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chef gordon: orgtheorist of the kitchen

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I enjoy reality shows that focus on skills, such as cooking or fashion design. A favorite is “Kitchen Nightmares.” Gordon Ramsay, a world class chef, goes to failing restaurants and tries to fix them up. Unsurprisingly, this show is rich in orgtheory:

  • Identity matters: As if he were reading the latest Hsu and Hannan article, Ramsay is obsessed with simplifying the identity of a kitchen. Sushi and tandoori? Hogwash! Mexican tofu? Blahh!!!
  • Vertical organizations: No flat hierarchies here. Problems are solved when owners and managers start telling people to do their %$^$ing jobs.
  • No globalization: The cuisine may be global, but the ingredients have got to be local.
  • It’s about habitus: Cooking is not just a job for Ramsay. He insists that workers work in kitchens because they love food and the hospitality business. It’s much more than a way to make a buck.
  • Groupiness: The best food comes when everyone works together. Weak links are a disaster.

I strongly recommend this show to undergrads interested in org behavior. Much food for thought. According to the wiki, 50% of the restaraunts closed despite Ramsay’s intervention. That’s marginally better than the 60% rate at which most restaraunts close.

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Written by fabiorojas

July 14, 2009 at 12:44 am

13 Responses

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  1. Not that I’ve watched the show that often, but if my understanding is correct, the restaurants Ramsay goes to are be below average in performance. If that’s the case, wouldn’t they be sampled from the lower-performing end of a distribution? If half of them stayed open, that would make their performance more impressive, assuming that the 60% overall restaurant failure rate figure is drawn from a bit more representative sample of the restaurant population.

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    KMD

    July 14, 2009 at 1:34 am

  2. Good point, KMD. Maybe Ramsay is a miracle worker!

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    fabiorojas

    July 14, 2009 at 2:52 am

  3. My kids and I have recently been watching episodes/reruns of Whale Wars —- great stuff! Social movement meets big business, strategy, game theory, cause/purpose, leadership, etc — really engaging.

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    tf

    July 14, 2009 at 3:24 am

  4. And young kids will learn an additional lesson from Mr. Ramsey: swear words = “my serious face.” He’s so bleeping bleepity bleep that sometimes I can’t bleeping stand it.

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    Jenn Lena

    July 14, 2009 at 4:12 am

  5. Anthony Bourdain is also strong on verticality:

    http://organizationsandmarkets.com/2008/01/18/kitchen-hierarchy/

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    Peter Klein

    July 14, 2009 at 7:22 pm

  6. Can’t put my finger on it, but there is something about Bourdain’s way that doesn’t grate quite so much as Ramsay’s. That said, I have been to Ramsay restaurants in London, and they are flawless.

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    Joseph Logan

    July 14, 2009 at 8:41 pm

  7. When I recently read Kitchen Confidential I was thinking it’s a shame I don’t teach undergrad econ soc or work/occupations because I’d love to assign chapters from it. The parts about hierarchy are good but the stuff on kitchen slang is a lot of fun and can be assigned on the pretense that it’s about code switching.

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    gabrielrossman

    July 14, 2009 at 10:04 pm

  8. Quick aside, the BBC version of the show is much better than what’s on Fox. The Fox version seems to highlight mostly personality conflicts, while the BBC version really gets into the business of running a restaurant.

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    musa

    July 15, 2009 at 2:26 am

  9. I’ve thought about showing bits of Kitchen Nightmares in my undergrad Orgs classes. I think students would engage with the drama. I stopped watching the show after about a season because they were so formulaic, so I can only comment on that one. One thing I’d add to Fabio’s list is that the show also teaches much about organizational culture–that’s the thing that Ramsay is often most upset about in the restaurants he enters–e.g., a culture of laziness or indifference to sanitation. The other thing it teaches is about the role of consultants (especially as homogenizing forces). Ramsay’s advice might make the restaurants more financially successful (at least in the short run). However, Ramsay makes a pretty lousy consultant as it’s his way or get the @%$^#! out of the business. He doesn’t adjust his way of thinking for the individual cultures of the businesses or their particular environments (though he does environmental scans to seek competitive advantages for the restaurants he helps). In the end, he’s a force of normative isomorphism.

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    Paul-Brian

    July 18, 2009 at 6:50 pm

  10. […] ser vi aldrig några sociologiska analyser av tv-serier? Här är i alla fall ett roligt litet inlägg från bloggen Orgtheory. Sociologen Fabio Rojas analyserar […]

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  11. […] ideas. For you movement and class theory junkies, the blog is worth reading. Also, I second Teppo’s endorsement of Whale Wars as fun tv-watching with a movement angle. Possibly related posts: (automatically […]

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  12. Great Article , I thought it was great

    I look forward to more interesting postings like this one. Do you have a subscription I can subscribe to for anymore information from you?

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    Wedonowoosido

    November 23, 2009 at 11:49 pm

  13. Great article, makes me want to put on my chef wear and start cooking.

    Like

    Chris

    April 20, 2010 at 10:47 pm


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