Monthly archives: January 2011

TED talk on Education

Great talk questioning our current education system.

Lessons from Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio

I was recently invited to learn how to cook duck confit as well as green tea tiramisu at Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio by Chef Nathalie herself.

The cooking lesson highlighted the importance of many fundamental business principles.

Both duck confit and green tea tiramisu requite a lot of planning and preparation.

1. Spend where it counts.

The duck for the duck confit is reared on an organic farm. Nathalie uses President butter imported from France (trust me – it tastes really good). When you are cooking, you need to get good ingredients where it counts. For a business, make sure you spend money where it counts. We spent money on a really powerful projector at the office so that participants won’t have a problem viewing the slides even in daylight. We also spent on a warranty which makes sure that we have a same day replacement in case anything goes wrong.

Duck and friends

2. Cut costs provided it won’t affect the end product.

Nathalie uses sea salt but she doesn’t need designer sea salt (which can cost 10-20 times as much) as local sea salt will taste the same.Cut costs provided it won’t affect the end product. We use a basic speaker system at the office in the training room instead of a thousand dollar designer system as we don’t need hi-fidelity sound in a meeting/training room.

Local Sea Salt

3. Prepare, prepare, prepare. The preparation process is really painstaking for duck confit. First the duck is marinated in sea salt for at least 24 hours. Then the duck is rinsed and slow cooked in a tub of duck fat for a couple of hours. Then the duck sits in your fridge for at least a week. Before serving the duck is then put in a preheated oven for 20 mins.

Duck confit

Without proper planning or preparation, there is no way that I will be served my duck confit over my 1 hour lunch break. When I was at the cooking lesson it looked really easy as all the ingredients were already prepped beforehand. Takeaway -when you have a large task looming, prepare all that you can do in advance. When we have training sessions, we have a standard practice for preparation of manual and slides and if we host the training, we ensure that restaurants are booked, tea breaks and other supplies are prepared. This frees us up on the day of the event.

The finished product - duck confit on a bed of orange salad

4. Processes. The entire operation of Nathalie’s Gourmet Kitchen has to work seamlessly. The wait staff have to make sure that they know the stock levels of the food so they can recommend what’s in stock to the customers. There’s nothing worse than listening to a great description of a dish only to find that it’s unavailable. They also have to work with the kitchen to make sure the order is processed. As frontliners, they have to give feedback to the kitchen on the food from the customer. They are also used to upsell other products such as desserts or drinks. The kitchen team need to make sure that they don’t miss an order. They also don’t waste time. While we were waiting for food to cook, we continued to cook and prepare dessert which was a lovely green tea tiramisu.

Green tea tiramisu

I noticed that the ultimate quality control is Nathalie herself who checks every dish before it leaves the kitchen. The results of their stringent processes are below.

Takeaways – Ensure that your processes support your work and aid not hinder efficiency. Also, use processes to improve efficiency. I have a meeting at least once a week with my team to let them know what’s going on and what they have to do to plan for it so they know when is a good time to take leave and when they will be bogged down. Our constant improvement process means that we don’t shout at people for mistakes but we look to learn from them and implement processes to ensure that they don’t happen again.

Pop down to Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio to have a look at these lessons being practiced – FYI the food is great too. Stay tuned for directors training in conjunction with Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio!