Mentoring lessons gleaned from Chef Colin

Have been watching MKR (My Kitchen Rules) an Australian production featuring a cooking competition. One of the main highlights of the latest season and something that is new is ‘Comeback Kitchen’. This is where participants who had been eliminated previously had a chance to get back into the semi-finals of the competition. They go through rigourous training and competition under one of the guest judges Colin Fassnidge in his restaurant kitchen. There, they will be put through a gruelling training under him and have to overcome challenges like working in a small kitchen, sharing ovens and preparing food for paying customers.

On first impression, Chef Colin is not the most likable. He does not mince his words when he is judging the food and is very direct and straightforward. However, in ‘Comeback Kitchen’, we saw another side of him – that of a teacher and some of the teams really flourished under him.

As I watched him trained the participants, I gleaned some precious lessons on mentoring and teaching.

Chef Colin has standards and expectations of those under him. He does not compromise on this and is the no nonsense type. He gives helpful feedback, some of which can be harsh. He is always keeping a close watch over the participants, making observations, and stepping in when necessary when he sees something that is unacceptable or has potential problems. But at the same time, he does not always tell them exactly what to do. He helps them to see the problem, provides support where necessary but yet does not tell them all the answers but leaves them to figure it on their own. In this way, he makes them think about what they are doing, understand what is wrong and come up with their own ideas of how to do it better. I find this very empowering and this is really what I want to do in my relationships with others be it in a mentoring/teaching/leadership capacity or just as a friend. What I like about him also is that though he is harsh, he can be very encouraging too if need be, believing in the participants and giving them the confidence to continue and finish with what they are doing when they are defeated by obstacles and setbacks. And it is also heartwarming to see how he is genuinely very happy when he sees those under him flourish and growing.