I eat like a six-year-old. My taste buds possess the sophistication of a seven-year-old. I don’t care for seafood, Mexican, Indian curry, Cajun, or Thai. My idea of fine cuisine is a sixteen-ounce filet mignon with broccoli on the side.
I had started Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential once, stopped, then started again. I just didn’t care for it.
The guy was certainly a storyteller. I suppose if you’re a chef, love fine cuisine, or work in the restaurant industry, then I can understand your interest in the author and his book.
Is Restaurant Ownership for Everyone?
Bourdain got it right on restaurant ownership.
To want to own a restaurant can be a strange and terrible affliction. Why would anyone who has worked hard, saved money, often been successful in other fields, want to pump their hard-earned cash down a hole that statistically, at least, will almost surely prove dry?Anthony Bourdain
The restaurant industry requires significant fixed costs where it’s reliant on a transient, unstable, and a lowly-paid workforce.
According to Bourdain, the chances of ever seeing a return on your investment are just 1 in 5.
In spite of these odds and the detriments of the industry, Bourdain says most investors jump head first into the industry because of ego or because friends urge them on.
Elevating My Restuarant IQ
I have a better understanding of the roles in the restaurant industry after reading this book. I highly doubt you’ll find these people at your local McDonald’s.
Runner – Bourdain considers them the chef’s Imperial Guard. Dedication, speed, and the ability to tell what’s going on are much-needed skills for the runner whose primary job is to shuttle food, in the proper order, out of the kitchen, and to the customer.
Night Porter – They clean the restaurant, take out the garbage, clean and scrub the insides of ovens, toss out the dead mice (ugh), kill the dying ones (super ugh), and hose down the kitchen. Owners at small restaurants generally wear the night porter hat.
Bartender – I do not like the taste of alcohol. Remember the sophistication of my picky palate? Accordingly, I learned a few things about these don’t-call-them-priests. I learned that bartenders could collude with other staff as they control their registers. Bourdain heard that a bartender brought in his own register, ringing a third of the drinks on that one and carrying the whole thing home that night. But he adds not all bartenders are thieves. That’s reassuring.
Financial Professionals, Take Note
I liked the chapter entitled A Commencement Address. There, he gives chefs 14 pieces of advice. Here are my favorite nuggets from that list:
- Be fully committed. Be single-minded in your determination to achieve victory at all costs. Everyone, that applies in our profession too.
- Learn Spanish. I took 12 hours of a foreign language while getting my first degree. If I could do it over again, I’d be fluent in Spanish. If you are a young financial professional, seriously consider this advice.
- Don’t steal. Why would I include this? Do a Google search on CFOs who steal. Above all else, protect your heart.
- Always be on time. Dan Sullivan teaches being on time means being 15 minutes early. I agree.
- Never make excuses or blame others. Bill Dickinson is one of the best CEOs I’ve ever been blessed to serve. This is one of his three core values. He doesn’t talk the talk, he lives it. This could/should be a core value in every business.
- Never call in sick. I once missed three days of work in succession in the 1990s. My employer was understanding as I had a bout of food poisoning where I lost 10 pounds in one week. I don’t think I’ve ever missed work time since then. If you call in sick a lot, perhaps you hate your work.
- Lazy, sloppy, and slow are bad. I think that’s self-explanatory.
- Try not to lie. Try? Are you serious, Anthony? How about “Never lie?”
- Read! I did not add the exclamation point, Bourdain did. That goes for us too. If we want to grow and move upward, we have to read.
- Have a sense of humor. Yep, I need this advice daily.
I’ve never regretted the unexpected left turn that dropped me in the restaurant business. And I’ve long believed that good food, good eating is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime ‘associates’, food, for me, has always been an adventure.
Bourdain, Anthony. Kitchen Confidential (p. 6). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.