I ordered a New York Strip steak at a restaurant called Recipes Remembered. After the server brought it to the table, she asked if I needed anything. And that’s when I made the mistake of asking for ketchup. At first, I wasn’t sure what our server was doing. She was waving her arms around frantically like she was swatting at a hive of killer bees flying around her head. But then I realized she was trying to convince me not to ask for ketchup. It seems I broke the cardinal rule of fine dining—asking for a condiment that would mask the flavor of what I was eating.
At first, I wondered if Gordon Ramsay  was in the back. Why else would a chef at a tiny restaurant in western Pennsylvania potentially take such offense at using a little Heinz ketchup with a steak? But I’m pretty sure he wasn’t Gordon Ramsay. He was just passionate about what he created. That was part of his brand promise . I suppose he could have had a personal prejudice against ketchup, now that I think about it, but let’s assume it was the personal pride and accountability angle.
When’s the last time you took that much ownership over something you created? That you took so much pride over it, even the thought of changing the font style on your PowerPoint deck title card (adding a little ketchup) would feel like a personal insult. After all, I didn’t accuse the chef of serving dog food ala Rodney Dangerfield’s character in Caddyshack, I just asked for a little sauce.
Oh, did I mention the steak was delicious? I didn’t mean to leave you hanging as I pontificate about work ethic. But, to me, the chef’s passion left a much more lasting impression than the meal. He didn’t mail it in, just going through the motions during the Friday night dinner shift on Mt. Nebo road.
I’m not sure if I can operate under such exacting standards 100% of the time, but I know I am definitely going to try. How about you?
Shawn Graham is Director of MBA Career Services at the University of Pittsburgh and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (www.courtingyourcareer.com ).