Being There

Our Foodie Friday Fun this week revolves around a question that keeps getting asked in foodie circles: do you care if the chef is in the kitchen? Many of the top chefs in the country have multiple restaurants, and obviously they can’t be in each kitchen every night. Does it make a difference and, moreover, does it say anything to us about how we run our businesses?

Augustin Théodule Ribot: The cook and the cat

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my mind, it’s immaterial. The chef is responsible for the overall menu and for developing the recipes. Once that’s done, the chef needs to hire and train an Executive Chef or Chef de Cuisine, or Sous Chef to execute those recipes to the chef’s standards each and every time. From there, maintaining the standards (and changing the menu once in a while) is the main thing that should be required.

I think people get more upset when they know the namesake isn’t there in the restaurant business than in others. Surely they don’t think that the fashion designer is walking the factory floor as clothes are made. In music, have you ever heard a really good cover band? For example – The Dark Star Orchestra plays set lists from Grateful Dead shows and on many nights they play them better than The Dead did originally. They are executing the recipes to perfection, much as a well-trained brigade does.

What does this have to do with your business? Let’s use an example I hear a lot in consulting. A big time firm comes in to pitch a potential client with a top-tier crew of executives. Generally, there is no chance those people will be working on your business. They key question, then, is what sort of training and tenure do the people who will be handling your business have? Many Sous or Executive Chefs have been with the “name” chef for years. Many of these consultants are fresh out of school.

You see the same thing with ad agencies and in other sectors. My feeling doesn’t change from the kitchen – the “name” being there isn’t critical if, and only if, the staff has been properly trained and is constantly checked on maintaining standards. You’re not going to eat the chef; you’re going to eat his or her food. Your clients, partners, and customers are expecting your business’ “food” to taste the same no matter who prepares it.

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Filed under Consulting, food

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