My good friend Jeff Gordinier, Food and Drinks Editor at Esquire Magazine, recently joined me on an episode of Let’s Fix Work. We discussed his new book about the most famous and most celebrated chef in the world, René Redzepi. The book, Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping, and Risking It All with the Greatest Chef in the World. Our conversation, much like his book, was about leadership, taking risks, and saying “Yes” to experiences that can change your life.
The topics of conversation around leadership and creating connected workplaces were especially intriguing and poignant, and not just for leaders in kitchens or hospitality management, but for leaders across all industries.
You may think that leadership in the kitchen looks different than say, leadership in a boardroom, but you’d be surprised how modeling leadership from within a restaurant kitchen can be modeled in other businesses.
For example, René Redzepi (the chef Jeff highlights in his latest book) has a way of pushing people by creating a sense of mission in the workplace. It’s a sense of elevated mission and focus. Noma, his restaurant, is a global kitchen.
The staff have been charged with the task of creating a new dish while doing their normal work at Noma, which is substantial. They have also had to create something that reflects their own culture, their own spirit, and their mindset where they all put their dishes out and they make enough that everyone in the kitchen can eat.
This isn’t just a way to have a kitchen staff grow and share their cooking expertise, but a fascinating example of leadership in the workplace. By creating this atmosphere, this sense of community and mission, René has been able to lead in such a way that keeps everyone more energized and fired up about work. His mode of leadership is one that many leaders in offices of all different kinds of fields could learn from and model.
Another lesson leaders can take from a professional kitchen, and from René specifically, is letting go of your ego. René has transformed the kitchen culture at Noma. He has surrendered a lot of his ego and has certainly lessened his anger and now sees fostering hospitality as a collaborative experience in a way that maybe he didn’t early on.
All across the restaurant world, the culture is changing in the same way, which leads to better cooking and better moods in the workplace. Leaders who heed these same lessons from a professional kitchen and apply them to their own workplace environment will surely be on their way to having more cohesive, engaged and mission-focused teams. We fix work by fixing ourselves. Letting go of our ego and focusing on team morale is a great place to start.
If you want to hear the rest of my conversation with Jeff, go on a road-trip food tour, and enjoy hearing about risk-change transformation, then sit back and listen to this episode of Let’s Fix Work.