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Passion Makes for a Great Career Recipe - Chef (2014)

March 4, 2018


Life is gonna knock you down, as a business or as a professional. When it does, family and food are always there to pick you back up. 


Is there any better marketing tool than food? Maybe that's why all of our business is done over lunch and happy hours. But how else does food relate to the motivation behind doing business? Complacency is a tough thing to tackle in the A/E/C industry. I have heard so many times, from so many places, that "This is how we have always done it". Similar to the journey that Chef takes, from creative yearning to a return to your roots, shaking things up can be a good thing sometimes; and inward reflection even more so. Most firms I know in this business take a marketing self-assessment at least every three to five years. This film doesn't teach us how to do that, but why. It also teaches us to question and assess our motivation so that as either a business or a professional, we know why we are going to work everyday.


The Review

For LA Chef Carl Casper, the restaurant business is business as usual. However, his creative desires are unsupported leaving him in a slump. Things really go south after a scathing review from a local food blogger that goes viral. Chef Carl has already been in a creative rut for some time, but this review sends him over the edge. Losing his job, tarnishing his reputation, having a distanced relationship with his preteen son, and still feeling something for his ex-wife, his life and career seems nonredeemable. Following his ex-wife Inez's advice, he travels with her to Miami and enlisting the help of Inez's ex-husband (played by the ever-watchable Robert Downey Jr.) he starts a food truck. Joining him is his right-hand-man and sous chef Martin (played by the ever-watchable John Leguizamo) and Carl's son Percy, they set out from Miami back to LA to do what they love - cooking good and simple food. Along the way, Chef Carl gets to bond with his son, learn a thing or two about social media marketing, and redeem his reputation and his career by finding his passion and his motivation again. It is a brief film by comparison (and unlike the other films I have reviewed thus far, Rated R for some eff-bombs), but a good reminder of keeping what is important close to you, relying on your friends and family to help pick you up when you are down, and that if you love the work you do, it feels less like work. Also, if this soundtrack doesn't get you motivated, I don't know what will.


The Take

I can really relate to the frustrations that Chef Carl has in the beginning of the film. He has a creative yearning to try new things in the kitchen, much to the chagrin of his restaurant manager, who is all business and no passion. In one of the earliest and most touching scenes of the film, he watches a street performer with his son who dances a skeleton puppet to the tune of "I'm So Tired of Being Alone" while the song plays over the scene. It is a simple visual to really relate to how he feels after having a hard conversation with his manager, where he pleads "It is the same food we have been cooking for five years". Suffice it to say, trying something new can be nigh impossible if you don't have the support and backing of the management.


Speaking of project management, is there anything faster and more demanding of coordination as running a professional kitchen? Us marketers could learn a thing or two about the organized chaos of a working kitchen. As a head chef and leader, in more than one scene he does what he needs to for himself and his team. Chef Carl is not above going to uncomfortable places to ask for help either. Who you know can help you get back on track, in this case his ex- wife, her ex-husband, his sous chef and his cousin "that knows a guy". Sometimes project management is about knowing the right people and doing the hard thing because it is good for the long run.


One of the ways he redeems his career is by going back to the basics. At the last conference that I went to, one of our more venerable and veteran marketers told us that K.I.S.S. should stand for "Keep It Super Simple" (so as not to offend anyone by calling them stupid). It is as true now as it was then, do what you know and love what you do. In the case of Chef Carl, what he knows is Cuban comfort food; and I'll wear pink any day that someone says that they don't love and appreciate comfort food. It is from this simple task and familiar place that he finds a new direction and reignites his passion for cooking and thriving. Even if what you do is complicated and technical in nature, as is most of the A/E/C industry, market it as simply as you can; break it down into smaller parts if you need to. A simple story is the most relatable - make your services as familiar as comfort food and everyone will understand you and what you have to offer. 


Another way that he boosts his business, morale, and builds a bond with his son is by learning more about the power of social media marketing. His career troubles are really ignited by his misunderstanding of how social media works, and it is his 10-year-old son that comes in to save the day, and his career, with his Twitter skills. Don't be afraid of technology, you can use it to evolve your business and career. But also, don't be afraid to consult an expert-in this case, your preteen son. Pretty soon you'll get the same "You're trending bro!" comments from your co-workers as Chef Carl gets from his kitchen crew.


Overall, I feel that this film guides you to find your passion and your motivation to do what you love for a living. You can't market what you don't believe in.  Like Chef Carl, you should cook food that you believe in, and we should market services that we believe in. It is okay to feel stuck, and not know what you're going to do. Stop and take a minute to go back to the simple things and remind yourself what you believe in. Embrace what makes you "you" and what makes your company "your company".


Chef Carl sums up career goals when teaching his son about the value of a job well done with the best quote halfway through the film when he says: "I get to touch people's lives with what I do. And it keeps me going. And I love it."

At the end of the day that is the goal. Also at the end of the day is dinner. Coincidence? I think not.




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