While I’ve been quite fortunate to have tasted great success throughout my career, I must say that I didn’t accomplish this level of success by myself. It is a widely known and accepted fact that great tutelage is needed in some capacity (remember: being a student never ends). In the old days, a chef’s was educated through the apprenticeship process where one would learn almost exclusively by way of shadowing and observation. In more recent history, large culinary institutes have all but dominated the culinary educational experience providing well structured, college-like tutelage. Now with the advent of the internet, technology has given educators endless possibilities to engage students in the educational process.

With that being said, I would like to address a common misconception that I hear from both students and culinary professionals alike: Who you know vs. What you know. Whether you’re an aspiring student or successful chef, you’ve probably already figured out that the food service industry is not for the faint of heart and that things aren’t as luxurious as famous shows from networks like Bravo and Food Network may lead you to believe. Most chefs aren’t famous and very few are rich. So how do you carve out a successful and fulfilling career for yourself? The answer lies in education!

Despite the boom in money and popularity attached to food these days, the culinary world is NOT a corporate industry where favor or who you know can propel you to success. It is skill and skill alone that will keep you in demand in the industry for years to come. Now, there are skillsets that if you lack, can bring your culinary career to an abrupt halt (such as professionalism and safety for starters), but for the most part, you’re ability to build upon and master your skills will be the cornerstone of achieving your culinary dreams.

Here is a list of 11 ways merit ALWAYS trumps favor when building your culinary career:

First of all favoritism can’t make you into a great cook. You either have the “skills to pay the bills” or you don’t.
Favoritism won’t make you hungry for more, nor will it drive you towards excellence. Only the passion to master your craft will keep you going through those tough long hours.
Favoritism won’t make you efficient in the kitchen and definitely can’t slow down time. Technique and countless hours of practical application is the difference between a home cook and a professional culinarian.
Favoritism won’t cause bland and poorly cooked food to instantly become flavorful and pleasant. Again, this falls on the mastery of your craft.
Favoritism won’t make you organized or give you a competitive edge when it comes to cooking at a high level. Mise en place is a fundamental organization technique that chefs worldwide live by.
Favoritism can easily breed arrogance and we all know what comes after pride. However, confidence is key in the kitchen on any level. Guess what lends itself to cooking with confidence? Right again…skill!
Favoritism is not a shield to hide behind because at some point one must get on stage in order to truly perform. Without the ability to execute in the kitchen, as a professional culinarian, you have truly missed the boat!
Favoritism should only be given to those who brings something to the table, an empty plate typically leads to an empty stomach. This is where a well rounded palette of skills makes you a valuable commodity in any scenario.
Only the ignorant believe that favoritism is a guarantee for success. Faith is actually an essential key to success in the kitchen. However, without putting in the necessary work to hone your abilities, your faith is sure to waiver when your skills are put to the test.
Favoritism used in the wrong way is an act of discrimination and should never be usedin any professional work environment. Honor is a much more fulfilling to obtain. An individual who fought through adversity to accomplish a goal is admirable and will always be looked upon as an example for others to follow.
Last but not least…favoritism will not help you to make MONEY!! with the advent of internet-based technology and social media, the ability for you to directly reach and engage your customers limitedless. This means, whether you are of entrepreneurial spirit (which I greatly encourage as there is no better time because of the ability to go directly to consumer) or working to become a top executive chef at a Michelin star restaurant, utilizing the internet and social media allows you build a credible brand in which you can forever MONETIZE.

Remember: Favoritism lasts a moment. Accomplishments gained by the merit of your own actions lasts a lifetime!

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