Now that we know that experience in government is not a pre-requisite for high level positions in the U.S., I started to wonder what it might be like if chefs were in charge of Congress and the White House. Hey – why not!
With an understanding that “learning on the job” is acceptable, it is possible to fall back on what certain professions might bring to the table of governing. How interesting might it be to transfer the skills of the kitchen and restaurant to the Capitol and the Oval Office?
Anyway, this is what it might look like, what special skills and training a chef brings to the table:
 QUALITY FIRST
Chefs are committed to doing things right. After all – everything that a chef does carries his or her signature. To this end, it would be unheard of for a chef to present anything as representative of his or her work without doting all the “I’s” and crossing all the “t’s”.
 COST CONTROL IS ESSENTIAL
Chefs live the need to make sure that waste is kept to a minimum, purchases are made after assessing value and price, and unnecessary expenses are driven out of the business formula. To a chef – a balanced budget is a given.
 CUSTOMER SERVICE IS A CORE PRINCIPLE
Chefs are fully aware that the guest who spends money in a restaurant is truly the person in charge. Even though a chef may design a menu, build recipes, help to develop the service formula, and determine selling prices, he or she is aware that it must all be done in response to guest needs and desires. The chef has a job because the guest voted with their confidence as a consumer.
 NEVER ATTEMPT ANYTHING WITHOUT A PLAN
When a chef is assigned the responsibility for the execution of a fresh restaurant concept, new menu, or special event, he or she would never undertake the project without thorough and complete planning. Every detail becomes important including a review of “what if” scenarios that could thwart the success of such an assignment.
 PROFESSIONALISM IS THE RULE
The well-trained chef is a visible representation of not only the business where he or she works, but also the industry as a whole. It is ingrained in a chef’s make-up to look and act as a professional in all circumstances.
Every respectable chef has worked his or her way up through the kitchen and as a result fully understands the importance of every position, every individual, and the need to work as a collaborative team. Just like an effective sporting team’s coach, the chef knows that this teamwork is the key to success.
 BREAKING BREAD IS A SOLUTION
One of the most significant attractions to a career in food is the understanding of just how important food is to anyone and everyone. The chef knows that “breaking bread,” continues to be one of the most effective ways to celebrate, solve problems, build understanding, and minimize conflict. To this end, eating and dinning remains one of the most effective negotiating tools available.
 RESPECT THE SUPPLIER
Chefs are caretakers of great ingredients. With this in mind, chefs understand that it is extremely important to build solid relationships with those who provide the ingredients for success. Understanding and respecting the supplier leads to the same in return.
 YOU ARE ONLY AS STRONG AS YOUR WEAKEST LINK
Again, having worked through all positions in the kitchen, the chef comes to realize that the strength of the team stems from the understanding and support of the weakest link. The chef is thus responsible to lift that person up, invest in training, and determine the best way to complement weaknesses and support strengths.
 COMMUNICATION IS THE BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS
Execution of a great meal requires that all stakeholders are fully aware of the plan and the product or service. Chefs must become great communicators, relaying valuable information to cooks, dishwashers, vendors, producers, service staff, management, and the guest. Tools such as SOP’s, recipes, product specifications, effective menu wordsmithing, and training are, by far, the most important ones in a chef’s kit.
Chefs are never totally satisfied with their work or the work of others. As a result, chefs are always anxious to improve on what has been done in the past. “Kaisen” or constantly improving, is the rule of thumb in the kitchen.
 YOU’RE ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR LAST MEAL
Although chefs may relish the accolades that come from happy guests or supportive management, they come to realize that all of that good will could dissipate in a second if the next meal or task does not meet expectations. This is why chefs always sweat the details.
 BE THERE
Chefs are the poster children of work ethic. They know that since every task that is accomplished by the kitchen carries their signature it is important that they oversee (directly or indirectly through great training) everything that happens – from the cleanliness of the operation to the beauty and flavor of every dish that leaves the kitchen.
 IF YOU DON’T HAVE TIME TO DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME, WHEN WILL
YOU FIND THE TIME TO DO IT OVER
Chefs are always hesitant to rely on short cuts. Having experienced the chaos and
disaster that results from moving too fast, or failing to follow exacting procedures
and methods, the chef is a strong advocate for taking the right amount of time and
doing it right the first time.
 MISE EN PLACE
Kitchens function on the premise that everything has a place and everything is in its place. This follows with everything that is done should have a reason and that reason should prevail.
 BUILD YOUR NETWORK
Relationship building is a key to a chef’s long-term success. Creating a network of highly competent experts to serve as advisors and content experts who are willing to critique the chef will allow a him or her to find answers to problems and solutions that might otherwise become insurmountable.
 TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN
Finally, chefs do invest a great deal of time and effort in selecting the right team members in the kitchen, but also realize that it is never wise to simply lean on a person’s past experience. Effective chefs invest heavily in on-going, well-developed, formal and informal training that educates, inspires, and builds confidence. The results are always positive at many levels.
Every one of these skills and aptitudes could easily transfer to leadership and management in government. Although possibly far-fetched to view a chef in these roles, it would make sense to seek these skills from anyone who intends to serve our country, lead others, and manage the highly complex set of world challenges that we face.
Food for thought.
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC
Restaurant Consulting and Training
**PHOTO (using Prisma app for special effects): Chefs Walter Zuromski, George Higgins, Joe Faria, Charles Carroll, Paul Sorgule, Anton Flory, and Michael Beriau.
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