Apr 5

Master Chef or Master Leader?

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Master Chef or Master Leader?

You might have missed the semi-final of the BBC’s MasterChef recently. MasterChef is a British television programme in which amateur cooks compete to win the MasterChef title. It is a formulaic show that has a number of different variants and is replicated in numerous countries worldwide

A daunting challenge

The semi-final featured well-known chef Raymond Blanc OBE and the contestants were set the challenge of cooking a number of his signature dishes. These were amateur chefs and Blanc’s restaurant in Oxfordshire has two Michelin stars; not a test for the faint hearted.

Raymond himself has had an interesting life and his backstory is quite well known. The short version is that he is completely self-taught as a chef. He moved to the UK from France in 1972. He opened his first restaurant in Summertown, Oxford in 1977. He has been associated with various restaurant ventures over the years, perhaps the one he is most well know for is Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons which Blanc established in 1984.A

Developing talent

As well as being renowned for his culinary art, Blanc is also well known as someone who develops the young chefs under his tutelage. In fact on MasterChef, he commented upon what he strives to do to help them flourish (apologies to Raymond, bracketed additions help readability as he is not a native English speaker):

“(The) Most important thing – create an environment which is (the) perfect ground to grow, nurture, train, make feel strong, confident so they can grow into great chefs”

Raymond Blanc OBE, BBC MasterChef March 2019

Indeed during the programme, Blanc is seen in his kitchen at Le Manoir, exemplifying his nurturing leadership style. We’ll comment on the results of his approach shortly

What happens if you don’t nurture?

You’ll recognise the following dialogue, as it is something I have mentioned before:

CFO to CEO: What happens if we develop our people and they leave?
CEO to CFO: What happens if we don’t and they stay?


If you are fortunate to be in a business that genuinely nurtures talent, then this will simply be an interesting anecdote. If you are in a business that doesn’t, perhaps you need to start asking yourself what you are doing there?  There is often a simple test that you can use. If training is viewed solely as a ‘cost’ then you manage it in the same way that you manage the paperclips – as a commodity. If you were to think of skills development and the nurturing of talent as the life-blood of your current and future business, what happens when you start cutting off the supply? Its like saying you are going to reduce the quality of air in your office and only allow people to breathe on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It doesn’t end well. Businesses also forget that people have a choice.

What happens if you do?

30 of the chefs that Blanc has trained have gone on to win their own Michelin stars. I think this means that we can all learn something from his leadership example. Yes, he’ll have trained these people and they have moved on, but nothing is forever and Blanc gets the reflected glory that his proteges have gone on to great things – increasing his cachet. Talent will almost always be acompanied by ambitions that will not always be satisfied ‘here’, however it is what you do in the time you are working together that counts.

Of course businesses do have to make real economic decisions and some of these are quite difficult, however your approach to people is what helps grow sustainable, profitable business – and ones where people actually want to contribute.

If you have ambitions, how will these ever be realised if you are in an environment where you are not being nurtured or developed? To paraphrase Blanc, do you feel nurtured, strong, confident and able to grow? If you need to have a sensible discussion about your career decisions, why not give us a call?

If you are a leader, what are you doing to develop your team? After all, if you don’t do that, they might just stay.

Amazing what you can learn about business from a cookery show!

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