Way back in the early 1990s, there was a superb tourism commercial for Spain. Lots of fast paced music and rapid montages with a single sentence spoken at the end…”Spain; passion for life.”
I have never forgotten that forty second film and it isn’t because I absolutely love Spain. The last three words are what it is all about for me. Passion for Life. Fast forward to just the other day and I was sat at home watching the latest TV instalment for Alex Polizzi fans – this time a search for a Head Chef to take on the demands of a gastropub in the Forest of Dean. The basic format of the show is there are three rounds of interviews – largely comprising cooking some pretty amazing dishes – involving three chefs in each round. So, nine applicants, whittled down to a final three on the last day. The chefs, ranging from experienced men who have been cooking all over the world right through to a few very young men for whom this could represent their opportunity to step up and make their mark in the world.
The owner, a very passionate, animated, even rather cantankerous man of Greek descent, was clearly looking for someone who would share his passion for the rich, local flavours that could be conjured up in such a way that their local customers wouldn’t know what had hit them.
In the end, it came down to two relatively young men with enormously contrasting styles for the owners to choose between. One had worked in restaurants practically his whole life, having been taught by his father, himself a head chef in their own establishment, and had then gone on to work in some fine dining places himself, including running his own restaurant. The other contender was from a small Welsh town, with not many nearby culinary attractions but had been beavering away, developing his skills to the point where he had created enough confidence to even apply for such a role as this. Both were clearly fantastic chefs and both badly wanted the job. But one wanted it more badly than the other, and it was his obvious passion not simply for the food he was preparing but also the opportunity and the prize that awaited him should he win the competition that separated him from the other man. This other man said he wanted the job, and even did his best to convince the owner when the latter asked to speak with him privately – desperate to suck out whatever passion he could see into, despite the ostensible laid back attitude that was on display.
When all was said and done, the dishes had been cooked, the full service evening had been delivered and had been enthusiastically consumed by the invited guests. It was now time for the decision and despite the natural talent of the man who had been cooking his entire life, and the consummate ease with which he appeared to do everything, the job went to the lesser experienced, you could even argue, less naturally talented chef. And the reason was very simple. The owner needed to see at least the same level as passion as he had for his creation in order to trust that he was leaving the all-important food in good hands.
But this young man from Wales who demonstrated passion also did something else which the more naturally gifted chef failed miserably to do. He followed the brief to the letter and this included detailed costings of every dish he had to prepare because he understood that you can have all the talent, skill and yes, even passion in the world but if you haven’t got the numbers right, it aint going to work as a business. The other chef was so ridiculously laid back that he literally guessed the cost of each dish. He may well have been accurate (although his figures were challenged at least once) but it was the lack of diligence that cost him the job, as well as his perceived lack of passion.
An old proverb says “diligence is man’s most precious possession” and this is arguably true. But hard on the heels of diligence has to be passion because that combination alone can supply you with the tools with which to turn your passion into something truly amazing and beautiful for all the world to see and enjoy.
And for any of those old enough to remember it or even those who would simply love to know why on earth I have never forgotten that film, here is a link below. It could be the best forty seconds you spend today!