Stephen Forman

Stephen Forman

Former Executive Chef at KeyBank Center - Delaware North

Early in life, I loved to cook but struggled with the more complex aspects of culinary arts and learning. Once I received mentoring from a very talented and gifted chef, he deposited within me a passion to do better and lead. Now, as an executive chef myself, I find profound satisfaction in mentoring others.

When I was in college, I worked at a resort, which was extremely high end food. Then, I moved to health care, which motivated me to be very conscious about the food that people eat, cooking food that was healthy and tasty. Everything was monitored and consumption measured, it gave me a heavier mindset to focus on my day to day. However, I was missing some of the joy and innovation behind cooking.
My job at Delaware North has given me great freedom to develop mentorship – it's the most impactful job I've had in my career. I’ve been able to implement a lot of good philosophy and develop my sous chefs to become leaders, not just hard-working cooks. I started to mentor them, teaching them how to look at a kitchen from a higher standpoint.
My goal is to create a real kitchen brigade: executive chef to sous chef, sous chef to supervisor, supervisor to hourly employees, so that there is consistent development and everyone can trust each other.
When hiring, I like to ask candidates questions about the way that they think and handle situations. Of course, they have to be able to identify products and know techniques. But what’s your first step when a server messes up an order or when a client is impatient? What’s your relationship with the server? How do you recover from being upset and frustrated? I also want to look at how candidates think about their career. What do you want to get out of that?
When you ask someone to describe themselves in two sentences, people will usually talk about what they do, not about who they are. I like to challenge candidates by asking them to think further. How effective someone is around people is also extremely key. Can they tolerate others’ strengths and weaknesses? How do they compensate for that? We all have strengths and weaknesses, so we have to build one another up and be proud of what we possess. If one person is on a task, and you know that it’s not one of their best quality, don’t just do it for them, but help them through it so that they can develop stronger skills.
As a leader, I make sure to take personal time with my sous chefs to speak with them and mentor them. They themselves take personal time with their supervisors. You have to show your team that there is mobility and upward growth.
Our staff is what makes us successful. I can’t make a thousand plates every day, I need a team that is inspired and devoted.
I’m constantly looking and thinking about how things are paired together. I read journals, or sometimes, I’ll even go back to reading my old culinary textbooks. I also like to visit other ball parks and see what they do.

Disclaimer: Individuals featured in the Inspirational Career Timelines section have been nominated by peers, colleagues and/or other members of the hospitality industry. It is to the best of our knowledge that each individual has demonstrated leadership and acted as a positive role model for others.

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