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Young chefs in gastronomy – How could these chefs hold their own as young leaders in professional kitchens?

By: Reading Time: 5 Minutes

To be successful, you need good leaders, especially in an industry as stressful, albeit wonderful, as the restaurant industry. Whether a temp or a qualified professional, both motivation and performance are largely dependent on successful employee management. But what if the bosses are (comparably) young?

KTCHNrebel asked what defines young chefs and their leadership style today, how they made it to their position and what tips they have for up-and-coming chefs.

Young chefs need courage

With two toques, the gourmet restaurant ice Q located at the 3,048 m Gaislachkogl summit in Sölden is one of the most successful restaurants in the Tyrolean Alps. Klaus Holzer has been head chef here since 2019. Holzer always wanted to reach high. “Even during my training, I always had a sense of vision and was interested and involved in many different topics. A good dose of ambition and courage are important. If you’re highly motivated, you can achieve a lot,” says the 28-year-old.

Klaus Holzer - young head chef at the gourmet restaurant ice Q

Image: Rudi Wyhlidal

In his opinion, it is a real challenge to be a chef when you are still young. Here are some important tips he has for young colleagues. “It is important that you have confidence in yourself and have the courage to take the lead. This is certainly not easy at the beginning, but you grow from your challenges.” And it is precisely in this that he sees a good opportunity for developing character and the possibility to make a young start in a variety of positions. “You learn to trust in yourself and your own abilities, and this is what validates you,” the Austrian emphasizes.

The kitchen is a team sport

As fulfilling as the job is, things can get hectic in a kitchen. How do you keep your cool? “I try to stay focused and bring in a sense of calm with my even-tempered nature. It’s important to me to signal to the entire team that we’re all in this together,” Holzer emphasizes. Lack of respect among employees is not an issue. “We are one team. That’s why it’s important to focus on shared successes. When everyone realizes that we have made a difference together, motivation also increases. Mutual appreciation and respectful interaction are essential in the team,” says the young chef.


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Ein Beitrag geteilt von Klaus Holzer (@klaus.holzer_iceqsoelden)

Confidence, experience and fun as a career basis for young chefs

His tip for young chefs. “Particularly after training, I advise gaining as much experience as possible and drawing a lot from it. It is important to be ambitious, set personal goals and have fun at work. When you are open to feedback and ideas from within your own ranks, something valuable emerges.”

Childhood dream to be a chef

Another young chef who works in a leadership position is Max Natmessnig. He has been head chef at Alois – Dallmayr Fine Dining Restaurant in Munich since October 2022. As a child, he wanted to become either a chef or a veterinarian – two rather different professions indeed. “By the age of 10, I had already subscribed to cooking magazines from France and practically devoured them,” says the now 34-year-old. When he was a child, his family dined out often and very well. His interest and passion for culinary arts grew steadily and the foundation stone was laid. “My focus has always been on France, both in terms of cuisine and language,” stresses the native of Lower Austria. Soon it became clear that he wanted to work as a chef. His first professional stop in fine dining was L’Auberge de L’Ile Barbe by Jean-Christophe Ansanay-Alex.


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Ein Beitrag geteilt von Munich Foodstories (@muc.foodstories)

Successful kitchen management and collaboration: no question of age

Natmessnig describes his management style as moderate. “I’m a team player – in a team you’re always stronger than a lone wolf. In general, cooperation between the service and kitchen staff and a team spirit is immensely important. But of course there has to be a boss who provides direction,” says the chef. “I see working in the kitchen as a team sport. Mutual respect, trust and support form the basis for good teamwork, and age doesn’t matter in that regard,” says Natmessnig. “When all employees are going in the same direction and put their hearts into it, working together is fun. A harmonious tone and mutual understanding form an important foundation for achieving the defined goals – for each individual as well as the entire team.”

The experiences that the young chef gained in his previous stations naturally shaped his way of working. He adds, “I was at the stove in Austria, France, the Netherlands and the USA with Daniel Humm as sous chef at The Nomad in New York, among others.” He would certainly not be in the position he is in today if not for all the chefs who helped shape his view of top gastronomy and if he had not followed the advice he now gives to young chefs. “You have to love cook. And you can achieve a lot with hard work and perseverance!”

High expectations with a fun approach to work

Generally speaking, young chefs are a rarity, but they do exist around the world. “I always strive to learn and improve,” says Menache Laubreaux, who worked as a chef at Omri Cohen’s West Side Restaurant at the Royal Beach Hotel, Tel Aviv, prior to his current employment. Today, at just 30 years old, he is the head chef at Sereia, a resaturant in The David Kempinski Tel Aviv. “I knew that working as a chef at the Kempinski would be a job with many challenges,” says the Marseille native.

As a leader, the young chef considers himself strict. “I tend to put pressure on my chefs and have high expectations. I try to emphasize teamwork and always remind my chefs that we are a team, if not a family. You never cook alone,” says the determined chef. “A chef should work in a lively work environment where they enjoy their work and feel comfortable, one where chefs have each other’s backs and are there for each other without compromising their professionalism.”

Lack of experience vs. determination and commitment

Everyone who dines at Seraia should have the best experience possible. “That’s why I don’t make any concessions when it comes to the professionalism of my chefs – I won’t tolerate mediocrity. I also enjoy showing my chefs that they are capable of much more than they think,” says Menache Laubreaux. You have to show respect in order to get it. “I appreciate all my chefs, regardless of their age. But I try to be as professional as possible and set a good example,” says the young Frenchman. “As a young chef, I have to work twice as hard. I am aware that I have less experience than older chefs, but that only motivates me to work even harder to improve myself and my team.”


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Ein Beitrag geteilt von Menache Laubreaux (@menache93)

His tip for young chefs: “A chef should always try to imagine that the restaurant where they work is their own, and give it their all. Being a chef is a difficult but very satisfying profession. You make a lot of sacrifices, work under pressure, make mistakes and have disagreements. You have to enjoy what you do. Be careful not to make the same mistakes over and over again and be as professional as possible. Perfection should always be the top priority!”

Development potential recognized

The fact that Rachel Cooper has potential did not go unnoticed by her current and former boss Markus Glocker. “Working with Markus Glocker in Bâtard was my first job in New York. As my boss, he told me he especially valued my development potential in the kitchen,” Rachel Cooper said. And so it was no great surprise that the top Austrian chef, with whom she had previously worked for five years at the Michelin-starred Bâtard in the Big Apple, brought her onto the inaugural team when he developed the concept for his own restaurant, Koloman, in 2022.

Challenge for young chefs: Experience

Today, the 29-year-old is the head sous chef at Markus Glocker’s restaurant Koloman in New York. As head sous chef, Rachel Cooper makes sure things are done right. “And I make sure to be respectful to the kitchen staff at the same time, to make sure they feel comfortable and supported. This allows everything in the kitchen to run on time and with precision.” With her leadership skills, which she uses in the kitchen as a sous chef, her boss can rest assured that the staff is in good hands. Experience is always a challenge for a young leader. “But you can only achieve this with time,” stresses the young sous chef.

Rachel Cooper - head sous chef at Markus Glocker's restaurant Koloman

Image: Paul Winch Furness

Her tip for young colleagues: “Work hard, show commitment. Always be open to learning new skills and ways of thinking to advance your career. Even today, hard work in the kitchen doesn’t go unnoticed. And if you want to continue to rise in a top restaurant, being lazy is not an option.”


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