Sunday, May 15, 2011

Studio Nightmares

After watching every episode of Chef Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares on Hulu a few weeks ago, I had somewhat an epiphany. Well perhaps epiphany is a bit too strong a sentiment. Let's just say, I had a moment of clarified butter.

The essence of what Chef Ramsey does in each episode is that of an efficiency expert. His mission is to distill from the personalities, egos, service and product, where inherent weaknesses lie. He's also a blunt force of awakening, not unlike that of a Nagual, without the shape-shifting.  Granted, much of the on-air friction is fodder for reality junkies, with amped-up emotions and creative editing, but at the core of the show, there are some true gems in terms of advice for creators - whether they're chefs, actors, entrepreneurs or artists.

Ramsey is called in to a troubled restaurant wherein the owners, chefs and staff are at a loss as to why they're not as successful as they should be.  The advantage Ramsey has - like any efficiency expert - is that he is not at the mercy of the immediate local politics and personalities associated with its demise.  He enters into each scenario with a higher level POV.

His first observation is the exterior and interior; First impressions and general curb appeal. His second step is to sample the fare, looking at presentation, taste, service, intent and technique. Next, Gordon meets the artists in the kitchen and the management.

The moment of clarity came when I began to see a common thread in each episode. Two things: The product is not up to snuff. And two, the personalities & egos behind the product are either in denial or are ignorant of their product's failings, usually both.

I began to see the parallels in how this blunt force trauma of having been told your work sucks works for just about any profession. Specifically for artists.

Artists who cannot figure out why they're not selling their work - or who are not getting asked to show their work in galleries and group exhibitions - need to have their product tasted by an unbiased party. Preferably by someone who knows art and critiques from the love of their own industry and not for any reasons of schadenfreude.  If your work sucks, it's time you know now rather than later, when changing course can be a daunting, time-consuming maneuver.

Secondly, if your audience (or critic) pans your work and your reaction is that of stubborn anger & reticence and you can't seem to find the credence in the review - yet you still cannot seem to make a sale, then perhaps it's time to suspend the ego temporarily (if it's sales you're looking for) and be open to the idea that you can be doing your job better. As artists, making art is our job and we owe it to ourselves to be our Employee of the Month - every month!

That said, I think artists should watch Kitchen Nightmares and pay special attention to how egos and personalities get in the way of recognizing the work is lacking. And keep in mind that the product is not the end of the experience for your audience. Craftsmanship, attention to detail, higher quality ingredients, presentation, freshness, intent and the managing of your business all go into your audience's experience of you.

So in the words of Ice Cube, "You better check yourself, before you wreck yourself".

That is all.