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Chef Laura: Flawed to perfection


Last week, my team put on an extravagant event three months in the making.  Every “t” and “i” were crossed and dotted, respectively.  The praise was well-deserved, and the execution was flawless.  Except…

The Chef/organizer of this event noticed a small sign in front of a tasty dish with the wrong ingredient listed.  Twelve intense weeks of planning, and in his mind, this tiny error blinked obnoxiously like the retro Stardust Casino sign on the Vegas strip.

I assured this lovable control enthusiast it was NBD, but he was crestfallen.  Another colleague working nearby compassionately offered “It’s your Persian Rug.” 

Seeing our faces blankly staring back at him, our coworker went on to explain that it took the Persians years to weave a gorgeous rug.  Even though they had the ability to make it perfect, they wove one imperfection into it. 

Comedic break:

Q: What’s the difference between God and a chef? 

A: God knows he’s not a chef.

The old saying goes: A Persian rug is perfectly imperfect and precisely imprecise.  Deliberately including one flaw demonstrated that they were humble and not in competition with God. 

It’s no wonder the Chef/organizer was so upset.

In business, we strive for perfection.  But is that attainable?  Or even desirable?  As long as you’re not the company’s CFO who accidentally shifts a decimal point to the left, a small flaw does not have to be the glaring error you perceive it to be. 

Like the sacrament of penance, I often hear people confessing their insignificant oversights.  Some nonsense like, “The report was supposed to be on ecru-colored paper, but I could only find cream.” 

On more than one occasion, I’ve witnessed presenters start their presentation with an apology:  “I was going to show you that (completely irrelevant) viral video of a baby laughing, but the Wi-Fi’s not working.  I’m so sorry!”

Hey – don’t sweat the small stuff.

Author Richard Carlson has parlayed not sweating the small stuff into an empire.  And he’s smiling, perspiration-free, all the way to the bank.  Since I’m still trying to get through the Chicken Soup for the Soul mega-series, I haven’t been able to put a dent in Carlson’s 15 books on (ironically?) not sweating the small stuff.

Instead, I hear my tell-it-like-it-is BFF’s words resonate in my mind when I’m getting a little chef-esque control freaky: Less said, best said! 

As we weave our career tapestries, let’s not beat ourselves up too much over the minutia.  There’s no need to advertise our flaws like the town crier.  And if someone notices a small imperfection in our work, tell ‘em the Tale of the Persian Rug.  It reminds ourselves that we are all human, not gods. Chefs included.

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Laura Cook Newman

Laura Cook Newman is a professional Chef and Training Manager for a Fortune 500 food manufacturer. She earned her chops at Johnson & Wales University, has an MBA in Marketing and hosts a blog for behind-the-scenes insights on the food service industry. Contact her at www.ThreeHotsAndaCot.net

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