Iron Chef Entrepreneurism

I am an admitted “foodie”. I love eating yummy food, I love cooking it, and I watch all the cable TV shows too. I don’t care for brussel spouts but overall, I am game for just about anything.

As I was watching Iron Chef Morimoto battle today, it occurred to me that the Iron Chef challenge is a lot like being an entrepreneur. You get to choose your challenger, normally someone who is experienced and ahead of you in the market. Much like identifying your competition in your niche, you can be very strategic about who you choose to go head to head with in battle. You size them up, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and pick where you feel you can excel. You rise to the challenge of their quality as you face a worthy adversary.

Next, the secret ingredient! You don’t know what’s getting thrown at you but you are required to work with it and make spectacular dishes with it.  For an entrepreneur,  your secret ingredient is your client’s needs and wants. Once you know what those needs and wants are, you have the basic information you need to develop the products and services that satisfy them. You have to apply your creativity, walking the fine line between traditional presentation and forward thinking inspiration, offering innovation that your clients can relate to as well as be lifted up by.

Don’t forget that 60 minute clock! You probably have more time than a mere hour to develop your products, but truth is, fresh is good and action is even better. Implementation to market is one of the biggest challenges of entrepreneurs. Set a mental clock and plate your dishes–your market is waiting so set a deadline and meet it. Doing your best is enough, even if it’s not perfect.

At last you get to the judges. Your market place and clients tell you what they think and they vote with their dollars. They admire uniqueness but be careful making trout ice cream unless your market is trout ice cream lovers (pretty small market, I think). Your clients will appreciate new twists on classic standards and they want to see that you really considered their situation in your solution. 

A winner is scored for taste, plating, and originality, so focus on all three. Make sure the substance of your offering is on point, but don’t forget about presentation. Put your personal flair into it, developing your unique selling proposition, always focusing on your clients rather than just being different. Different may be just what your market needs, so it’s not that you can’t be wildly innovative.  Just be sure that you are focused on giving your clients what they are seeking rather than fulfilling a personal ego desire.

Lastly, you get to be applauded and celebrate. Even if you don’t win, you gain experience, notoriety and popularity and you continue to build your reputation of excellence. So, enjoy your win and begin again tomorrow. Everyone knows that even the best chefs are only as good as their last meal. Continue to be challenged by the changing desires of your market, keep your knife sharpened, and love what you do. Bon apetite!

Vicki Flaugher

p.s. By the way–Iron Chefs all have 2 sous chefs. Get the help you need, people whose skill and integrity you trust, and you will get everything done. No one does it alone, so don’t pretend you can. Teamwork is a sign of a true professional.



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