By Chef John Reed, CEC, CCA, ACE
A professional contact of mine wanted to educate his staff on beef primals – where the cuts come off the animal. He went to his purchasing department to get the cuts of beef he needed to do a class, and they told him, “you can’t get that.” Still, he urged them to try; they did and the big purveyors said, “There’s no SKU for that.”
Case closed, right? Not so fast.
Determined to make this happen, the Chef called me to ask if I knew anyone who could help. I immediately thought of John (Cecala). My contact was ecstatic and ultimately decided to have Buedel Fine Meats do the training for his staff.
The Big Guys love to say, I don’t have a SKU # for that. Every time I call John, he can get it done. (Pictured above, the primal training John Cecala led for Chef Reed’s contact.)
What I love about this culinary tale is that it demonstrates the power of relationships. My contact thought well enough of me to seek help, I thought well enough of John for resolve.
This is what networking does. It also helps those who don’t get out from behind the desk – they’re used to people coming to their back door, but they don’t know people like John or me.
If you ask John why Buedel provides free personalized trainings and presentations, he’ll tell you it’s because they value “long term mutually beneficial relationships over individual sales transactions.”
Being able to call on someone at any time for help, makes relationships priceless. Many sales people (and Big Guys) don’t get that – they just sell, sell, sell.
When you can go to a professional resource and say, ‘Here’s what I need to find out – do you have any info that you’re willing to share to help me with this problem?’, it’s absolutely empowering. Unfortunately, 25-35 year old decision makers in the current marketplace, tend to reign on the laggard side of networked relationships, knee deep in an old school/new school conundrum. (Pictured Left: Chef Reed and John Cecala at the annual ACF Windy City Culinarian’s gala.)
Gen X and Millenials grew up being pounded with information. They surf smart phones and tablets for answers – they have hundreds of articles (and photos) at their fingertips. Access is quick, but no one actually knows how to process the information.
You can watch umpteen videos, but it won’t unleash the skills needed to execute. Things may look easy to assimilate, but until you actually experience use, there’s no intuitive or emotional tie. The same holds true for connecting with investors, buying equipment, choosing suppliers, etc. – when the humanistic piece is missing, you miss out.
18 years ago, I was part of an educational discussion on providing online culinary degrees. As you can imagine, there was great debate about the pros and cons of doing so. Ultimately, seeing how someone works in the kitchen was just too high a value stake to dismiss – you have to be able to quantify certification and expertise.
Anybody can up open a hotdog hut and call themselves an Executive Chef or sell commodities with prime beef as quality service. Without the ability to verify and relate to professional expertise, we all miss out.
There’s (still) a whole generation of chefs out there who saw kids coming out of school who had to be there – be on the line and learn how to cook. Information was shared, and career building (and long term) relationships were made.
Ultimately, when you want to bring someone or something to the next level in your business, you may call your client or boss and tell them, ‘We need to bring so ‘n so in …’. Ideally, your relationships will do the same in return.
Professionals learn how to walk before they run, bounce ideas off others, share new discoveries and provide help whenever possible. It is unfortunate that societal trends are diminishing the types of professional models that inspire value relationships.