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What Do Michelin-Star Restaurant Chefs Have In Common With Slow Productivity?

4 Insights I Gained From Sitting at the Chef’s Table and Observing Chefs at Work

Hi friend!

I’m a bit of a foodie and this week I’m combining my passion for food and Slow Productivity.

Specifically, I want to talk about what Michelin-star restaurant chefs have in common with the practice of Slow Productivity.

💡 Today at a glance

  • What’s the Michelin Star restaurant rating system and it’s interesting history.

  • Four insights I gained that showed me chefs in Michelin-star restaurants practice slow productivity

  • Notion has officially launched a new Calendar App that integrates with Notion databases 🥳 !

I’m grateful to have dined in a small handful of Michelin-star restaurants over the last 15 years. Mostly when I’ve travelled to somewhere new.

Last year, I got to experience the Chef’s Table Journey Menu at Birdsong in San Francisco. The restaurant was awarded 2 Michelin stars in 2021 and has retained it since then.

In case you didn’t know, here’s a brief but interesting history on the Michelin guide and restaurant star system.

The Michelin guide was created by the Michelin tire company in France back in 1900. The guide provided ratings of restaurants and hotels, listed petrol station locations and taught drivers how to change tires!

It was a smart way to promote car travel, the automotive industry and their tires (back when car travel was still pretty uncommon) — A really smart marketing move!

In 1926, the Michelin brothers evolve the guide into a Michelin Star grading system where restaurants were given 1, 2 or 3 stars, if the restaurant made the cut for their Michelin Guide.

Today the Michelin Guide has expanded it’s rating system to include seperate rating systems for the comfort/quality of hotels and restaurants, drinks and value for money eats.

⭐️ A Michelin star is awarded to the restaurant, not the chef. But stars aren’t just awarded to fine dining restaurants. The criteria for the award is solely based on the food:

- The quality of the ingredients

- The harmony of flavours

- The mastery of techniques

- The personality of the chef as expressed through their cuisine

- Consistency both across the entire menu and over time

I had the pleasure of grabbing a cheap bite at 1-star Singaporean street food hawker stalls like Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle. And the food was hearty and delicious.

But when you dine at a restaurant like Birdsong, you get more than top quality food. You get a top quality dining experience.

We were celebrating a special occasion, so we decided to treat ourselves to a nice meal while in San Francisco. Birdsong coincidentally had a couple of open spots for exactly the nights we were in San Francisco.

We sat the the Chef’s Table facing the open kitchen and got to observe the highly skilled chefs at work as we savoured a 3-hour dining experience.

It was fascinating to watch the chefs at work!

They were quiet, organised, detailed, focused and constantly kept their cooking stations clean.

But it wasn’t just the kitchen staff. The front of house staff were equally meticulous and attentive towards diners.

My dining experience at this 2 Michelin star restaurant made me realise that Michelin star restaurants (and those who work there) can produce food and a dining experience to the quality they do because they really encapsulate the practice of Slow Productivity.

Here Are Four Things That Showed Me Chefs in Michelin-Star Restaurants Practice Slow Productivity:

1. Becoming a Michelin-star restaurant and chef takes a long time, and a focus on quality

It often takes years (decades even) for chefs to hone their talent, build their culinary skills and practice their creativity to ultimately become a Michelin-star restaurant chef.

Birdsong was opened by executive chef Christopher Bleidorn who spent years working at many top notch and Michelin star restaurants before opening up his own restaurant.

This is the deliberate practice that’s needed over a long period of time, for a chef to create very high quality and artistic dishes that diners are willing to pay top dollar for.

2. The chefs are very focused in the kitchen

An immersive part of the dining experiencing is getting to watch the chefs prepare the food in front of you.

The chefs were very focused on the work at hand and it looked like each chef only had one dish to focus on. You could tell they took it seriously. This allowed them to make sure each dish that came out of the kitchen was of a high quality.

The chefs weren’t constantly multi-tasking.

They were systematic and sequential in how they worked in the kitchen.

They paid careful attention to every component of a dish and how it was presented. So your eyes were eating up the dish before you actually ate the food!

Birdsong — Pine mushroom, Douglas fir, Green bee tomatoes

3. The fine dining experience was slow and steady

It was a 3 hour dining experience designed to be consumed and savoured slowly. You set the pace. Dishes are only cooked and served to diners when they’re ready.

It's a full experience from the moment you walk in, to the moment you get out of your chair with a full belly.

Dishes and ingredients are explained in detail (often by the chef who prepared the dish themselves). This often includes the taste, texture, reason for selecting the ingredients, how the ingredients go together, what order to eat the components on the dish etc.

You are encouraged to enjoy each mouthful, eat mindfully and gain an understanding of the food you’re consuming.

4. The kitchen was always calm

You would think restaurants kitchens are noisy and chaotic.

But not fine dining open kitchen restaurants. There were no loud noises or franticness. The chefs didn’t look rushed.

Instead they worked at a natural human pace to ensure no mistakes occur and dishes were perfectly presented each time.

Birdsong — Open kitchen, a view from the Chef’s Table

The chefs worked at a slow and steady pace throughout the night to make sure dishes came out at just the right time for diners.

The chefs’ work spaces were clean and organised at all times.

Cal Newport defines Slow Productivity as doing fewer but important things, to a high quality and at a natural human pace.

It takes dedication, creativity, skill and deliberate practice to craft up high quality, beautiful and delicious dishes for diners to experience and enjoy.

I think fine dining Michelin-star restaurants and chefs really do embody all 3 practices of Slow Productivity.

Embracing slow productivity practices can help us live and work with more focus, calm and intention.

🛠️ Building in Public

I’ve been a bit quiet on the “build in public” front recently as I’m focusing on a couple of projects behind the scenes.

One of which is a custom Notion workspace I’m building for a client. Here’s a sneaky peak. It’s a work-in-progress, but so far I’m pretty pleased with how it’s coming along.

Sneak peak into the Notion workspace

That’s it! Thanks for reading.

Hit reply and let me know if you’re face any challenges in practicing Slow Productivity —I will reply with a specific suggestion for you!

See you next week,

Janice CK

📌 Note Worthy

A weekly roundup of interesting or noteworthy resources in the space of Slow Productivity and Notion.

  1. Notion Calendar App 

    Notion just released a standalone app call called Notion Calendar. They have converted the Cron calendar app into a powerful tool that integrates Notion database with your google calendar! I’ll be experimenting with timeblocking in the coming weeks.

    There’s still a lot that Notion is planning to work on, so I’m excited to see how they develop this into an even more powerful calendar tool.

    Check it out the app

  2. Notion Calendar First Steps and Tutorial (Matthias Frank)

    Matthias dives into how you can get set up, features and limitations.

    Check it out article

  3. Notion New Calendar breakdown Video (By Thomas Frank)

    He dives into how you can get set up, use the scheduling feature and attached Notion pages to your events.

    Check out Youtube video

Whenever you're ready, here are 3 ways I can help you:

  1. Ultimate Guide: How to create your digital writing system in Notion under 1 hour (Free!): Ready to learn how to use Notion to create your own writing system so you can write consistently?

    Join 110+ people who have downloaded this guide to build their own Writer’s Hub OS in Notion with built-in slow productivity principles.

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    Perfect for new digital writers and solopreneurs looking for a system in Notion.

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    Join 700+ people who have already downloaded this system and upped their travel planning game.

Interested in supporting me (for free)? 💚 

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