Monday, October 18, 2010

Book Review: Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw. Or maybe my title should read, why the hardest thing about recruiting is the personality fit.

I just finished Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain. For my slow, read every single word reading style, I was thrilled to finish it in 5 days. For many people, including the USA Today reviewer quoted on the dust cover, this book is a read in one-sitting. Tony, I gotta say, thanks for making this a great, quick read.

So a couple of years back I read Kitchen Confidential, and blogged about my workaholic take on the book. I was surprised to find myself following his commandments--about working. Reading someone's memoirs and taking away how to be a great employee isn't what I think Bourdain was going for--but even in this book, he still points out his strong work ethic. He may have stumbled through drug-induced years, perhaps decades, but he still showed up for work, on time, and gave it his all. Maybe not so much when he was a fry-cook at some greasy spoons--but once he figured himself out, he did work very hard. Then when he decided to start blogging about the restaurant world, he pulled himself out of bed at the crack of dawn to write before putting in a long day at work. So, thank you to all who get up everyday, do their best, and try to improve on it the following day.

But what surprised me about this book was why I enjoy it. I'm not in the restaurant world, or am I the Travel Channel's host for dining and learning about the world's food cultures. I don't swear constantly, chain smoke, or ever have. Luckily while I write this I am not looking to score any illicit drugs, and have never been haunted by them. I do enjoy a nice glass of wine, and probably am a bit more geeky about it than Anthony will ever let himself be. And I love food. LOVE. So Tony's whole "food porn" section was actually quite fun to read.

What is it about Tony's personality or interests that draw me in. Well first, he's a great writer--which isn't something I run into too much. Secondly, he's witty--which I can never get enough of. Third, he likes good music, and as I have mentioned on my Facebook posts, I really enjoy his Rhapsody playlist. Not all my heroes like punk bands, and sometimes I'm in the minority in my social circle for liking what they consider noise.

Now the laundry list of further reasons.
  • He likes simple food but enjoys a good dinner. He comments about what some people will never say. While I have never gotten to eat dinner at The French Laundry, I haven't actually pursued it for the very reasons he points out in the book. I like to enjoy food, but I like to be able to function after eating a great meal. Food should improve your life, not make you pay for it later.
  • He wears cowboy boots. Simple thing, but odd for a New Jersey native.
  • He appreciates good cooking, and makes sure his host knows it. This is something I drill into those children of mine.
  • He finds his own beliefs odd. This is evident in his take on Alice Waters. I have no beef with Alice Waters, and really appreciate what she has done for people's knowledge about local food and healthy eating. I love her push for school gardens, and have benefited from this for my local school gardens. His description of his interaction with her is hilarious, and has been often recited to my friends and family this weekend. He doesn't like Alice, but he shares many of her beliefs, and can't work up the nerve to confront her in public.
  • And the last on the list, he thinks Jim Harrison is a hero. Now if you don't know who Jim Harrison is, I'm not surprised. I didn't even know anyone else knew who he was. And there in Tony's "Heroes and Villians" section, Jim's mentioned. And for the same reasons, albeit only from my distant connection to Jim, that I think Jim Harrison is great. FYI: Jim Harrison is an author, and I guess somewhat of a celebrity in France. I have read his novels throughout my adult life, and always really enjoy them. Reading Bourdain's take on him, I know now Jim Harrison, and Tony are kindred spirits.

And this is where my career advice comes in. One of the most important aspects of recruiting is finding the right personality match for a company. While it may seem on the outside that you want skills and experience, most people in various fields have the basics. Selling wine is selling wine. Making wine is making wine. Managing a winery is managing a winery. Oh, but the personalities involved in these different areas are all over the map. If I could simply follow the job description and put in people like they were widgets, I'd be retired by now. To recruit on a job, it is much more important to know what type of people work there, their hopes and dreams, and their demons. A young sales superstar who can take on the world might step on the other employee's toes--and crash and burn in the wrong setting. But put that star candidate in the right environment, and she will create their own gravitational pull.

Who would have thought I would enjoy Anthony Bourdain's takes on the food world, and surprisingly, the world in general. I don't think our paths would ever cross--no matter how many speaking engagements he is at near me. Jeez, he won't even let me be a lowly facebook friend--and isn't his facebook account for publicity purposes anyways--or is it truly only for friends. 2,100 of his closest pals.

Go out and read it. Fast or slow, laughing, crying or dreading it. Hey, if you don't like it, don't read the whole thing. But if you find it funny--ENJOY.

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