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A restaurant’s chess game

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By Scott Mechura EBS Food Columnist

After reading an article from a chef in which he likened a restaurant’s business and staff to a game of chess, it got me thinking: Who would the chess pieces be? Since not all restaurant owners are in the game day to day, for simplicity sake, I’ll omit them from this article.

King – Executive chef: Despite the piece’s name, the king is not gender specific on the restaurant board. Much like the king sitting in the back and center of the chessboard where everything is in his vision, the chef is at the center of all kitchen activity. At times, the other pieces move around the king. Diligent in their roles, other pieces follow the grand plan. Take down the king, and it’s a devastating blow.

Queen – Restaurant manager: Much like the king, gender has no reference to the queen in this case. The queen is ostensibly able to move anywhere with ease and can be there in a moment’s notice. The restaurant manager covers more ground in a given evening than perhaps any other player. Always putting out fires and hustling to the aid of their team, they are invaluable. The game is not over if the queen is taken, but the other pieces may very well feel it is.

Bishop – Sous chef: The sous chef, like the bishop, possesses a move similar to the king, but not all of them. Bishops can move great distances, but are limited in their overall mobility. The skill set of the sous chef should be about 85 percent of the chef’s – they’ve not yet reached the platform of king. Many will reach this pinnacle, eventually, while many others will not.

Castle – Cooks, bartenders, and servers: Moving side-to-side or forward and backward, castles have great value on the board. Cooks are able to move to other stations when necessary, filling critical gaps. If the situation requires, servers and bartenders have the ability to take over another’s section or station with little adjustment. These men and women are the valuable lieutenants of the operation.

Knight – Sommelier: The knight has a quirky, yet oddly useful ability to move in a somewhat unorthodox pattern. You sometimes need advanced geometry skills to see all of their potential angles. The sommelier has a unique skill set: immensely knowledgeable about all things wine, yet can be a dapper Maître d’, or skilled, charismatic waiter at the flick of a wrist.

Pawns – Dishwashers and bussers:
The pawn is out front, and can at face value appear expendable or even in the way, at times. I can assure you they are neither. They may appear to have little strength on the surface, but like pawns, a busser or dishwasher can get upgraded, or be promoted, as the case may be, to a waiter or a cook at any time. More importantly, they provide a basic but absolutely fundamental role in the overall board, or restaurant. Do not underestimate their influence, usefulness, or potential.

So now, this formidable board of restaurant pieces needs an opposing team. Bon appétit!

Scott Mechura has spent a life in the hospitality industry. He is a former certified beer judge and currently the Executive Chef at Buck’s T-4 Lodge in Big Sky.

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