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Calming the kitchen storm

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May 08, 2018

The new head chef at Brewer’s Table,Geoff Kruck (left), with owners/managers Carmen and Rob Fifield.

The new head chef at the Brewer’s Table Café in Seymour is said to have a quality that is as rare as it is valuable in the hospitality industry. 
And that is a cool head under pressure.
Geoff Kruck, 40, grew up in the coal mining town of Moranbah, 180km west of Mackay in Queensland. 
And while he’s only been working at the popular Station St café for six weeks, he has already made a strong first impression on owners/managers Rob and Carmen Fifield. 
‘‘Geoff brings a calming factor to our kitchen — he’s very precise in the way he talks to people and I haven’t seen him lose his temper yet,’’ Mr Fifield said. 
‘‘I think a leadership role in a chef, that’s something I’ve not witnessed much in the industry, and I think it’s such a good attribute of his,’’ he said.
‘‘We can go from being pretty empty to being completely full front and back in about half an hour, so it can be an enormously stressful place for that rush period. Our staff has to be able work as a team and gel, otherwise it just doesn’t work.’’
Carmen, who runs the lion’s share of the café’s day-to-day operations, said as the business has been growing exponentially in the past year she needed someone to take over the kitchen so that she could devote more time to business development and marketing. 
‘‘It’s been a rollercoaster for Geoff — I don’t think he realised how busy and how much turnover we have,’’ she said. 
‘‘Hospitality is such a crazy industry, it’s so fast-paced. So we’re always trying to look for new ideas that might give us a bit of an edge.’’
And Geoff agreed, saying the hardest part for him was coming into a kitchen that didn’t have an established source of leadership.  
‘‘Obviously Carmen was doing a fantastic job, but she had so many hats on at once, so you can’t give 100 per cent, and it needed a little bit of guidance,’’ he said.  
‘‘I’m not a perfect angel by any means ... but I’ve tried to get behind the team in there and focus on the abilities and strengths most of them have and try to lift them up and make them realise they can do a little bit more in my day to make the job easier for the next person. 
‘‘Ultimately, that’s my focus at the moment. Like any place, you come in and take on what’s already working, but also bring in your own personality and strengths.’’
According to Mr Kruck, who wanted to forge a career in hospitality since he was 14, a key part of his leadership style is the ability to improvise and stay upbeat when things go awry.
‘‘People along the way, my mum especially, have just invested in a positive way in my life,’’ he said. 
‘‘I’ve definitely worked hard all my life — I came from a pretty modest upbringing — but having that experience helps you become a little more compassionate.’’

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