Focusing On The Protein

It’s Foodie Friday, and since last night was the finale of Top Chef, I thought we might learn a little something about both food and business from the program. Yes, I know I focused on a learning from that show a few weeks back, but not only won’t it be on for another nine months or so (sparing you my fanboy posts), but the thing on which I want to focus was done by both cheftestants, just as the business point occurs in many enterprises.

As part of the final challenge, each chef cooked a meat protein – one cooked rack of lamb; the other cooked duck breast. The responses from the judges in both cases were the same. The flavors were fantastic, the dishes were innovative and complete but the proteins were undercooked. The lamb was nearly raw in the center on most plates, and the duck breast was nicely cooked on the skin side but the other side was underdone as well. It seemed as if the chefs were so focused on the complete dish – the sauces and accompaniments – that they forgot to pay attention to the essential part of the operation – the protein that is the focus of the dish.

We see the same thing in business all the time. A side project detracts from the main business. Resources which are already spread too thin can’t focus on serving customers the basic product because they’re deployed on something that isn’t driving profits at the expense of something that is. We can’t forget to make sure the focus of our business is perfectly served because no matter how nicely everything that surrounds that focal point is offered, those things can’t compensate for a disaster in the main business.

You might think it can’t happen in your business: you’re too experienced and very good at what you do.  So were these chefs – one doesn’t get to the Top Chef finale unless you’re quite good (and these two actually topped two other cooks who are current James Beard Award nominees). Many restaurant critics will tell you that on their initial visit they like to order something very simple – roast chicken, for example – to make sure the kitchen is paying attention to the basics.  Are you?

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