Sunday, May 11, 2008

Top Chef Leadership

I'm becoming addicted to Bravo Network's "Top Chef" show. OK, so I'm generally addicted to cooking shows, but have, heretofore, confined my addiction to the Food Network.

I feel the role of a chef is a melding of cooking and leadership. Top Chef seems to focus more on the cooking aspect, and the extent to which folks step up in the delivery of good food. I think this misses a large part of the role of a chef. It's not enough to be able to deliver high quality food. You have to be adept at inspiring the other cooks in your kitchen to deliver.

Nikki, one of the chefs who was eliminated recently, was canned mostly because the menu was Italian, and she didn't exert leadership in driving the menu; her forte' is Italian food. So her inability to exert leadership was pivotal for her. One of the guys who escaped elimination focused on one dish - vs. another who went to the mat for the team in doing almost everything else.

When the elimination was announced, other chefs shook their heads. They knew that the one-dish guy should have been the one to go...

An ex-colleague of mine regales me of similar stories from her company. Promotions that make mouths gape, people surviving layoffs when more capable people are released. She sees some of the same aspects from "Top Chef" in that company. One-dish wonders survive because they play the game better than others. I sometimes wonder why "Top Chef" doesn't ask the other cooks directly about who should be eliminated.I guess that's show business.

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