The original rock star of the culinary world (by Smithsonian Institute), Anthony “Tony” Bourdain was born June 25, 1956 in New York City. He grew up to become a celebrity chef, an award-winning author and a TV personality. He went to The Culinary Institute of America and graduated in 1978 and ran few New York restaurants later. He later became the executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles, for many years. He wrote one of New York Times bestsellers, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, in 2000 and won Food Writer of the Year, by Bon Appétit magazine, the year after. He died on June 8, 2018.
Prefers the Parts Unknown and No Reservations Required
He was a media icon who knew the meaning of journalism, that it is about being fearless, authentic and only commissioned to show the truth no matter what it takes. Contrary to the usual glamorous-chef-in-a-sparkling-kitchen features, Anthony chose to communicate how the street food in the third world countries had better quality than the fast food restaurants in the US, the underpaid immigrant chefs who stay passionate, the unknown kitchens in New York infested with rats and many more according to his perspective.
This struck me as most of us are gravitated towards whatever is glamorous and sparkling or whatever is easy and comfortable. Some of us thought that being a leader is exactly that – glamorous! I have seen leaders fall just because they refuse to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty along their people. To them, getting promoted to lead is a resignation from the hard work. The relevant information, critical to decision-making, is found in the production area. There are challenges that may not be explained by words but by observations and immersion.
Traveled to Learn and Teach
He championed cultural immersion through food. Anthony traveled to unknown and remote places to have a deeper understanding of the culture of the people there, through their food. He didn’t look like a typical chef you see on TV. He didn’t travel in style, sporting his new boots or shirts to his followers, but he blended in to meet a much deeper empathy of people’s challenges. This is what he believed that he should share to the world. He didn’t go to the 10% affluent populace but went to most masses where he could get authenticity that truly tells the reality.
It’s rather easy for us leaders to look the part – dress up impressively, wear our red heels or the best dress shoes we got to be respected. However, to act the part – lead with passion, patience, sincerity and motivated beyond rewards, compensation and recognition – may be what truly challenges us. The gap may have come from the lack of deep immersion into the real difficulties people face each day.
I remember one of the managers in my team who I noticed lacked connection with his own team. The first action I suggested was for him to have lunch with his team. I warned him to neither talk about work nor himself but just to be present to listen and ask questions. He was also lucky to have team members who were mostly positive people so they quickly appreciated their leader’s presence as if he was one of them. He earned his people’s trust and they have won as a team since then.
Not Afraid to Look Like an Idiot
We are often contented with what we already know and often, the sense of loftiness of this leadership role can get into our heads so that we think we know everything and refuse new information. We don’t want to try new strategies, we want to stick to our own plans. We hate to ask and look stupid. We protect our reputation so hard that we forget we are humans. This world is vast so we couldn’t possibly know everything!
It’s safe and okay to ask our team if there is something we don’t know about. Leaders are not expected to know all the answers. If it was the expectation then the company could have just hired a fortune-teller or an astrologer with flawless record of accuracy (like they do many centuries ago). What we are expected to fulfill is to bring out the best in our team members. This means empowering them to share ideas on how certain issues can be addressed. They do most of the actions so they know how to overcome challenges, all we do is ask.
Attributes: Fearless, Authentic
Anthony Bourdain – Wikipedia