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Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Opposite of Ominous –


The Opposite of Ominous –

I have been on a journey for a good 6 or 7 years now beginning with some dissatisfaction in my previous engineering gig leading to my new life as a sous chef here in Yellowstone National Park.  Little did I know that this trek would lead to auspicious surroundings led by two great bosses (Thanks Kat and Chef Tony!) that I adore and a job that can only be summed up as “perfect” for me at this time.  Besides, I’m doing it among some of our country’s most diverse wildlife.

Yellowstone Moose
The ominous feelings of dark unfamiliarity that shrouds one’s thoughts and lead to fear is a gripping roadblock to a lot of folk’s dreams and can hold them down.  If, however, you feel you have no choice but to make a change then this fear becomes strength and I have found that strength for my life-change transitioning into the world of culinary.

Blue Heron 
My strength has been bolstered by the nurturing environment in which Xanterra (my new company) fosters their employees.  I’m living a dream wrapped in a blanket of wraith for clarity and charm for beauty.  I’ve been searching for an organization that prepares their people for what lies ahead in their everyday jobs and I’ve found it with Xanterra.  The training that we go through before we even hit the floor running is quite remarkable.  We learn stuff like: operational standards, food costs/costing, respect in the work place, management expectations, ecological impacts, professional conduct and food safety just to name a few.

A grizzly protective of a carcass sitting on it in a river (I shot this with Chef Tony)
I’m smitten with the professionalism with which they conduct their business.  Of course there are problems we managers incur through everyday business like tardiness, call-in’s, employee squabbles and also inexperience just to name a few.  Xanterra’s policies and training help greatly in this regard and for that I’m profoundly grateful to them for taking the time and exerting the energy that is required for their extensive training program.

The "Ominous" look of fear - MINE!
I now know the frustration I’ve seen on my chefs faces when I interned a few years ago.  Every time I stepped up to ask a question or observed other cooks doing likewise; they projected exasperation before the question was even asked.  My employees, seemingly, are always asking questions left and right.  I have cooks coming up to me while I’m cooking on the line running around furiously to get food out on time as well as hot and fresh asking me where the mayonnaise is.


I love helping folks and training and mentoring/coaching the new cooks; it gives me great pleasure!  The cooks see my delight in helping them and this lends itself to a tsunami of questions. I do, however, wonder if they understand what a busy chef looks like and that, perhaps, they may wait to ask their question or even figure it out on their own?

New antlers are a fresh beginning like my time here in YNP!
Alas, this is the next chapter in training myself to cope with these frequent interruptions and also to empower my cook’s to think for themselves.  We covered stuff like this in our manager’s training and I’m progressing at a pace that I’m satisfied with in motivating and entrusting/delegating our employees.  I relish this job!

This osprey looks over it's realm like we do in the kitchen
I’m a high-energy guy with a positive and professional attitude.  I’ve learned that some can misinterpret this “brand” of management style to be that of a friend; I squash those notions straight-away.  I’m friendly but by no means am I a friend first and supervisor second during working hours.  A boundary that should never be crossed in the kitchen is that of the line of demarcation between employee and chef.  Perhaps the more difficult task a chef has is teaching this to her or his cooks.

"Old Faithful" showing consistency as our food should be to the guest
These are the little things aside from cooking that chefs go through in managing a kitchen.  We must never lose control of the flow and organizational flux while equally making sure the food is safe, appealing and delicious.  I couldn't be happier learning the ins and outs of the life as a sous chef and will savor the empiricism of honing my skills with this wonderful company.

Have a great day and never give up!

Mark (Sparky)

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