Business Lessons from Chef Gordon Ramsey

What Cooking is All About

What Cooking is All About

I love reality TV cooking shows. In particular, I enjoy and appreciate two shows featuring Chef Gordon Ramsey: Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares.

Why? Because while I’m learning new things about cooking, I also learn about achieving outstanding performance in business and in life. (Yes, I really enjoy cooking, but I’ll save that for another blog post…)

Here are some of the things I’ve observed, and what I learned about achieving outstanding performance.



  • Chef Ramsey demands teamwork. I learned… achieving outstanding performance requires group effort, in addition to outstanding individual performances.
  • Chef Ramsey is not trying to be popular. I learned… to do the right thing for the circumstances at hand, regardless of what people will think of me.
  • Chef Ramsey calls it like he sees it. I learned… Being honest with people raises their level of performance by helping them understand what is expected of them and how they can improve.
  • Chef Ramsey shows his passion and demands passion from the people he is leading. I learned… to show that same kind of passion and demand it from people on my team. We can’t just “show up” for work and expect success to happen. There needs to be a burning desire to achieve outstanding performance.
  • Chef Ramsey finds major issues with key people. I learned… a business is only as good as its people. It’s never just a problem with the product or service. There are always people issues that need to be address to truly fix the business for long-term success.
  • Chef Ramsey rewards teams that win challenges. I learned… that team members usually relax, let their guard down, and generally screw up after a big win, so you need to keep the creative tension high afterwards.


  • Chef Ramsey has fun along the way. I learned… that in the midst of hard work, sweat, and focus, there can be team building and individual activities that are fun and create a better functioning organization.
  • Chef Ramsey cares about the people he is working with.  I learned… that if I care about the people who work for me, I will push them to get their best to come out. I will also let them know when they need more training, when their time is up and they need to find a more suitable place to work, and especially when they have done a good job.
  • Chef Ramsey makes decisions quickly, based on the information at hand. I learned… to act without perfect information, to do what I can NOW, and to make adjustments when I have new information.
  • Chef Ramsey identifies problems and fixes them. I learned… that ignoring problems creates a cancer that spreads throughout a business. Fixing one critical area of a business will have a positive impact on the entire organization.
  • Chef Ramsey knows everything about the restaurant business. I learned… it’s not just about producing and delivering the core product or service, it’s also about being organized, people skills, customer service, inventory control, and the million other details that it takes to run a successful, world class restaurant (business).


  • Chef Ramsey always uses fresh, top quality ingredients. I learned… that to produce the best possible product or service, you cannot skimp. The customer can tell the difference.
  • Chef Ramsey keeps dishes very simple and straight-forward. I learned… to deliver clients what they want and expect, and to not use gimmicks and tricks to win them over.
  • Chef Ramsey knows how to use every piece of a key ingredient (i.e. a side of beef) and lets nothing go to waste. I learned… that cost control and optimization of resources need to happen from raw materials on.
  • Chef Ramsey demands that everyone constantly and consistently tastes what they are cooking. I learned… that quality control is everyone’s responsibility and is a continual part of the production and delivery process.
  • Chef Ramsey always controls “the pass” or puts the key person responsible for success or failure of the kitchen at “the pass.” (The pass is the area where the dishes are assembled and a final quality control go/no go decision is made to serve the food.) I learned… that regardless of how much you trust the people that work for you, you need to keep your hands, ears, eyes, and nose on the pulse of the business and constantly make sure that everything is running correctly.

I’ll admit that I had already learned most of these lesson at school or in business, but watching the shows has reinforced ideas and reminds me that these lessons are for every business, large or small.

So, what do you learn about achieving outstanding performance when watching TV or going about your day to day activities?

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