What better food topic than the premiere of Top Chef for our Foodie Friday Fun? The power came back on in time for the show the other night (yay!) and in addition to some intriguing food there was a great business point made right off the bat. The competition began with far more than the usual 16 cooks and many of those who came to Texas thinking they were on the show were, in fact, fighting for one of those 16 slots. One competitor in particular stood out for all the wrong reasons, and it’s he who provided the business point I’d like to make today.
The competitor in question was a 22-year-old pretty boy who claimed to be a personal chef “to the stars” (nameless, of course) who also wrote a cookbook (it’s not on Amazon which tells you something). He volunteered to cut up a piece of meat as part of the first challenge and butchered the job. In fact, he was so bad that Tom Colicchio sent him home on the spot – he never even fired up a pan. As he was told – this is a basic skill and if you can’t do this, you’re not ready for the competition. Which leads to the point.
Business is not something one learns solely from books or school or TV (or blogs!). Part of what makes us good as businesspeople is experience – making mistakes, learning, practicing – that one can only get over time and from paying one’s dues. That seems to be a forgotten concept in offices as well as in kitchens, apparently. As our very young chef-testant learned, many celebrity chefs are on TV because they paid their dues and possess advanced skills. They’re famous because they’re great and not the other way around.
As Ozersky said in Time this week: “The craft of cooking, as Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio will be the first to tell you, is based on endless hours of unglamorous, repetitive labor: making salad, cooking stock, getting yelled at.” So is business.
Did you see the show? What did you think?