I make a habit of not criticizing that which I have not experienced. This habit has led me to read awful books, see dreadful movies, dine at forgettable restaurants, and partake in other avoidable experiences – all in an effort to avoid being trumped in countless cocktail conversations with cries of “have you read it, seen it, been there, etc.”
I am making a very public break with that habit since NBC premiered its latest salvo against decency and quality entertainment, The Chopping Block. I don’t care that this is another reality television show, I am disturbed by the notion that the “Chef who made Gordon Ramsey cry” is being celebrated.
The premise, for lack of a more appropriately derisive term, is a well worn notion of the genre: competing teams operate two faux restaurants with a weak link from each team being booted at the end of each show. The center of this reality circus is Marco Pierre White who I know from first hand experience to be a culinary thug and a bully with the all of the manners of a petulant child ampped on Ritalin and a satchel full of lollipops.
I have asked the questions before – In what other profession do we make vitriol a virtue? In what other environments would we allow the throwing of dangerous objects (a.k.a. felonious assault) to pass for leadership? More importantly, when did we as a society accept this abhorrent behavior as the going rate for genius, as a reasonable price for greatness? But those questions miss the point – it doesn’t work.
Leadership through fear and emotional abuse is as effective as interrogation through torture. It is long term counterproductive. Sure some people might be willing to subjugate themselves at the altar of a bully for promised knowledge and future riches, but as surely as a leader who goes ape-shit over apples, that person will flee abusive employ at the first opportunity. As any first year business student can attest, turnover is expensive, and truly great chefs and restaurateurs know it. How often can one go to the well of extreme before it will not quench anything? How effective is the same f-bomb laden tirade when one’s default language is constantly dyed in the blue tint of profanity?
There are numerous examples of smart chefs who eschew the tantrum throwing business model, but Eric Rippert and Thomas Keller top the list (by the by, if you want to read a terrific piece of food porn describing a meal at French Laundry, check out Betty’s latest blog post.)
NBC, not only are you rotting our brains with this drivel, you are promoting an ineffective style of management. This is one train wreck from which it is easy for me to turn away.