My family is addicted to Food Network’s Chopped, the contest in which accomplished chefs turn crazy mystery ingredients into beautiful, creative dishes during insanely short periods of time to win $10,000. A summer rerun, “Wurst Case Scenario,” offered PR lessons to chefs or anyone who puts his/her work practices in the public realm – in this case – on the chopping block.
Chef Mor Amitzur is executive chef of The View at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Manhattan, which offers one of the best restaurant views of the skyline (see my photo taken from The View during a recent trip to New York).
Amitzur was one of four contestants and his creations were beautiful and — according to the judges — delicious, but his kitchen behavior and sanitation practices were appalling. I was grossed out and I am sure others viewers felt the same. Did he get any PR advice before he was Chopped?
What was so gross?
It was captured as he prepared every dish for the Chopped judges. He formed a fish patty appetizer with a hand bloodied by a food processor blade and balked when ordered to wear a plastic glove, throw out his work, and start over. He double-dipped during entree and dessert prep, and was called on it each time. It’s unacceptable and reputation-harming for a chef of his stature to use one tasting spoon and dipping it multiple times into food that he’s making (one judge commented about his total disregard for them!).You can watch it here or see his negative coverage in TimeOut New York.
What are the PR lessons here?
- Identify the risks of appearing on TV or any public forum that requires you to perform under pressure. An unscripted TV free-for-all contest is the last place to put your unsavory work habits on display.
- If you’re appearing on national TV, ask colleagues and friends to help identify problems that may arise in a program like Chopped. He double-dipped as though it was instinct — heck, he didn’t even realize he did it. Why didn’t one colleague raise a red flag about the consequences of having the Chef’s bad practices on display for a nation of foodies?
- Assess risks versus rewards. Can a restaurant (or any business) withstand a loss or embarrassment on national TV or on a stage before thousands of potential customers? How does a business handle the loss, especially when one’s personal behavior brings him down in flames?
- Rehearse your appearance early and often, in front of impartial judges, not cheerleaders. Surely Chef Amitzur rehearsed before competing on Chopped? Did he seek feedback from his own group of “judges?” Did they overlook his bad kitchen habits with a shoulder-shrug and an “everybody-does-it” attitude?
- Practice humility – expressing confidence when competing is laudible. For a loser to question or diss your judges or your fellow competitors makes you a sore loser and may irrevocably harm your reputation. In public or on TV, your actions are always louder than words – be gracious in defeat.