Most of my days are filled with a series of emotional highs and lows. One moment I can experience the exhilaration associated with executing near perfection, only to be deflated moments later when something does not reach my standards. You don’t have to be a Four Star Chef at a high end restaurant to feel this way. Passion and pride are not exclusive to any single segment of the industry, ethnicity, gender or age; you either feel this way or you don’t.

I beat myself up pretty good when things don’t work out as planned. Sleepless nights followed by stress filled days are common occurrences. Those days are lost forever! What a waste of my most precious resource, time. I know that during these challenging times, many of my fellow Chefs are feeling the same strain. We are all on edge. Uncertain of what tomorrow will bring and how our daily performance will influence our futures, we sweat it out through the end of each month, hoping and praying we hit our numbers and live to cook another month.

A little extra planning, a few more hours committed to the job, and a backup plan for most everything will allow you to better enjoy your down time. You may actually have a little less down time, but it will be higher quality down time and definitely worth considering. Remember that even the worst day will come to an end, try to brush yourself off, learn from it and set yourself up for future success.

Here are a few stress buster suggestions.

* Answer all emails, return all phone calls, and read all change logs  and daily reports before you go home. Ignorance is bliss until you're called on it. Know the answer; that’s what they pay you for.
* Read and know upcoming menus for at least a week in advance; run scenarios; think them through to identify and solve potential challenges.

* Plan your daily 5 minute staff standup meeting to provide the most useful and pertinent information, such as specials, prep lists and anything out of the ordinary.
* If you don’t have people you can trust to purchase, properly receive and store food. You need to oversee it. I can't tell you how many nights I counted steaks, not sheep, running scenario after scenario through my mind. Did we get that? Is it enough? This is not the way to recharge your batteries.

* Know your numbers before they're official. Run a daily food, labor and line item cost through a spread sheet.
* Don’t serve what you shouldn’t. I would rather 86 something than serve inferior or poorly prepared foods. In a preplanned banquet setting, you don’t always have this option. Proper planning and execution are crucial. Don’t be cheap; buy quality ingredients, and have a backup plan. You won't regret it.
* You're not running a test kitchen; cook what you know. Your customers expect a quality product for their hard earned money. Specials and new items must be researched, practiced and perfected before rolling them out.

To all my friends out there, let me know how you feel, add some comments, good, bad or indifferent. With over 10,000 hits on my blog, I have only a comment or two. Let me know your struggles, success's and challenges, its important to talk about them