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November 16, 2018
September 26, 2023

Artists, Strive for Excellence Not Perfection

In this video, Chef David Bull gives an important reminder to be freed up to avoid perfection, but rather strive for excellence.

If your only goal is perfection, then we will fail every time and the ride will be very very difficult.


Aaron: So, what do you do when something is a fail?

David: Uh, don’t serve it. Fire everybody. Yell and scream. Uh no, failures probably happen in our kitchen ten times a day. Either from somebody burning the oatmeal, somebody not prepping enough food for a particular station, not ordering enough fish. What else, Maria?

Maria: Probably burning the food is the biggest one. Not setting timers.

David: So on any given day, we’ve got like eight cooks in the main kitchen and right now our bank kitchen is incredibly busy, so we got probably about 25 people that are cooking. So again, if they’re not replicating the exact stuff, that’s just not how we cook. So they have to know the how, the why, the feel, and the taste. Well, that’s hard to do with a lot of people like that, so we’re guiding them every step of the way so they at least meet what we hope is gonna be the end result.

That’s the beauty about food too is that you know when you make a song – that’s it! We get a chance to kind of at least manipulate it through the process.

Aaron: You get a redo!

David: We get a redo, because the next day it’ll be 86. It’s gone! Scallops are not available tonight. Sorry. We usually say it’s about weather, vendor, or mechanical breakdown.

Aaron: See there are songs that exist that you’re able to find, that I wish they no longer existed. You can just redo!

David: But there are times where dishes will go out that haven’t met the exact standard. Then there’s a pursuit of excellence or a pursuit of perfection, but if we strive to get close to that then we’re doing okay. But if your only goal is perfection, then we will fail every time and the ride will be very very difficult. Yeah, nobody would have any fun, because there’s no way to cook for a thousand people and do perfect food. It doesn’t exist.

Even if I’m cooking just for you, I’d probably cook it – if it was the same dishes and I cooked for you ten days straight – I’d probably do it differently every single time. Tweak it here, do something different, different presentation, and that’s where you’re saying too – “getting complacent.”

It’s hard – “well, I’ve cooked scallops a million times, they’re not that exciting to me.” Well, this is exciting! I haven’t cooked in this setting before for these amazing people! [Points to Audience]  This is great, but especially – and I’m sure it’s the same for most of the other professions – is that especially on the food side when you’re just inundated with what everybody else is doing, constantly, and when I said there are 200 restaurants – everything is just constantly in comparison to who’s doing what, when, and how.

Aaron: We don’t struggle with that in here. [Points to Audience].

David: So you’re constantly in the question of whether it’s trends or the style. SBK (Second Bar & Kitchen) Downtown is celebrating almost ten years in the making. So it’s like – “wait a minute, is it time to totally change concept?” – So there’s a lot of questioning of that process, that’s probably the biggest challenge, to say – “wait a minute just because we may be tired of the braised beef short ribs on truffled grits.” People come to the restaurant just to get that dish, well my job is to make the braised short ribs.

Aaron: . . . and the truffled grits.

David: That’s it!

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