Something a little different here on Foodie Friday.
We’re going to start with a movie which leads us to food which of course leads us to business. Kind of a prix fixe, three-course menu! The movie even has the name of a pastry in its title: Napoleon Dynamite. I love this film, and in particular I love the sequence in which Napoleon is bemoaning his lack of talent:
Napoleon Dynamite: I don’t even have any good skills.
Pedro: What do you mean?
Napoleon Dynamite: You know, like nunchuku skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills… Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.
Funny thing is, kitchens only want them as well, Napoleon, and it’s becoming rarer for those skills to make appearances as the nature of our food chain changes. Outside of the top restaurants in any given city (and maybe not even there), many basic kitchen skills have…well…disappeared. No, I’m not talking about the ability to chiffonade or brunoise with eye-blinding speed. Those skills won’t ever be lost. It’s more the ability to do things such as recognizing various species of fish, knowing how to tell they are fresh, knowing how to skin and fillet them. Today, cooks order what they want from suppliers and they often come broken down and portioned.
The same can be said about meat. Cooks know cryovac, not the different cuts of meat, much less how they are butchered and how they need to be cooked. Even home cooks can get any ingredient and there are no “seasons” per se, but professionals should understand native ingredients, their seasons and how they are grown. All of the above are skills – basic skills in my book – if you want to run a professional kitchen. Dealing with fresh, unprocessed ingredients recognizing quality, understanding what works with respect to taste and flavor are the underpinnings of the kitchen. Dealing fairly and responsibly with suppliers and running a business are the underpinning of the enterprise.
It’s not much different in the broader business world. Any manager will tell you that recruitment and retention of skilled staff is a major challenge. The pressure to retain promising people sometimes means that they’re being promoted too quickly, which means they don’t have the experience to deal with certain critical situations. Younger staff learn to rely on spell checks and miss contextual spelling errors. They don’t learn the differences between online writing and formal business writing. They have difficulty listening in a world that encourages selfies.
Skills will never go out of style, even in a world where the ingredients come pre-portioned. Those who succeed will be the ones that know how to break down a primal cut – learning grammar and speaking skills in the office sense. That’s my take. Yours?