I took some time off to watch a few episodes of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and while it entertained me, it gave me a lot to think about in terms of applying the key lessons to the workplace. Kitchen Nightmares is a programme where Gordon goes to a bad restaurant and revamps everything that is bad. It is not as stressful as Hell’s Kitchen, but it sure did wake a lot of people up to do better in the restaurant business.
1) Treat your work as though you run the business
A key problem was that many of the managers in the show are not pulling their weight. They do not treat the restaurant as a business and ran it anyhow they liked. One was giving out free bottles of wine on the house and driving profits down. The other ran a 50% off voucher which also caused the restaurants to make a loss. When they finally woke up and did the job that they were hired to do, things became better.
2) Be professional about the workplace and tidy up
One key disgusting factor common to the different episodes I had seen so far is the dirty kitchen. Out of the four episodes, Gordon shut off three restaurants for at least a day because they were filthy. The ingredients were rotten and moldy and cockroaches were running all over the place, even the seams of the fridge doors. The key to a successful kitchen is the chef’s personal pride in ensuring the place is clean and tidy. I guess this is the same as our work place, in terms of organising our desk or our to do lists. When they are neat and everything is in the correct place, things don’t get rotten and cockroaches don’t come.
3) Know the intricate details of your role
As mentioned in point (1), many managers do not know what they are required to do. The manager is also in charge of making sure the kitchen is in tip top condition and the place is hygienic for good food to be produced. The manager also has no excuses to say that he is not aware of the rotting food. We have to be aware of the finer details of our role, sometimes almost to the point of being obsessive and looking at every corner; especially when people you have under you are not living up to the roles. In this instance, if the chef does not tidy up the place and ensure ingredients are fresh, the manager has to scrutinise the kitchen.
4) Accept responsibility
Gordon’s remarks are always sharp and to the point, showing no mercy to whoever is at the listening end of the tirade. However, many manager’s reaction is that “how am I supposed to know…”, in response to point (3)’s rotting food. The thing is, that is what Gordon, the famous chef, would expect out of a manager and the manager needs to live up to that expectation. The thing is, the manager is supposed to know and hence when criticised, he needs to accept responsibility and implement changes instead of pointing fingers at other people. Only by accepting responsibility can the situation improve as one is making a commitment to change. In one of the episodes, the chef boasts of his 30+ years of experience, even when there are no customers. He refused to sample Gordon’s cooking and claimed he knew how the fish tastes like. By refusing to admit his weakness, he is depriving himself a chance to learn and improve. Eventually, Gordon recommended his dismissal. Imagine being dismissed by a world renowned chef. I wonder how he is going to find another job in a restaurant.
5) Accept help
Sometimes help comes in the form of a really capable person who succeeded in the field you are in. When he gives you some comments and pointers, take it. Ask questions to clarify and then try to internalise it. Don’t act like an arrogant prick when the situation had already taken a time for the worst. This is linked to (4) as when you accept responsibility of your individual failures, you are better able to accept that help is required.
It’s really nice that so many lessons can be derived from watching these sort of videos. We can really learn the skills that are synonymous throughout the various industries.