Chef, author, provocateur, host of Travel Channel's No Reservations and The Layover
Back in the late 1980s, I was emerging from a rough patch in my life. I was a recovering drug addict. I pretty much torched the first half of my career and anything resembling a professional reputation as a chef. I got a job as a lunch cook for an employer I had worked with at the very beginning of my career. I call him Bigfoot in my book Kitchen Confidential. His advice to me was an order. He said, "If you're going to work for me, the most important thing is that you show up on time. Meaning 15 minutes before you are due to begin your shift. If you arrive 14 minutes before your shift, you will be sent home without pay." To this day, I am never late for anything. That requirement to show your co-workers and employer the respect to at least show up on time made a huge difference in my life. When I later got my shit together and became a chef once again and an employer myself, the most important thing that I would pound into people was arrival time. The skills necessary to do the actual job can be taught. Everybody on my show understands that if it's an 8 a.m. call to shoot a market scene in Hanoi, I will be in the lobby waiting for them at five minutes of eight. I believe in leading from the front. It is unthinkable to me for anyone lucky enough to do what I do for a living -- shove food and liquor in my face -- to be late. My behavior as far as arrival time sets a tone. If I'm there on time every day, people show up on time too.
We went through our archives for nearly a decade of collected wisdom that still holds up.