OK so the title of this article may suggest that I was hand trained by the legend that is Gordon Ramsey personally, not quite, but the guy has taught me an incredible amount about how to run a kitchen just from watching his shows.
I’m a self confessed cooking show addict. PK has had to endure thirty eight seasons of Masterchef to date, encompassing the UK, US (the best in my opinion), Canadian and Australian versions of the show.
I did attempt to sneak in Mexican Masterchef, but he told me to Papa Oscar as he refused to sit watching it in Spanish without a clue what was being said.
I was managing just fine with my broken biscuits Spanish – the bloody spoil sport!
Anyway, back to Gordon.
So, I’m a HUGE fan of kitchen nightmares too, both UK and US versions.
I’m aware that certain aspects of the show are staged, especially the American version, however the fundamentals are there to learn what makes an eating establishment tick over, and how to run a kitchen and maximise your profits whilst minimising waste.
What I learned from Gordon Ramsay
Fresh food is king
If you wasn’t already aware I recently bought into a cafe with my friend Cheryl.
We have many competitors within a mile radius all pretty much serving standard cafe style food – breakfasts, sandwiches, pasta salads etc.
I love to cook, and when I came into this I knew I wanted to see same day ,freshly prepared and cooked food on my menu.
I created a healthy meals section aimed at the lovely folks I’ve met in my Slimming World group, as there isn’t many options when eating out for us guys.
I’ve been going to Slimming World for approaching a year, but I’ve never once cooked one of their recipes to date.
I know how to cook healthy, tasty meals, I just needed someone weighing me to keep me accountable for my weight loss and the encouragement to stop drinking as much Coca Cola and cider!
Most importantly for a thrifty money saver, contrary to popular belief, it is cheaper to make your own fresh food from scratch than it is to buy frozen crap in.
Take my Jerk chicken recipe as an example.
It’s cost effective to make, and I’m a pile it high sell it cheap kind of guy from my days as a butcher when I first left school.
I pass the savings I make onto my customers and it’s far and above the house favourite.
I could have bought a shed load of pre-seasoned frozen chicken, but it would have tasted dry and rank, plus, ironically, it would have cost me more, therefore costing my customers more.
Fresh food is king!
Creativity prevents food waste
I’ve always been an adventurous cook.
I’m the type of guy that can look in the fridge and cupboards, have a few random ingredients and be able to comfortably manage to whip something together from them.
Having this sort of creativity in the kitchen is the easiest way to eliminate food waste, something I’ve always been conscious of, but now even more so.
I saw an episode on Australian Masterchef the professionals where they were presented with a bunch of ‘ingredients’ that looked like they belonged in the bin.
It was all the bits that most people would have thrown away as rubbish, think chicken skin, off cuts of pastry, fish heads etc.
Now, any head chef worth their salt wastes very little and I was blown away with what these guys created.
It made me think even harder about food wastage and I started to run my home kitchen like a head chef would run a kitchen in their restaurant on the back of it.
You will see very little food being thrown away in my house.
Get off your arse, there is always something to do!
Running a business with just two people 6 days a week means every job title is your responsibility.
Cook, cleaner, bookkeeper, social media manager, painter & decorator, handyman and window cleaner – they are all yours!
If you think for one minute there is nothing to do in a commercial eating establishment, you are extremely deluded and probably shouldn’t be in there.
Sitting on your arse means you are likely missing something in the cleaning department, usually leading to an almighty mess to clean up at some point, plus you’re running the risk of causing harm to your customers.
Habits quickly form when you start cutting corners.
That Ghandi was a wise bloke, you should probably pay attention to his words…
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
Spread the word
You could be creating the best food in town, but if nobody knows about it you’re not going to sell much.
The cafe is set in the historic old ticket office at Timperley Metrolink Tram Stop, and, although it’s not acted as a ticket office in years, many people in Timperley still thought that’s exactly what it was.
I’ve made as many changes as I’m allowed to the outside of the building to make it as clear as possible, but it was a clever Facebook campaign that has put us on the Timperley map.
We live in a digital world and a menu through the door doesn’t have the same effect it once had.
However, most people are glued to Facebook for several hours a day and I can post real time photos of what we’re doing that hit them straight away.
I can’t remember the last time a menu came through my door that didn’t immediately find itself in the recycle bin so what’s the point in wasting the money?
You live and die by your reviews, so be bloody nice!
My business partner and I go the extra mile for each and every one of our customers, they keep the roof over our head after all.
In the digital age everyone thinks they are a food critic and you have to be on your toes to make sure you’re getting the right reviews.
That customer that you think is being unnecessarily difficult could be suffering from an anxiety related problem for all you know, not all illnesses are visible so just smile through it and be as accommodating as physically possible.
You live and die by your reviews as a business, that’s a fact!
Also, if someone was pleased with their food and service, don’t be scared to ask for a good review!
You never get a second chance to make a first impression
When I came into the business the old girl had seen better days, but as Cheryl was a one woman operation there was no time to do anything about it.
I made it my mission to transform the place into a continental style cafe diner and refused to spread the word until it was exactly the way I wanted it to look.
People make their minds up on an establishment within the first thirty seconds of walking in, and, if it doesn’t look the part they’ve already decided your food and service is whack before sampling it.
What’s more, you’re unlikely to see that person again so don’t cut corners, don’t rush into relaunching, just concentrate on getting it right from the off!
Thanks Gordon, your shows have been better than any college course for me, you really could sell this stuff.
Armed with the knowledge you’ve provided, my business continues to go from strength to strength and I couldn’t be happier with life right now!