Rwanda: I See You Tipping the Good-Looking Waiter, What About the One Burning in the Kitchen?

18 September 2023

I notice you, gracefully leaving a tip for the charming waiter or waitress who served your meal with a smile. But as you extend your gratitude to those in the spotlight, let's shift our focus to the unseen heroes, the ones who labor tirelessly behind the kitchen doors, often in the sweltering heat, making your experience exceptional.

Have you ever stopped to think about the hands that prepared your exquisite meal, the ones unseen but responsible for its deliciousness? What if I told you that behind every mouthwatering dish, there's a team of unsung heroes working tirelessly? Have you ever felt the heat and pressure of a bustling kitchen, where passionate chefs craft culinary wonders? Could it be that the true essence of your dining experience lies in the unseen hands and hearts behind the kitchen doors?

Behind the scene guys, rarely noticed, yet so important.

In the bustling world of restaurants, there's a spotlight that often shines brightest on the front lines - the servers, the hosts, and the bartenders. They greet us with warm smiles, take our orders, and ensure our dining experience is enjoyable. These front-of-house staff members are undoubtedly important, but there's an equally critical team working diligently behind the scenes, out of our sight yet crucial to the magic of dining out - the kitchen staff. The heart and soul of any restaurant reside in its kitchen, where the culinary artists and unsung heroes create the dishes that leave us craving for more. Yet, more often than not, the accolades and tips flow to the wait staff while the kitchen team's contributions remain in the shadows. It's high time we redirect our focus and acknowledge the vital role played by those who toil tirelessly in the heat of the kitchen. Chefs, sous chefs, line cooks, and dishwashers form the backbone of a restaurant's kitchen staff. They work long hours, often in high-pressure environments, to ensure that every dish meets the highest standards of taste and presentation.

Precision and artistry

Cooking is both science and art. It requires precision, creativity, and a deep understanding of ingredients. Each plate sent out is a reflection of passion and hard work .The kitchen staff's day begins long before the doors open to the public. They prep ingredients, coordinate with suppliers, and meticulously plan the day's menu. Once service begins, it's a whirlwind of activity, with orders pouring in, and the pressure to deliver consistently high-quality food is relentless. The heat from the kitchen, the constant multitasking, and the need for split-second decisions can be overwhelming. Yet, these professionals thrive under pressure, ensuring that every plate that leaves the kitchen is a work of art. Apart from the physical demands, kitchen staff face many unseen challenges. Irregular hours, late shifts, and missing out on special occasions with their loved ones are part and parcel of their commitment to delivering memorable dining experiences for the rest of us. While monetary tips primarily go to the wait staff, it's crucial that we recognize and appreciate the kitchen team's hard work. Expressing gratitude to them can be as simple as sending compliments to the chef, leaving a note of appreciation, or speaking with the manager about the excellent food.

Leadership and life: Are we tipping gratitude unfairly?

Now, consider how this story resonates with life beyond the restaurant. Just as we sometimes focus on the person in front of us while ignoring the countless individuals supporting them, this is a broader metaphor for life. Many unsung heroes tirelessly work behind the scenes, often without recognition.

Leadership beyond the spotlight:

Just as we often focus on the charming waiter or waitress and overlook the dedicated kitchen staff, a similar pattern can be observed in the way leadership is often celebrated and recognized. The spotlight tends to shine brightly on "big men" in leadership positions - the presidents, prime ministers, and other high-ranking officials who dominate headlines and history books. Their names and faces become synonymous with the nation's progress or challenges, while the contributions of countless others working behind the scenes often go unnoticed. What about those soldiers who died in unidentified graves while fighting for their countries and did not make it to the pages of history? What about men and women who provided food to the soldiers to continue the fight for liberation? What about grassroots leaders solving complex challenges? Not appreciating them is a good way to demotivate them and make them feel excluded from whatever we are doing. This problem extends to football, where top goal scorers are given expensive awards and Ballon d'Ors as if what they scored was not an assist from defenders.

A shift in perspective

Just as we are encouraged to recognize and appreciate the kitchen staff in restaurants, we should also shift our perspective in the realm of leadership and development. True progress in Africa, as in any part of the world, is not solely the result of top-down leadership but is also driven by the dedication and hard work of those at the grassroots level. It is time for Africa to strike a balance between praising big men and celebrating big ideas and institutions. While acknowledging the roles of prominent leaders, we should also shine a spotlight on the initiatives and organizations that are working diligently to address issues such as healthcare, education, poverty alleviation, and environmental sustainability. Inclusive leadership is about recognizing and valuing the contributions of all individuals, regardless of their position in society. It means giving credit to the unsung heroes who often go unnoticed but whose efforts are instrumental in driving positive change.

A new narrative

As we move forward, let us strive to reshape the narrative of African leadership. Let us celebrate not just the big men but also the big ideas, the institutions, and the grassroots leaders who are working tirelessly to create a brighter future for the continent. Africa's history should be written not only by a select few but by the collective efforts of its diverse and dynamic population. In the end, just as we tip the kitchen staff for their contributions to our dining experience, let us tip our hats to the unsung heroes of Africa - those who are working diligently behind the scenes to build a brighter and more prosperous future for the entire continent. Their contributions are the true ingredients of lasting progress.

Charline Prazen Chikomo is the Founder and CEO of DUCE Leadership Initiative,

Grassroots and Executive Leadership coach and Mandela Centennial Scholar.

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