February 13, 2008

A Mind-changing Menu

2008 1504 page6 capave you noticed an increase in unscripted reality programs on television? North American TV offers a wide variety of competitions in music, dance, athletics, and fashion modeling, just to name a few.

I’m not a big fan of reality television, but one program recently caught my attention—Kitchen Nightmares.

The show’s premise answers the question “What does it take to save a failing restaurant?” Many of these family-owned businesses are on the brink of extinction. The owners have refinanced their homes and are over their heads in debt. The chefs have become frustrated to the point where they’ve lost their passion for cooking.

Enter the bombastic and abrasive Gordon Ramsay, a world-class chef and restaurateur who has opened more than a dozen establishments in Europe, Asia, and America.

The show chronicles Ramsay’s steps to turn the business around in just a few days. After meeting the staff, the first task of the culinary expert is to taste a few samples of the menu. Invariably, his first question is “Are these ingredients fresh?” Next comes an inspection of the staff and the flow of the food orders from waiters and waitresses to the kitchen and back again.

2008 1504 page6Do the dining room and kitchen staff work well together? Can they handle a full house? If not, what has to change? An investigation of the walk-in refrigerator is next. It’s one of the most revealing facets of the project. The survey shows just how old the food stocks are and how sensitive the staff is about cleanliness.

At this point a cleaning crew scours the kitchen, which often hasn’t been cleaned for several weeks. Sometimes Ramsay insists that a manager or chef clean a part of the kitchen to get a taste of what it takes to maintain a good commercial kitchen.

Before developing a menu, Ramsay surveys the neighborhood to see how many restaurants are close by and examines their menus. He also checks out the type of businesses and clientele the area attracts. With this information, the award-winning chef designs a menu that will be competitive in that locale.

The restaurant is closed for a day while an interior design team remodels the dining room or kitchen, giving the restaurant a contemporary image. With these new elements in place, Ramsay faces the hardest part of the job, convincing the management and chefs to break their tradition and change their menu, and teaching the chefs how to prepare new dishes.
It’s at this meeting that most managers and owners start to understand the effort that it takes for the business to survive. Many chefs are reluctant to make changes because the menu reflects their very identities. Some chefs believe they know better what their customers want than an outsider would. And even if the chefs quickly adapt to the new menu, Ramsay still isn’t satisfied. He wants to see a reignited passion for cooking.

Ultimately, Ramsay’s formula to transform a restaurant boils down to a change in perspective of owner, manager, chef, and staff. Such a change can bring new hope and new possibilities. Unless the management and staff gain a renewed interest the enterprise will eventually fail. Even with a remodeled dining room and revamped menu, if staff attitudes and behaviors don’t change, the business will eventually fail.

A New Mind
Just as Gordon Ramsay desires to change the mindset of a restaurant staff, God wants to see a change in the mindset of His children. A transformation of attitude is what our Lord desires. Our walk with God begins with a change of mind, and from that first step God opens a floodgate of possibilities for us.

The apostle Paul said it this way: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2, NKJV).*

Beginning with a change of mind, our life takes on a new direction. With a changed mind come changed attitudes and behaviors. By adopting the mind of Christ, everything about us will change—our conversation, our friends, our habits, our desires, our focus on life.

Perhaps that’s why Jesus told the lawyer to “‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matt. 22:37, 38).

*Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.