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Years ago, a friend offered a statement, maybe even a mantra that has echoed within me ever since. It is one of those over-riding beacons of light that sets a course for how you live and how the world views what you do. This “mantra” is simple and succinct; it is obvious, yet profound. The statement is one that truly separates those who have a fulfilling and successful (how ever you interpret it) life from those who seem to simply “get by” and it is the focus of this article. “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” Think about the importance of this sentence and how it might shape who you are.

Every time I pause to reflect on these words I cannot help but wonder how everything would be different if each of us lived by the significance of this charge. What if every person were to approach any task, any opportunity, any challenge with a commitment to tackling it with an attitude of doing it well? We have all had experiences with poor performance whether it was ours or someone else’. How would everything change if each of us took that extra minute or two to do it correctly? How many times have you been faced with the need to re-do a task because it was not correct or even require someone else to revise their work for the same reason? Another great statement should be printed as a poster in every place of work and classroom: “If you don’t have the time to do it right the first time when will you find the time to do it over?”

In a restaurant, the “re-fire” of a dish that was incorrectly executed will bring a teams cooking rhythm to its knees. That extra minute (or less) to make sure the item is correctly cooked, sauced, plated or garnished will keep everyone happy, build loyalty among a restaurant’s guests and increase pride among those who cook for a living. This commitment to “doing it right” starts way before the steak is placed on the char-grill. Doing it right applies to all of the details building up to, during cooking and at the time of plating and service. Here are a few examples of a “doing it right” mindset:

1. Did the line cook study the menu and become comfortable with the cooking methods used
2. Does the line cook understand why certain techniques are important
3. Did the line cooks get enough sleep before work and have they attended to ensuring that they are healthy and well-nourished before going to work
4. Is their uniform clean and pressed
5. Are they properly groomed before entering the kitchen
6. Did the dishwasher properly clean and sanitize all of the pots, pans and utensils
7. Did the restaurant’s maintenance staff ensure that the ovens and stove tops were in perfect working order and all heat sources properly calibrated
8. Were all received supplies checked for quality, freshness and quantity
9. Did the distributor take the time to ensure that everything shipped met the standards of the operation and their own defined standards of excellence
10. Were the temperatures in storage areas and refrigeration maintained to hold all ingredients at their peak levels of quality
11. Did the line cook make sure that his or her knives were properly maintained and sharp
12. Did the morning prep cooks follow recipes and procedures to provide the best pre-production for those working the evening line
13. Were members of the service staff properly trained and subsequently informed each day about the items on the menu, where the ingredients came from, how the items were prepared and what other items on the menu were complementary
14. Did the housekeeping staff properly vacuum, wash and press linens, dust and polish, clean and sanitize restrooms, wash windows, water plants and level tables to set the stage for evening service
15. Did the wine steward make sure that all wines on the house list were in stock, properly stored and assessed for their complementary nature to the menu
16. Did the maintenance crew take the time to make sure the parking lot was swept, all exterior lights working properly, building exterior washed and painted, signs properly hung and lit and landscaping impeccably maintained
17. Is the host and all of the service staff properly uniformed and groomed
18. Are the physical menus in perfect condition
19. Did an assigned person thoroughly clean the coffee maker to be able to make that perfect cup of coffee
20. Has an assigned person checked all POS printers to make sure there is enough printer paper and ink to last through the shift
21. Has an assigned person determined that the ice machine is working properly
22. Has the ware-washing team organized the dish area with soak bins set for silverware, all racks clean and in place, fresh trash cans ready for service and the wash and rinse temperatures up to code
23. Are the line cooks set with their mise en place a good 15 minutes before service begins
24. Does everyone have enough side towels
25. Has the chef tasted all ingredients and checked temperatures before service to maximize efficiency, safety and flavor
26. The list could go on and on, but all of these steps are critical if the line cook and the service staff is to do their job right

Everyone has an important job to do. Everything impacts on everything else. The job that each of us does on a daily basis is a true reflection of who we are. This job, no matter how large or how small is equally significant. Doing a job well builds pride and makes a clear statement to others that you care. Chef Charlie Trotter, when he stood at the helm of his famous restaurant was viewed by some as obsessive and “over the top” when it came to expectations of himself and others. It would be very easy to pick apart some of the details that appeared important to only him, but in the end two things were important: he was proud of his restaurant, the staff and the product and for 25 years “Trotter’s” was considered to be one of the greatest restaurants in the world. This came from a commitment to doing it right. Did he really need to dust the backs of the pictures hanging on his dining room walls every day; did the bottles on his back bar need to be lined up alphabetically; did service staff really need to measure the distance that all flatware was placed from the edge and ends of the table? The answer to all of these questions is “yes”. Doing it right is not a part-time approach. Doing it right means doing everything right, all of the time, or at least striving for that end result. Good enough – never is.

“If you strive like crazy for perfection—an all-out assault on total perfection—at the very least you will hit a high level of excellence, and then you might be able to sleep at night.”

Charlie Trotter

The question that everyone should ask when it comes to every task is” “could I have done this better”? If you are committed to doing it right then the answer to this question will always be: “it could have been better”. In the end, the most important critique that people receive should be from them. Be your own worst critic and strive to constantly improve.

The student should take the time to never turn in a paper that has failed a serious personal critique. The sign that a entrepreneur places in the window of his or her store should be professionally printed and reflective of the experience or product quality that he or she wants to sell. The general contractor should always take that extra 30 minutes at the end of each day to clean their work area. The farmer selling CSA shares should make sure that every subscriber receives the freshest ingredients each week. The server should ensure that the table his or her guest sits at is level and well appointed. Doing it right applies to everything for everybody, all of the time.

Imagine the impact. “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.”


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Restaurant and Culinary School Consulting, Training and Coaching

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