"Chef!" and why I don't write about cuisine much ~ Sounds + Food 'n' Retail

Cooking is ingredients!… it's timing!… it's cleanliness!… it's… … …restraint!
skitched-20080310-152210.jpgThese are just a few of the tips that Gareth Blackstock, chef at Le Chateaux Anglais, and lead character of the British comedy-series "Chef!," delivers to his staff in a kind and gentle manner… not. Even after re-watching this show 10+ years later, I'm still not sure whether Lenny Henry's portrayal of the angry chef is meant to be a realistic, or rather a satiric look at what goes on in these kitchens. The effect it's had on me, in any case, is one of silent terror when I think of kitchens in 2-star restaurants.

There's no denying that, generally, the world of HoReCa consists of flat hierarchies; there's the boss, either the head-manager and/or the head-chef, followed by some type of administrative class of underlings, and finally those that Gareth Blackstock likes to call
"There's the aristocracy, the upper class, the middle class, working class, dumb animals, waiters, creeping things, head lice, people who eat packet soup, then you.."

If you're thinking of high-tech start-ups in the IT-world, multi-star restaurants are their equivalent in the HoReCa-world. Competitive advantage in technology comes from both products that are differentiated enough from the competition and processes that enable a business to produce these products at a sufficiently low cost and high scale to reap a profit.

In restaurants, this is embodied by the chef, whose training, experience, personality, and, I guess, raw talent, inspire fear in all of those around him, especially the ones that feel his wrath. It is an innovation machine difficult to replicate, comes at a high price and is not for the faint of heart.

Everything else: coming up with a business-plan, talking to investors, setting up the site, buying the materials, hiring the people, getting customers to visit, etc.… seems easy, compared to finding, keeping, and managing a good chef. Because as soon as the chef finds out that he is the one that keeps the ball rolling, he is the vital cog in the machine, he will likely fire you as a boss and replace you with one of those people, generally found under head lice and packet soup.

So there you have it; I don't write about cuisine, same as people generally don't think about starting a business in space-flight. They are both sciences reserved for an elite pioneering-class, one that is fearless and willing to risk the laws of nature in order to succeed.


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