lessons

Robert Stirrup of Ritz-Carlton Riyadh Shares Seven Essential Lessons for Aspiring Chefs

 

Meet Robert Stirrup, the Director of Culinary Arts at Ritz-Carlton Riyadh. With a wealth of experience from renowned establishments worldwide, including overseeing culinary operations at the Fairmont and Swissôtel complex in Singapore with its 12 restaurants, bar, and two-Michelin star restaurant JAAN, Stirrup brings invaluable insights for aspiring chefs. In a conversation with Caterer, he shares seven crucial lessons:

 

Robert Stirrup Director of Culinary Arts Ritz-Carlton Riyadh

1. Be Respectful and Polite

  

"In the bustling environment of a kitchen, respect and politeness are paramount. Every individual, regardless of their role, contributes to the team’s success. By treating everyone with respect, you create a positive atmosphere where people are more inclined to share their knowledge and teach new skills to you. Respect doesn’t cost anything, yet it can open doors to future opportunities and create a pleasant work environment. Additionally, treating colleagues well acknowledges the unpredictable nature of careers—today’s pot washer might be tomorrow’s executive chef."

 

2. Open Your Eyes

  

"When starting out in a kitchen, you’re often assigned basic and monotonous tasks. However, this shouldn’t stop you from observing and learning from others. Pay attention to what the experienced chefs are doing, understand their techniques, and absorb their methods. Being vigilant and curious prepares you for the moment when you finally get the chance to step up. Turning even the most mundane tasks into valuable learning experiences is a crucial habit for any aspiring chef."

 

3. Be a Sponge

  

"Knowledge is power in the culinary world. Absorb as much as you can by asking questions and learning from every situation. There will be challenging days, and you might face setbacks, but each experience offers a lesson. Whether you learn a new cooking technique, a better way to manage your time, or even how not to treat your colleagues, these lessons are invaluable. Cultivating a mindset of continuous learning will help you grow and excel as a chef."

 

4. Ask for Help

  

"Never hesitate to ask for help when you need it. Pretending to know everything hinders your growth and leads to mistakes that affect the entire team. A successful kitchen thrives on teamwork and collaboration. It’s not just about being the best cook; it’s about contributing to a cohesive dining experience. Asking for help shows humility and a willingness to learn, which are essential traits for any chef. A well-functioning team relies on mutual support and shared knowledge."

 

5. Know Your Team as People

  

"Building strong relationships with your team is crucial. You spend long hours together, often under stressful conditions. Understanding your team members on a personal level fosters mutual respect and camaraderie. As a manager, knowing your team’s aspirations and motivations allows you to support their growth and create a positive work environment. A cohesive team where everyone feels valued and understood is more productive and harmonious. Personal connections enhance teamwork and job satisfaction."

 

6. Have a Plan but Be Ready to Adapt

  

"It’s important to have a clear idea of what you want to learn and who you want to learn from. However, flexibility is equally crucial. Opportunities may arise unexpectedly, and being open can lead to extraordinary experiences and learning moments. In renowned kitchens, there’s a common saying: 'Never plan a plan, as the plan that you planned never plans out as planned.' It means embracing the unpredictability and enjoying the journey, as some of the best lessons come from unplanned experiences."

 

7. Stay Humble

  

"Humility is a cornerstone of being a great chef. Even after decades in the industry, there is always something new to learn. The culinary world is vast, and valuable lessons can come from the most unexpected places, be it a fine dining establishment or a street food stall. Staying humble keeps you open to new ideas and continuous improvement. Embrace every experience as an opportunity to learn, and never let arrogance hinder your growth."

 

These lessons from Robert Stirrup emphasize the importance of respect, continuous learning, teamwork, flexibility, and humility in the culinary journey.

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