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For those seeking to define their place in the world-whether it be professionally or personally, the one piece to the puzzle that allows this to truly happen is the mentor relationships that a person takes part in. The mentor is a person who has the attributes that most closely align with defined success, has the experience of years that allows him or her to speak and act with authority, the passion and drive that keeps him or her in the forefront, the honesty to tell it like it is and the compassion to keep a mentee’s best interest at heart.

Webster’s simply defines “mentor” as:

MENTOR: “someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person”

Although this may be the literal definition it fails to focus on the scope of the relationship that exists between mentor and mentee and unfortunately assumes that the person receiving mentoring would be younger than the person providing the guidance. Mentor relationships can and do exist without age barriers and typically go way beyond – “giving help or advice”.

I have found that connecting with the right mentor is the single most important step in the progression of a person’s career and in many cases: life. On the other side, being a mentor for another person is by far one of the most important and rewarding pursuits in a person’s life.

True mentors share some common traits:

1. They have always worked hard at whatever they chose to pursue.
2. They never feel like they know it all. To them, every day is another opportunity to learn.
3. They are very humble about their success.
4. They are true to their beliefs and never waiver from those things that they consider their “stakes in the ground”.
5. They have high expectations of themselves and of others.
6. They are not afraid to take calculated risks.
7. They are honest beyond reproach.
8. They never criticize, but they are always willing to critique. Critique infers that once they point out something that is done incorrectly they take the time to demonstrate how to do it properly.
9. They are, as a result of #8, natural teachers.
10. They always see the good and the potential in others and focus on that.
11. They are willing to openly share what they know providing others take what is offered to heart.
12. They will always push others to reach their potential and rise up from mistakes and what others would consider failure.
13. They take more satisfaction in the success of others than they do in their own.
14. They are their own worst critics.
15. They realize that their ability to help others depends on their commitment to the aforementioned 14 points.

When cooks and chefs of any age are attempting to map out their future it behooves them to identify the type of person they would like to emulate. Seek out that mentor who exhibits those traits mentioned and has the ability to help individuals build a similar profile. Chances are, those same mentors have a reputation that precedes them and thus the ability to open doors for those individuals who are willing to dedicate themselves to being the type of person others would look up to.

Having found and followed a mentor, individuals are most always able to reach a level of success in work and in life. When success, however you define it, happens-it is time to change your role from mentee to mentor and offer the same opportunities to others. This is the cycle of success that is a path that many have chosen to follow.

The picture in this article is of Master Chef Anton Flory who was my mentor for more than 25 years. When he passed away a few years ago he left a legacy of helping other cooks and chefs reach their potential and in turn has built a cadre of mentors who are willing and able to pass on his traits that so many others admired.


Harvest America Ventures, LLC
Restaurant and Culinary School Consulting, Training and Coaching