Ten Lessons to Learn From Gordon Ramsay

Title creditWhat 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.

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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.Fruit
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.

Table settingLesson 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.

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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.

17 Comments

  1. PaulS (gingatao)

    I love those shows too. You’re summary of advice is perfect, anyone who could do all those things at once would definitely succeed, unfortunately I always get stuck on number one, Passion, yayayayay and I forget to do all the rest,

  2. Jo

    Hi Tracey,

    Thanks for coming over to say hi……I guess I will have to comment again as my last one was gobbled up by the ether. I watch GR sometimes and boy has he got a gob on him. But he is very passionate and an amazing chef, and you caught that passion in your writing, which was very well done 🙂 If you get the other comment too, just delete whichever.

  3. jan

    That’s a very good list. Substitute a few words and it could apply to excellence in a lot of things. And make a better world all around.

  4. Ricardo

    Tracey, I am addicted to Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. I was sucked into it sometime last year and you hit the themes on the head. The one that always sticks in my mind is the simplicity thing. He will always simplify the menu so the cocks can prepare delicious, fresh meals, quickly. I recall one episode where he went to this beautiful restaurant on the coast of Spain but inside it was a disaster. Dog poop on the floor, stupid dishes like chicken and bananas and chocolate covered prawns (blech!) were running the place under.

    But anyway, you have distilled the primary ingredients of success perfectly and found the parallels to everyday life.

  5. Ricardo

    Ooops I left my wrong contact info in the last comment. This one has the right stuff.

  6. Tracey

    Hi PaulS – I can’t wait to catch up on all Gordon Ramsay’s other shows…here in Australia we are unfortunately more than a little behind on them. I think getting the passion thing sorted is probably really 90% of the battle. If you can find whatever it is that makes you passionate in life, the world truly is yours.

  7. Tracey

    Hi Jo – Likewise thanks for your visit, sorry about your other comment disappearing. I guess I find the hustle and bustle of the kitchen fascinating as it is so far removed from how my own professional life is. Gordon Ramsay is also such an accomplished chef and has such a dynamic personality that his show is must-see viewing for me.

  8. Tracey

    Hi Jan – It’s amazing where we can find inspiration for living. I would never have guessed that I could find so much to interest me in Gordon Ramsay’s show, but I guess we can’t pick and choose where life lessons come from.

  9. Tracey

    Hi Ricardo – As you can tell I am quite the Gordon Ramsay fan. At first I watched a few episodes here and there, but before I knew it I was completely hooked – getting irritated if I missed too much. I think the simplicity message which you emphasised is definitely one of the most important things to take away from the show.

    It’s amazing how many god awful restaurants are built around god awful menus and recipes, and that the owner / chef don’t have the common sense to look at simplifying and perfecting the cooking craft. I guess sometimes ambition overtakes common sense…chocolate covered prawns sound like just about the worst possible food combination.

  10. Jo

    Well I once ate chocolate-covered ants……..they were yummy but prawns would be a very different story!

  11. Narnie

    Gordon Ramsay actually went into my friend’s restaurant (twice!) and was an amazingly charismatic person… she is forever endebted to him, even though she’s still as useless at business sense, haha. I watched him last night totally insult a woman who was saying the food was rubbish in a restaurant *after* he’d helped them change, haha… he was completely dismissive of her.

  12. Ricardo

    The addiciton to the show snuck on me just as it did with you. If there was nothing else on, OK I;d check it out. But now it’s required viewing.

  13. Tracey

    Hi Jo – While I wouldn’t indulge myself, the chocolate and ant combination just seems to make SO much more sense than chocolate and prawns. I wonder what would possess someone to mix a fishy flavour with chocolate-y goodness…seems like two perfectly good meals would be spoiled by trying to bring the two flavours together at the same time.

  14. Tracey

    Hi Narnie – That would be so cool to have a visit from Gordon Ramsay…though I’m sure it wouldn’t be so great if your food wasn’t up to scratch. I think for any creative person regardless of the medium they work in (eg. words, food, brushes and paints), it must be a challenge to also master the business side of things. I love it when someone decides to criticise Gordon’s efforts, I wouldn’t want to go there myself…it always gives me a giggle or two.

  15. Tracey

    Hi Ricardo – I suspect that those addictions that sneak up on us in that way end up being the most long-lasting addictions…I’m not too sure why that is. Maybe there are subliminal messages at work?? If so, bring it on I say.

  16. David

    Excellent work.

    I’ll add a few other ideas that are probably already covered, but…

    “Creation” — cooking and life is all about creating

    “taste and texture”

    “Price” It has to be priced for profit.

    “Speed” Though customers will certainly wait for quality, they won’t wait too long. Make it fast, but

    “Don’t bring it out unless it’s perfect”

    “Make it special — your unique voice”

    “Seek untapped markets — new customers”

    And finally, my favorite, “Come on guys! Spice it up!”

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi David – Thanks for your comments (and your visit). Gosh, Gordon has so many pearls of wisdom it’s such a challenge to capture them all … I do particularly like his, ‘come on!!!’ 🙂

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