How to tell if someone loves their job

You know how to tell if someone loves (and are good at) their job? Ask them to do it for you. I mean, ask them to do it for you without guidance or instructions from you. Put yourself in their hands and magic can happen.

This is most true with service professionals who are used to fulfilling the orders of others instead of flexing their own creativity. The ultimate institutionalized example of this is omakase, or what you might consider to be “chef’s choice” at a sushi restaurant. Omakase is derived from the word ‘entrust’ and the meal is meant to represent the skill of the sushi chef.

Omakase is a wonderful concept and I try to extend it more broadly to see what happens, although admittedly still with food more than, say, my dentist. Back in october i attended a conference at the Fairmont Orchid in Kona and during my final breakfast, asked the omelet chef to give me whatever he wanted. The result was a large and most interesting combination of eggs, local vegetables and seafood. He was thrilled to have the chance to create something new — i assume most of his morning is cheddar and mushrooms — and was excited that i took an interest in his preferences.

Best meal i’ve had at Bong Su in San Francisco was when our group just told the waiter to bring the dishes he liked and pair it with some good wines.

Conversely when the bartender at a friend’s birthday party gave me the open-mouth dull-eyed stare after i suggested he make me his favorite drink, i knew that i should just grab a beer from the cooler. People who don’t want to think or try to impress you often don’t love their job.

So live a little by letting great professionals practice their art and I’m sure you’ll be delighted more often than not. Anyone have non-food examples of this working for them?

5 thoughts on “How to tell if someone loves their job

  1. I think that anytime the guidelines are loose enough, this works well. My fondest memories of creative overachievement are probably book reports from junior high, where the teacher gave students the option of crafting art project representative of the books themes; mine were always hopelessly elaborate creations that required my mom to drop me off at school so they didn’t break on the bus. I think such expression becomes a little bit more challenging when there are more variables – like working with a larger team or planning something for a less-defined audience – that tend to hedge creativity. And I imagine multiple layers of approval are the death knell for this sort of thing.

  2. I’ve definitely done this with food. The last memorable experience was at an African restaurant in Orlando called Boma. Went there with my uncle. They have a big buffet and while there I struck up a conversation with the chef and he offered to make something custom for me. He asked what I wanted and I told him to just make me whatever he wants. The result can be found < HREF="http://www.davidresnick.me/files/boma.jpg" REL="nofollow">Here.<> A mixture of bbq shrimp and chicken with veggies and crunchy bread thing. It was amazing.

  3. Oh, non-food….yes, I’ve done it during a recording session for a music/dance/video project called Ram. For one of the segments, I put ten musicians around a < HREF="http://cache.gizmodo.com/assets/resources/2006/12/binauralmic.jpg" REL="nofollow">binaural head mic<> and told them to just interact with the mic and each other. The result was what many audience members described as the most interesting engaging part of the show. The musicians felt free to let loose, and since they were all pros, it was done artistically.

  4. We instruct our staff members to have an answer ready to questions requiring an opinion. For instance, if somebody asks, “Which meeting room is your favorite?”, they give an honest, SPECIFIC answer. They absolutely can’t say, “well, a lot of people like…” or “I don’t know, I’ve never used one.” Of course, that means we have to give our employees lots of exposure to our product, then trust them to engage with the customer.

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