James Hudock, a culinary veteran who has been Executive Chef of the Gibson Island (Md.) Club, for the past two years, knows all too well that chefs’ lives aren’t easy. They work long hours in a stressful, high-pressure, chaotic atmosphere, and the position can take a toll on their personal lives as well.
But Hudock has found a way to make the chef’s life a little bit easier. He is the visionary behind the development of an app, “Cide Kic,” a digitally based system that manages kitchen workflow.
“We have been paperless in the kitchen for almost six months,” Hudock says of how the app has been applied at Gibson Island, which is located about 20 miles north of Annapolis on the Chesapeake Bay. “And we’re seeing great results.”
Hudock had the vision for the image-based, limited-text app in late 2016 and took a year off to work with the technology company that started building it in late 2017.
Featuring drag-and-drop functionality, Cide Kic is a Cloud-based system designed to automate and streamline all aspects of professional kitchen operations, improve communication, and control labor and the costs of goods in real time.
“The app visualizes the workflow,” says Hudock. “It’s not reinventing it. It is designed for everybody to collaborate in the kitchen. It’s not just for managers.”
With the app, chefs can choose from a database of 10,000-plus ingredients to capture recipes or create new menus in seconds, by organizing recipes in the drag-and-drop system that provides for team collaboration and instant activation at kitchen stations. The database includes information such as preparation instructions, measurements and recipe notes, and the app is pre-loaded with instructions for equipment that kitchen personnel will need for individual recipes.
Cide Kic can also keep track of the actions performed at each kitchen station and create quick production lists from recipes for daily events. The app can also create and share checklists or to-do lists among team members, to ensure accountability.
“We see in real time when someone peels asparagus or cooks chicken,” Hudock says. “We now have traceability and can hone in on food-safety issues.”
To track inventory, Cide Kic activates production and 86 lists from each kitchen station, implements time stamps, and displays ownership of all ingredients, from pre-preparation to production. Its chat function provides for quick, clear, concise communication among all team members in the kitchen.
The app is especially effective, Hudock has found, for communicating with millennial and iGen members of the staff. “These are generations that grew up on technology,” he explains. “I don’t have a pen on me any more. Instead of a clipboard, we use tablets. It’s easier to communicate.”
An event calendar on Cide Kic also helps kitchens manage their banquet and catering schedules. The app, which can be programmed in different languages for worldwide use, offers the capability to attach menus and resources for multiple events as well.
“We were always writing out lists, especially for banquets, and they weren’t really effective,” says Hudock. “Now I spend five to 10 minutes to go over production of a particular banquet. And I can see how much labor is spent on a banquet.”
Hudock can work from home and monitor production with the app. He can alter menus remotely, or cooks can make changes on the fly.
The app also offers cost-saving measures and solutions for pain points in the kitchen, such as labor, training, and turnover. Gibson Island has paid less overtime to employees since the staff started using the app, Hudock says. In addition, food costs are more concise and consistent, and the kitchen does not have as many leftovers.
“A kitchen has to run by systems, not by a chef’s personality,” Hudock says. “If they are disorganized, everybody is disorganized.”