Sustaining excellence habits

This week, in the UK, the latest Michelin Guide food awards were announced. L’Enclume in the Lake District receiving its 3rd Michelin star, after 20 years of being open, and the first UK location to receive such an honour outside of London and the Home Counties. As a chef being recognised by the Michelin Guide is known as an honour and external recognition of hard work and excellence in food. As a eater, for me, a Michelin accolade is an external accreditation – a symbol and kitemark of the food standard and quality I can expect from the establishment.

Mackerel at Forest Side

And I like to eat good quality food – sometime expensive but sometimes much more value for money. This week, we ate at Forest Side in Grasmere in the Lake District with it’s one (retained) Michelin star the same day. This led me to think – would we have been happy to still eat there that night if the restaurant lost its star that very day? Of course we would have been, there would have been very little immediate difference over night and we would have still enjoyed it.

I have only ever eaten at one 3 star restaurant – Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence, Italy for our 40th milestone birthdays. Restaurants Enoteca Pinchiorri has now retained its 3 stars for almost 30 years! The tomato fondant is to die for imho; but Enoteca is rare in offering an a la carte menu alongside a taster menu. What we have noticed over our gastronomic stops over the years, is that often there is a set menu (a ‘taster’) and many dishes stay on the menu, it perhaps with incremental changes… carrots and cheese (the best dish ever imho) at 2 star Moor Hall in Ormskirk for example.

Carrots at Moor Hall

Why would it be interesting to cook broadly the same menu over and over again for diners? Why sustain these habits? Why would this be so important for Michelin excellence?

In my last blog I wrote about tiny atomic habits that can make the difference in sustaining new ways of working and help achieve excellence goals by focusing on marginal gains and that last 1 percent, and how to develop such habits. It struck me that the 4 steps articulated as a way to develop habits can be seen in gastronomy. Make it obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying. For chefs.. learn great chef skills (obviously), make it cool… it’s a Michelin star … duh. Make it easy. Simplify and standardise the menu… learn how to do your one dish in the kitchen, remove the ‘it depends, who’s on duty’, practice and practice, over and over and over and over and over. Keep going even when it’s boring and subconscious and repetitive and really master the dish. Then make it satisfying; how can doing the same thing over and over become satisfying? How can we keep the same standards of perfectionism when teams, and head chefs and leaders move on? Can pride and joy be found here in the perfect thin slide of radish, in the perfect cut of beef, in the sublime taste of cheese and carrots, in the customer that keeps coming back to eat the same thing again and again? In the pursuit and retention of the ultimate Michelin accomplishment and accolade?

What can we learn in health and care here? How can we break down our processes, tasks and compassionate care giving in the same way, to create great work habits as individuals and as team members? How can we make our culture of standard work – our work habits easy, obvious, attractive and so satisfying that we keep wanting to do these new habitual tasks… sustaining them, over and over and over, and keep perfecting and mastering them? And we want to complete these habits so well we take pride in that and keep coming back for more, sustaining great ways of working and doing the very best for our patients and staff. Aspiring, as much as our great chefs, for Outstanding (the regulatory CQC equivalent of 3 stars?) care for those we serve.


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