In the film Chef, Jon Favreau shines as Carl Casper, a famous Miami Chef, who after receiving a bad review from a food blogger reconciles his passion for food with his passion for life. It is a feel-good film that tingles the taste buds while warming the heart. In a country where 55% of the workforce is dissatisfied with their current job (Forbes), Chef provides the secret to transforming worker engagement; believe you can touch people’s lives with what you do.
Hard Work or Hardly Working?
I am a believer in working hard. Hard work is not just good for your employer, but it is the foundation of your very character. There are so many people who work with mediocrity. I remember being a mediocre employee, working the bare minimum because I felt I wasn’t paid enough to go the extra mile. Habitual mediocrity will lead you to a mediocre character. The expectations you place on yourself will soon become mediocre and any energy you expel towards your bigger goals in life will become mediocre as well. The big problem with the “bare minimum” mentality is that it seeps into who you are and how you perform outside of work.
What’s the answer?
Carl Casper is a passionate Chef. He loves his craft and puts in the extra hours to prove it, so many hours that he loses his family in the process, his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) and his son Percy (Emjay Anthony). Their divorce creates a father and son divergence and rather than invest in one-on-one time with Percy, Carl invests in “filler” time. He avoids any meaningful conversations with his son by taking him out to perform frivolous activities during their father/son bonding weekends. This is a result of Carl’s dissatisfaction at work. The more disengaged he is at his job the more disengaged he is with his family.
Even though Chef Carl loves cooking, he is one of the 55% of disengaged employees. Before his restaurant’s major food critique, his boss, played by Dustin Hoffman, refuses to allow Carl to express his culinary artistry. So, instead of creating a new menu for the critic (Oliver Platt), Hoffman actively disengages Chef Casper by telling him to stick to what they have been serving for the last five years. As a result of this decision, the food blogger bashes the restaurant and most particularly Chef Casper resulting in a Twitter war that ultimately defames his reputation.
With his life falling apart, his ex-wife Inez gives Carl the most practical advice he ever receives. She tells him to stop focusing on the fame awarded by the life a celebrity Chef and go back to doing what he is most passionate about, cooking. So Chef Carl Casper buys a food truck and starts making food his way on his terms. He brings along his good friend and partner Martin (John Leguizamo) and his son to travel across the nation for the summer in a cultural culinary adventure. All of a sudden Chef Casper’s passion for food starts to positively affect everyone around him. He begins to bond with his son in a way he never had before. Percy becomes his marketing manager by posting their food truck locations on social media ahead of time and generating buzz. Carl reconnects with his ex-wife and even inspires the food critic who destroys his reputation to invest in his new company.
Chef shows us that if we are not satisfied with our work, it is in our control to fill our lives with Passion. You visually see Carl’s energy change in the film from a stressed-out laborer, working for a manipulative restaurant owner to a passionate human being who is fully alive. You don’t have to be living out your dream to work with passion. In fact, the more passion you infuse into your current work, the better character you will develop to equip you for your dream job.
Perform your current job responsibilities with the same passion for what you really love to do. Incorporate your talents into your job and you will leave your shift with more energy than what you invested in that day. I love public speaking, especially when I get to motivate others. You can ask my wife when I come home from a training program after I have spoken all day, I’ll have more positive energy than the days I come home after working in front of a computer.
You have the passion and you can incorporate it into your work no matter how boring it may be. Never settle for mediocrity. You are unique and unrepeatable. Your ideas matter. Add music to your office, come up with new initiatives, request to redecorate the employee lounge, offer to take new staff pictures, or pitch your idea for a manager retreat. Whatever you are passionate about, think of how you can infuse it into your daily tasks.
Chef will not only place in you a hunger for delicious food but will offer spiritual satiety for a passionate soul.
Further Reading: Why Chef is Evil