What is it about restaurant inspired reality television shows that makes them so irresistible? Is it because they deal in food, that essential replenisher and comforter of all? …possibly… Is it because against the fire of the kitchen hotplate and the starched white tablecloths of the restaurant, the true character of a person will be revealed? …maybe… Is it because they give insight into a world primarily hidden from the consuming public’s eye? …likely… Or is it because restaurant kitchens seem to be filled with some of the most charismatic, dynamic and downright entertaining personalities? …definitely…
Apart from the culinary skills which can often be learnt from the chefs that appear on such shows, there are other more fundamental life lessons to be gained. A recent addition to the suite of restaurant reality television programs which I enjoy is ‘Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares’. Sure he can be a bit rough and a bit gruff around the edges, but his love of good food and the consideration he shows to those really willing to make an effort, make his show utterly compelling viewing.
Thinking more on this idea of the broader educational benefits of Gordon Ramsay’s show, I’ve come up with a top ten list of lessons or ideals which are reinforced for me week after week. This is not to say that the list should be limited to ten items, but it always seems such a nice balanced place to stop, unless of course you’re speaking of something in the deadly sins variety where seven is a much better fit.
Lesson Number 1 – Passion: Loving what you do.
There is a huge difference between working in a job to just pass the time and pay the bills, and working at a job because you’re just so damn excited about what it has to offer. Without this fire to ignite your wildest dreams, work becomes a hindrance, a pain which gets in the way of you enjoying your ‘real’ life. In working at something you love, your ‘dream’ life and your ‘real’ life can merge into one wonderful cohesive existence.
Lesson Number 2 – Communication: Keeping people informed.
When the kitchen doesn’t speak to the service area and when the kitchen staff don’t speak to eachother, a restaurant falls apart. Without the maintenance of open communication channels, each of us ends up working in a vacuum and wonders why it is that other people keep messing up so badly. It is important that we share what is on our minds with others and keep people constantly informed of what is required and expected of them, both for our own wellbeing and for our overall success in life.
Lesson Number 3 – Leadership: Leading by example.
You cannot expect people to always know the correct path to follow or the best way to approach a task. Strong direction must come from some external source, and must be reliable, trustworthy and responsible. What is done at the top of a team filters through to those below, and so the leader must shoulder the burden of inspiring and invigorating others with their unwavering committment to the team and to the task at hand.
Lesson Number 4 – Professionalism: Maintaining high standards.
There is no success to come from laziness. It only takes one bad experience to put a customer off and stop them from returning forever more. Professional standards should be not only reflected in yourself, they should also be reflected in the output of your chosen field. To quote the old cliche, nothing is worth doing if it is not done right.
Lesson Number 5 – Attitude: Remember the power of emotion.
The way you approach your work and your life will impact on what you can achieve. Attitude is contagious. If you bring a negative, expecting-to-fail attitude to the table, you can be pretty sure that your results will be in a similar vein. On the other hand, if you expect to win and strive to achieve, your results will no doubt be much more positive. Mistakes are a natural part of life, but it is how we pick ourselves up again which really shows the kind of people that we are.
Lesson Number 6 – Simplicity: The simplest approach is often the best.
It is often thought that the best recipes are filled with a myriad of complex ingredients which are prepared in an overly intricate way to culminate in an amazing culinary experience for the diner. And of course when gourmet complexity is matched by an equally well developed chef, wonderful things can happen. However in breaking down tasks to their purest essentials, we can get at the real crux of things. Does anyone else remember Gordon’s wonderful broccoli soup which had just one ingredient…broccoli.
Lesson Number 7 – Aesthetics: Appearance matters.
It can be hard to summon the right motivation to be a good leader, to maintain a positive outlook and work towards exceptional outcomes if no care is given to the appearance of things. Such things include the way we present ourselves to the world in grooming and clothes, the way we reflect ourselves in the appearance of our house and possessions, and also in the appearance of our finished product whether that is a plate of food or a well written report. As sad as it may be to admit, everything we do in life will be judged in some way, shape or form, so it is vital that the visual message we convey is what we had intended to communicate.
Lesson Number 8 – Pride: Celebrate your achievements.
There is no sense in working at something day in and day out, if no time is taken to reflect on what has been achieved, and more importantly take note of what has been done well. As we spend so much of our time focussed on the negatives, it is only when we recognise the positives that we can truly appreciate how far we have come in our professional field, or how far we have come in life.
Lesson Number 9 – Consideration: Care for others.
Whatever improvements are made to a restaurant, its food, or its staff, it will all be for nothing if no time is given to understand the unique situation of the people involved. This concern which Gordon shows for the people he is trying to help is fundamental to the success of his series. He offers no quick fixes, it is all about long term solutions which work with, not against the restaurant owners and staff. It is a reminder that our life outside work must be where we want it to be, before we can truly commit to our life within the walls of work.
Lesson Number 10 – Respect: Recognising the contribution of others.
Successful restaurants are built around successful teams, and such teams can only exist when the contributions of each of its members are recognised and respected. A leader without respect is no leader at all, and similarly a team that does not respect eachother will achieve only limited results.
As mentioned previously this is not meant to be a prescriptive list, it is merely compiled from watching too many hours of Gordon Ramsay’s television work. So have my reasons for compulsively watching restaurant-related reality television been properly determined? …definitely not…Whatever the real answer may be, there is no doubt in my mind that I will keep watching…and learning.