Work With Excellence: A “Seven Days Out” Review

Today at Eckel & Vaughan we took a break. Even after a ten-day hiatus, we found time to gather as a team during our lunch hour to watch the first episode in a new Netflix series entitled “Seven Days Out.” The episode, “Eleven Madison Park” takes the viewer inside the reopening of the number one restaurant in the world—named, of course, Eleven Madison Park—just one week before opening night.

The obvious draw to this story for a company like ours is the fact that we get to watch how other professionals—in a completely different line of work, mind you—handle preparing for a high stakes event, to get a first-hand look at the stresses they must overcome and the ways in which they endure to make it happen. But that’s table stakes. We, too, have a great deal of experience handling all aspects of significant events for our clients. We understand the stresses, the pressure to perform and how to deliver a flawless implementation, whatever it may be.

What was far more important, is that today we got to watch how professionals in a completely different field from ours embraced the pursuit of and ultimately delivered excellence.

We discussed our observations and a few themes were identified such as teamwork. In this case, the service and kitchen staff worked together. One team did not run the other. There was a respect and concern for each other. They pursued each day of service like they were competing in “The Super Bowl.” Each member of the team had to play at their highest level so that the restaurant team could deliver an exceptional experience to each guest. And there seemed to be an adherence to the guest experience. Everything was about them, the mohair fabric, the table leg formation and the logo on the plate. Everything mattered. The service manager went on to explain that they had an “ability” to help guests “celebrate the most important events in their lives.” I’d argue that his team actually believed it was their responsibility to do so. And they did.

I was particularly struck by the chef’s perspective on his work. He declared that there are four fundamentals to their cuisine:

  1. The dish has to be delicious.
  2. The dish has to be beautiful.
  3. The dish has to be creative. Every dish has to “add something to the dialogue of food today.”
  4. Each dish had to be prepared with intention. “It needs to make sense that the dish even exists.”

All four fundamentals must exist in each dish. Wow. This perspective alone inspires me in my work as a new year begins.

As we enter into a season of good intentions and hopes and dreams for the new year, it’s important to consider in our own field of work, how to pursue excellence. How can we be the best we can be at what we do? In doing so, it’s wise to study how those at the top of their field deliver. There are certainly common themes among those that complete at unusually high levels—and you’ll see many of them on display in each episode of the series. Just as this episode suggests, they are “intelligent” about what they do, they are “eager,” “inquisitive” and “consistent.” To them, “everything matters.” And it does. But beneath it all is a real passion—a real love— for what they do. It’s not a job. It’s a love.

As former New York Times food critic, Frank Bruni said in this episode, “It always comes through in whatever medium it is. If the people who made that piece of art, if they love what they’re doing, I think what they create breaths and pulsates with that.” How true.

And this is what the entire series is all about. I hope you’ll find time to enjoy it like I have.