In his book, Kitchen Confidential – Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, Anthony Bourdain, the chef and host of the Travel Channel show, No Reservations, serves up lots of advice.
Okay, admittedly most of his advice deals with the restaurant business, culinary insights and food preparation.
However, in one of the book’s final chapters, “So You Want to Be a Chef – A Commencement Address,” Bourdain shares fourteen suggestions to prepare for and guide a life in the restaurant business.
I found these suggestions to have varying degrees of applicability to life, regardless of one’s profession and thus decided to share them.
1. Be Fully Committed
“Be ready to lead, follow or get out of the way.”
Mediocrity is equal to achieving a failing grade. If one is going to “phone it in” or simply get by on the strength and commitment of their co-workers, they are guilty of cheating. Cheating themselves and cheating the team.
2. Learn Spanish!
“It will be personally rewarding and professionally invaluable.”
Latinos are the fastest growing population in this country. One needs no more rationale or reasoning to emerge oneself into this diverse and rapidly emerging culture.
Suggestions 3 – 6 take on a special significance for me. As an African-American male having worked in professional environments where I was often-times a minority, I have found that there are certain (negative) stereotypes that some associate with African-Americans. I suspect that these stereotypical viewpoints are the product of limited experience or ignorance. Regardless of the reason, I take pride in exceeding other’s expectations of me and my professional capabilities.
3. Don’t Steal
“In fact, don’t do anything you couldn’t take a polygraph test over.”
4. Always Be On Time
5. Never Make Excuses or Blame Others
6. Never Call In Sick
7. Lazy, Sloppy and Slow are Bad
“Enterprising, crafty and hyperactive are good.”
One’s appearance, level of productivity and output are a direct reflection of the individual.
Again, carrying my own personal baggage, I find it rewarding to exceed expectations and “set the bar” high. It sets a standard of excellence for my peers and, more importantly, those who will eventually follow in my footsteps.
8. Be Prepared To Witness Every Human Folly and Injustice
To my thinking this is simply a confirmation that we are all bound to encounter things that will surprise, and in some cases, frustrate us in the workplace. The true test is how we choose to deal with the situation.
9. Assume The Worst
“About Everybody. But don’t let this poisoned outlook affect your job performance. Let it roll off your back.”
Okay, the last part is often easier said than done, but…Bourdain goes on to say, “Just because someone you work with is a miserable, treacherous, self-serving, capricious asshole shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying his company, working with him or finding him entertaining.”
What more can I say? Really?
10. Try Not To Lie
“Don’t lie about it. You made a mistake. Admit it and move on.”
Again, enough said!
11. Avoid Restaurants Where the Owner’s Name is Over the Door.+
Everything doesn’t have direct applicability, but my take on this is is that one should avoid people who live in a self-absorbed bubble.
12. Think About That Resume
“How will it look…if you’ve never worked in one place longer than six months? If the years ’95 to ’97 are unaccounted for? Under ‘Reasons for Leaving Last Job,’ never give the real reason, unless it’s money or ambition.”
Your resume is a snapshot of who you are, what you have done and what you can offer.
Bourdain encourages people to read cookbooks. I place no parameters on what an individual reads, I just think that people should read…more and with greater frequency.
Books, newspapers, magazines, pamphlets and package labels. Reading enlightens us and broadens our perspectives and world view.
14. Have A Sense of Humor About Things.
“You’ll need it.”
To quote a philosopher (Ludwig Wittgenstein) –
“Humor is not a mood, but a way of looking at the world.”