6 business lessons from TV's best chefs

Inside the $75 Million World of Wolfgang Puck, Chef to the Stars

I'm not going to mince words here: I'm not a great cook. In the world of Seamless, and Blue Apron, and other food startups, this didn't bother me much until recently. Recently, though, I decided I wanted to hone this skill, and I decided to approach it like a student.

To create my own curriculum, I've been watching a lot of cooking shows, trying to learn more recipes, increase my knowledge of ingredients, learn how to use kitchen equipment, and to internalize the habits of effective chefs.

But it didn't take me long to notice that there were plenty of entrepreneurship lessons hidden in all the kitchen chaos.

1. Conditions are never "ideal"

Most cooking shows come with challenges: shortened timelines, unexpected elements, equipment that's not perfect for the job, teammates you didn't expect. But you've got to make it work. As with entrepreneurship, you can't wait for the mythical "right time" to make a big move. You have to improvise, make substitutions and find a way to make due with what you've got.

2. Presentation is important

No matter how good your product actually is, you have to present it well to impress the judges. Whether it's plating a dish, making a deck look nice for potential investors, presenting your financial data for funding, dressing up for an important pitch meeting, focusing on user experience and design in your materials, or branding yourself well for potential customers, you have to put as much effort into the presentation as the product itself if you want it to be well received.

3. It's not about the tools -- it's how you use them

In the kitchen, maybe the knives are dull, the bananas are overripe, or the water isn't boiling as fast as you'd like. For entrepreneurs, maybe you're lacking an office space, don't have a big budget to decorate your store front or have to use some outdated tech. If you think creatively and make the best of what you've got, you can maximize your impact and mask your shortcomings.

4. Time management is key

Whether you're creating a meal in 20 minutes or trying to execute on your 12-month plan in your small business, the way that you manage your time can be a key determinant in how successful you are. There are endless tips for managing your time more effectively, and until you learn how to focus your energy and attention on the things that are most successful, you won't have the impact you're hoping to.

5. Everyone has their reasons

When you're watching cooking shows, everyone seems to have their own reason for competing, though a few common themes emerge, like "to prove to my parents that I made the right career choice" or "to show that even though I didn't study at an elite school, I can hang with the big boys." Few admit "I need the money," but that's certainly a reason too. Entrepreneurship is no different. Everyone launches their venture for their own reasons, and everyone is motivated by different things.

6. Sometimes your biggest competition is yourself

Time, financial and equipment challenges aside, the most common mistakes are the ones you make all on your own. Not managing your time well, forgetting the basics or overlooking a key detail can cost you big, both in the kitchen and when building your business. Take inventory of what you have, carefully plan your next move, focus on what's most important and always pause to re-evaluate the progress you're making to be sure you're not making basic oversights.

Sometimes, the world of entrepreneurship can feel a bit like Cutthroat Kitchen or a Cupcake War, like you're trying to make magic happen in Hell's Kitchen. But if you take these lessons from Master Chefs and avoid the mistakes of the Worst Cooks In America, you won't get Chopped, and you'll emerge feeling like a Top Chef.

RELATED: 7 business lessons we learned from 'Game of Thrones'

7 'Game of Thrones' business lessons
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7 'Game of Thrones' business lessons

Trust your instincts; your most valuable assets will "hatch" over time.

Daenerys held on to her dragon eggs and felt connected to them long before they even hatched--and right after her husband's death, the dragons were born and became her most valuable asset.

Not every investment you make or asset you own will turn over a profit or drive success right away. If your gut is telling you something is worth holding on to and fostering, it probably is.

In due time, the right investments will begin to show return.

Photo credit: Facebook

View disorder in the market and your challenges as an opportunity to excel your business forward. 

"Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb, they cling to the realm or the gods or love. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is." -Peter Baelish

Accept the challenges that come your way and figure out how you can grow from them.

A misstep doesn't always mean a failure, so don't trap yourself into thinking that it does.

Photo credit: Facebook

Be cordial to everyone, even those you feel may not be able to help propel you forward

"The occasional kindness will spare you all sorts of trouble down the road." -Cersei Lannister

Ironically coming from the resident Queen of everything not-so-nice (understatement of the century), this lesson is one of the oldest in the book but still one of the most pertinent.

Treating people with kindness will take you further than arrogance will. It pays in business to treat the person you think can help you the least with just as much respect as you would the person who could help you the most.

The business world is a ever-changing, and you never know where a connection could pay off down the line.

Photo credit: Facebook

Draw on personal experiences to create your business model and core values.

After her brother sold her into marriage, Daenerys knew that supporting or allowing slavery was something she was adamantly against and would not allow it. She decides to sail to another city to free the Unsullied (slave warriors). 

Though it wasn't in her original "business" plan, Daenerys wanted to make sure she was engaging in affairs that were important to her and that she could relate to.

Your company values and goals should reflect things that you care about directly, even if that means (sometimes literally) adjusting your sails to go a different direction.

Photo credit: Facebook

Choose your battles wisely.

"A good king knows when to save his strength and when to destroy his enemies." -Cersei Lannister

You won't get along with everyone, and you'll definitley have competitors within the industry. 

You have to decide early on what's worth fighting and getting angry about and what you should let go. Either way, it pays to use both as fuel to improve your business.

Photo credit: Facebook

Never underestimate yourself and the influence you can have.

"Power resides where men believe it resides. It's a trick, a shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very large shadow." -Varys

Your title has nothing to do with how much power or influence you actually have. You can be a CEO, but if you're not well-received or liked, your employees are less likely to listen to and respect you.

What wins you "power" is how much respect you earn from the people around you.

Photo credit: Facebook

Always pay your debts.

"A Lannister always pays their debts." 

Okay, you had to know this one was coming.

While this line is perhaps one of the most well-known from the show, it's the deeper meaning behind the lines that teaches a lesson (aside from simply encouraging business owners to literally pay off their debts, which also is sound advice).

Don't go through business and entrepreneurship asking for favors and taking advantage of people. 

When you owe something to anyone or any company, whether it's literal funding or an under-the-table favor, you eventually will have to pay it back.

Don't ask for something unless you're prepared and equipped to return back what you're asking for.

Photo credit: Facebook


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