Chef Pepin And Reality TV

Foodie Friday, and this week I read an article written by Jacques Pepin, one of my culinary idols, which serves as the basis for today’s screed.

English: Photograph of chef Jacques Pépin at A...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Writing for The Daily Meal, Chef Pepin took off after the antics commonly seen in “reality TV” kitchens.  You can read this piece by clicking through this link and it’s worth your time.  It seems as if his primary complaints were specifically addressed to “Hell’s Kitchen” and Gordon Ramsay although he never calls the latter out by name.  I think a fair amount of what he says is accurate and, for our purposes, applicable outside of the kitchen to other businesses.

His first issue is that the shows portray the restaurant kitchen in a chaotic and negative light.  Putting aside the fact that there is very little real about reality TV, it’s very difficult to show something on TV which isn’t actually happening.  The fault isn’t of the medium but of the person in charge.  The best managers with whom I’ve worked over the years will raise their voices and verbally kick someone in the butt, but generally the team runs efficiently and with minimal stress.  In every case they’ve been quite good at specifying what it is they expect in general and excellent at making the specific mission clear.  They were also superior teachers, making up for the staff’s lack of knowledge on a topic with guidance and patience.

Chef seems to love quiet in the kitchen, as he states “A real, well-run professional kitchen has dignity and order.”  I find quiet disquieting.  I like to hear the team interacting, bouncing ideas off one another and helping move the team forward.  Dignity always; order is more a controlled chaos.  After all, one needs to break a few eggs in order to create a soufflé.

This is my favorite part of the piece and something I think we all need to keep in mind in the broader business sense:

Julia Child used to say that you have to be happy when you cook for the food to be good, and you also have to be happy in the eating and sharing of the food with family and friends. Otherwise the gastric juices will not do their job and you won’t digest the food properly. I agree with her assessment. It is impossible to enjoy food when you’re angry and tense.

That’s really a key point today.  If you hate your job, whether you’re the lowest level employee or the boss, it will come out in your work.  The disorder of the kitchen or any other workplace is reflected in the final product.  If you’re running a team, maybe a little introspection is the seasoning your product needs.  If you’re a line cook and you’re that miserable, perhaps it’s time for a change.


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Filed under food, Reality checks

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