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Posted: October 10, 2013

Chef Laura: Flawed to perfection

Even chefs aren't gods

Laura Cook Newman

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.

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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Readers Respond

One wonders if a Persian cat is also impurrrfect? By Ta Tee on 2013 10 14
Bob Ross is an excellent example of the Persian Rug tale. I would be horified when he'd intentioanlly splatter a blob of burnt umber paint onto the canvas, then turn it into the most beautiful sunset. Thanks for the quote, Small Stuff. By Chef Laura on 2013 10 11
What a great reminder! Thanks for another insightful article! By David on 2013 10 10
When I cross stitch a wall hanging for my children, I always put a mistake in it. That way when they're my age and they look at it, they can say, "Mom loved us but she wasn't perfect!" By Andi Pearson on 2013 10 10
Reading this I'm reminded of Bob Ross, "We don't make mistakes, we just have happy accidents". Which also reminds me of at least one of my children. By Small Stuff = No Sweat on 2013 10 10
If folks expect perfection, why do we have insurance? Seriously, we a a major sector of our economy devoted to dealing with mistakes. I'm not arguing that we should not have high standards, but if a person truly thinks that mistakes don't happen, ask them if they purchase insurance. By John on 2013 10 10
Definitely my cup of tea. I am often surrounded by people who must hate Persian rugs...Im the first person in the group to say, "oh well, we can do better next time". Somehow that never works with this crowd! By Rubes on 2013 10 10
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