Last week on NPR, writer and chef Michael Gibney described teamwork in the restaurant business; he called it “the dance.”
Gibney’s head chef, Julian Proujansky, offered the following explanation:
“If everything is humming along smoothly. It’s like, you know, I just stand here, pivot, grab the garnishes, put them on the plates, call the table, you know, look at the tickets. If everything is going smoothly, nobody has to move, almost. You just know your place. When things starts to fall apart, when the two garde manger cooks are crossing each other up, the entremet cook forgot whatever she’s doing and I have to run back there and, like, cook it for her, and I can’t look at the tickets and everybody’s out of place, and it’s like a wheel spinning and then it starts to lose its axis a little bit, like, and then the whole thing just falls apart.”
I love listening to interviews like this because my mind has time to wander. I thought about what it would be like to work in a kitchen, scorching but rewarding, and what type of shoes chefs wear during service. I would want a sneaker with a strong pivot point, and preferably a midsole Zoom Air unit (or maybe a Foamposite).
Although I’ve spent the majority of my professional experience in an office, I can fully appreciate what Proujansky is getting at: teamwork fuels efficiency. And from cooks to editors, the importance of flow in a workplace cannot be overstated. So for brands and publishers, how might creating a content kitchen help improve productivity, and inspire greater work? And what roles do you need to fill to get the job done?
HEAD CHEF (ADMINISTRATOR)
The head chef is instrumental in setting expectations, arranging projects or teams, and defining a clear strategy. This position requires an intimate knowledge of your company’s core products, strengths and weaknesses, and should be involved in conversations about what’s to come. He or she is a stickler for consistency. And sometimes wears funny hats.
SOUS CHEF (TEAM LEADER)
The sous chef is a fully capable head chef, but with, perhaps, less experience or limited access to senior leadership. This person can jump on any project and see it through to completion, including time sensitive material or the curation of collaborative work. As the leader of the editorial process, the sous chef is constantly assigning or approving work, and thinking one step ahead.
LINE COOK (EDITOR)
Your line cooks write on a consistent basis, but they are also responsible for editing the work of their peers—checking for grammatical inconsistencies and tone slippage. They can be relied on to finish off incomplete posts or assist with idea generation to fill out content calendars.
PREP COOK (CONTRIBUTOR)
Prep cooks handle most of the day-to-day content creation. They are constantly buzzing about new ideas and scanning social networks for breaking news or newsjacking opportunities. Most contributions are drafted in a similar fashion and are placed in a queue; a line cook will need to suggest or prepare any last minute feedback before publishing.
Washing content is a tough job. It takes thick-skin and a superhuman level of awareness. Most content, posted to social networks, depending on community size and reach, will attract feedback. Porters keep the conversation clean, moderating for profanity or any other inappropriate reactions. Although being a porter isn’t the most glamorous job, it is easily the most important—preserving the integrity of the brand.
Regardless of how you structure your content team, kitchen or no kitchen, you need the right software to get the job done. With thousands of social media tools at your disposal, deciding on a vendor is a huge decision. But remember, even with the best partner, it might take a few twerks before you learn “the dance.”
[Photo credit: Heath Robbins]