It’s Friday so let’s talk about chickens or, more specifically, about roasting chickens. I don’t mean the classification of the bird: I mean how one prepares it. What the heck can we learn about business from roasting a chicken? Lots!
If you’ve ever roasted a chicken, and at some point every cook does, you realize pretty quickly that this is one of those really simple things that is really hard to do well. I think it’s so hard that when the Mrs. and I go to a new restaurant I’ll order the roasted chicken because it’s a fantastic test of the kitchen. The folks who don’t cook among you are asking “how can it be so hard? Throw the thing in a pan, heat the oven, a couple of hours later, eat it!” What makes chicken so hard to cook perfectly is that the breast dries out before the legs are cooked and to keep the breast moist means undercooked legs and thighs if you’re not careful.
Thomas Keller, who is probably the finest American chef around and in the world’s top 10 (maybe top 5), says a roast chicken would be part of his last meal. He preps it simply – just kosher salt to crisp the skin and adds almost nothing during cooking. The trick is in trussing the bird properly – a detail – and in watching it like a hawk – another detail.
Cook’s Illustrated seems as if it has yet another cooking method to “solve” roasted chicken every few months, ranging from rotating the bird during cooking to cutting it into pieces halfway through cooking (cheating in my book!). The simplicity belies the difficulty.
Many aspects of business are the same. The simplest of things – communicating, being honest, accepting responsibility – are among the most difficult for most folks and organizations. Because they’re easy on the surface, many organizations don’t pay a lot of attention to them and don’t set themselves and their businesses up – the trussing! – to have success. Sometimes they go the other route and impose rules and procedures – the seasoning – that are way too complicated and ruin the end products. Finally, they don’t pay attention – watching the time and temp – and some aspect is messed up – the dry breast, the undercooked thigh. Simple on the surface, really hard to do well in reality.
What chickens are in your kitchens? How are they turning out these days? What am I missing?