At age eleven, James Passafaro, co-founder of opsi, helped plate a dish for the first time during a special dinner at the Perona Farms restaurant. That night, he worked side by side with culinary giants Ming Tsai, Daniel Boulud, Jean-Louis Palladin, and Robert Irvine. James didn’t know enough about the chefs to be star-struck, but there was something about that night that kindled his desire to be a chef.
“It wasn’t like, wow, this is Jean-Louis, or wow, this is Ming Tsai,” James says. “It was like: wow, these people are having fun. They enjoy this. These are their friends, and like, this environment seems f*#cking cool.”
Today, James is the co-founder of opsi, a workflow app for chefs designed to boost culinary operations and empower kitchen teams. Along the way, he’s attained a few accolades of his own, serving as chef de cuisine at RN47 in San Francisco and Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis.
In the one-hundredth episode of his podcast Sucio Talk, Boricua Chef David Sucio and James discuss the realities and challenges of being a chef, how a chef can best support their team, and how opsi can help along the way.
4 Ways opsi Empowers your Team
Organization is important to achieving peace of mind in your kitchen, but it’s often the first thing to get neglected when things get busy. Even established restaurants can struggle with a lack of coordination when it comes to the location and accessibility of important documents.
In 2015, James took on the role of executive sous chef at RN74 and found the lack of organization frustrating.
“There were just so many people in the kitchen trying to organize stuff,” he says. “There’s this complete disjoint of communication and organization.” Recipes, inventory forms, and prep lists were scattered around the kitchen in binders and clipboards. There was no centralized system.
“I started looking around, seeing if there was any tool that might’ve been there because we all have these cool computers in our pocket. There’s really nothing out there—nothing that’s accessible for the team.”
So James made the tool himself.
By digitizing your recipes and prep lists with opsi, your entire team can have immediate access to important documents. Opsi helps keep your kitchen organized, and spending less time chasing down a piece of paper means more time for you and your team to focus on what really matters.
Whether you’re working garde manger or grill, consistency is the name of the game. But even if your team is on the same page, keeping a dish the same from hour to hour and night to night isn’t a simple matter.
“You show someone how to do something, and they’re on the station for a couple of days, and then they show the next cook how to do it, and the next cook, and the next cook, and it’s like this game of telephone, where it will change over time,” James explains.
Even when everyone has the best of intentions, variation slips in. By the time you realize the dish isn’t the same as the recipe, the task of tracking down the person responsible for the changes is time-consuming at best and impossible at worst.
“Opsi gives you the ability to get access to everything really quickly from any device, so you could get your cooks on it, they would download it, log in, and they have immediate access to all the recipes,” James says. “There’s a large amount of training and resource materials that you have right away.”
Opsi provides consistent access to recipes and prep tasks for your whole team. You can’t be everywhere in your kitchen at once, but opsi can. As James puts it, “You have a phone, you have access to it: the recipe’s there.”
Clean communication is at the heart of opsi. It’s all about “making sure people are on the same page, and, more than anything, the ability to be centered and have a good sense of what’s going on,” James says.
Proper communication creates transparency so that your team knows what’s expected of them. When your team knows what is (and isn’t) their responsibility, they’re better able to stay organized, stay centered, and stay on task.
Opsi has a centralized communication system to keep you and your team on the same page. With the app, your message gets communicated to your team instantly and can be heard loud and clear everywhere from the walk-in to the line.
Support and communication go hand in hand, but the culture of support in culinary circles hasn’t always been reliable. As David points out, “Back in the day, people were afraid to talk to their chefs.”
James thinks the global COVID-19 pandemic is changing things. “The conversation has to be there because there’s just not a way around it anymore. I don’t think it’s fair to put people in those kinds of positions and not make sure there’s a space they can reach out to make sure they have a level of comfort.”
With the app’s communication channel, task lists (which allow you to see your team’s progress in real-time), and digital recipe book, James has put the same passion into the creation of opsi that he used to support his team. Let opsi do the heavy lifting when it comes to organization, consistency, and communication so that you have more bandwidth to provide support for your team.
Chefs and their teams deserve “really good tools that help support them to do a really good job,” James says. “And I think the humanity we need to bring into building technology tools for people like this is really important. We can’t forget who it’s for.”
The Future of Kitchen Operations
Over the past few decades, technology has become increasingly integrated into daily life. In restaurants, Front of House teams have been using POS systems like Toast and online reservations systems such as Tock and OpenTable to improve their workflow and streamline communication.
With opsi, you can leverage the technology you already have to bring your kitchen into the digital age and boost your culinary operations.
Opsi represents a new level in restaurant operations. By prioritizing accessibility, communication, and support, opsi prioritizes chefs and their teams. As James says, it’s about “making sure the teams have the right tools to do the job well.”
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