What a Chef taught me about studio management

What a Lisbon Chef taught me about studio management

One of the benefits of traveling is that it gives you a completely new perspective on everyday things.

Everyday things such as sitting at the bar of an open kitchen and watching a chef work.

We often do it at our favourite Melbourne restaurants like Tipo 00, Osteria Ilaria and Annam. We get a great deal of added joy from watching food being prepared.

And so it natural for us to sit at the bar at Restaurant Tapisco in Principe Real (just up a short 70 step stairway from where we were staying).

We sat opposite sous-chef Joanna Duarte as she guided the kitchen to prepare some quintessential Portuguese fare.

Watching her work struck me with the thought ‘she is just like a design studio owner’. She has a team of four in the kitchen and another three front of house. Just the size of many of the studios I work with.

Her job was to prepare the creative direction for the restaurant and then guide everyone to deliver the goodies. The way she worked was a lesson for design studio owners.


One of the other chefs was obviously very new and quite nervous – wouldn’t you be if you had all your clients lined up at a bench watching you work and commenting on your every move?

The Chef was firm in her directions to him but also took him aside to tell him what he had done wrong and how to do it better. It was done quietly and discretely. No Ramsay shouting matches. You could see the fear in the assistant chef’s eyes and the relief (and joy) when he was shown the right way to do it.

The result of her approach was a high volume of quality, creative food delivered to customers in just the right amount of time. As a customer she received a premium price from us with a good sized tip.

Take away

Quiet, calm mentoring of staff, even under pressure will lead to better creative outcomes and a premium for your services.


Then there was the discussion with our neighboring bar diner a Brazilian diplomat who had some interesting views on Trump. But’s that’s another story.

Got a question? Want to share your point of view? Please feel free to email me.

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