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The Gorilla In The Room

After working in a busy and successful restaurant for many years…how easy is it to move away from the comfort of a daily routine and someone else paying the bills? How difficult is it to make the leap to leave a cush job and build your own eatery?

Ask that question to 10 working Chefs and 4 would say “absolutely “not (and 1 or 2 of those wouldn’t mean it), the remaining 6 Chefs would say when and stick their hand out waiting for the check to make it happen. Given the opportunity, nearly every Chef at one time or another in their career has dreamed of having a restaurant of their own. It’s a day dream every young cook on his way up the ranks have had while peeling onions or breaking down 100 pounds of chicken. Combine this already ingrained desire to live the American dream with the constant media bombardment of celebrity cooking and you have a recipe that will drive nearly every young Chef to accept and seek out a restaurant to call their own.

Once the decision is made and the new restaurant is on it’s way to launching, what’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room a lot of people ignore? Training!

The opening team may be loaded with some talented people with real credentials to their ability to operate a busy restaurant. But a lot of unseasoned restaurateurs will either ignore or just don’t know the huge difference between knowing how to flawlessly perform a piece of music and composing one. I use the music metaphor for a good reason. The composition and orchestration of all the pieces that make up a restaurant takes people who have experienced it and have also had the opportunity to create it. For any new restaurant, be it the first or fifth, your managers may have done great jobs somewhere else, but they must be able to create the systems to operate and train a new staff to perform that way or your sunk. We’ve heard about the “List” in Panic Attack, an earlier episode, and how there first needs to be a list and second, there needs to be a decent attempt to accomplish a good portion of that list before launching. One of the biggest and most important elements on this list…is training.

There’s an adage; “Those who can’t do…teach!” Well that’s not completely true in the restaurant business. Those who can’t do…get the gorilla! Because you’ve got to be able to do both, create and teach, or the business will suffer.


On Anthony Bourdain