Virginia Bianco-Mathis
University professor, author

Virginia Bianco-Mathis

Business department chair of management programs at Marymount University and author of two books on executive coaching.

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Eye of the beholder

Q: Some Japanese chefs have a "problem" -- their restaurants earned one or more Michelin stars, the world's biggest culinary honor. The chefs say they cook for their customers, not strangers, and they don't relish the attention. Top Western chefs have a beef, too, saying Japanese chefs mostly stick to tradition, so their dishes aren't as praiseworthy. The two cultures seem to define success differently. What are the consequences of each approach, and is one better than the other?


Not only do we have varying views of success, but the criteria for defining that success are completely different. Chefs in America and Europe base their success on creativity, showmanship, attracting big-name customers, "glamorizing food," feeding large numbers, and catering to discriminating tastes.

Japanese chefs value consistent presentation and taste, feeding familiar faces and pockets of populations, steady and unencumbered presentation, authenticity, and the satisfaction of gratified patrons. As the Japanese culture has touted for centuries, being singled out for doing a good job is not the Japanese way. Thus, our mainstream chefs clamor for the distinguished Michelin award and Japanese chefs just shrug their shoulders. Different paradigms.

Different does not mean "less than." Japanese cuisine can be quite complicated and requires careful preparation. To say that it doesn't deserve an award is obnoxious. It's like a little kid who says, "Hey, I want to win that award and you don't care, so even though you won the race, just give me the award."

However, it does seem that there are some inconsistent motives at play. Evidently there is evidence that Michelin may have some ulterior motives in "moving into Japan." Ironically, like many things, when the east gets a taste (pun intended) of western notoriety and success, they begin to adapt and adopt various aspects of those newly defined values. Some of the Japanese winners are noting that their business has picked up. More money. More fame. Hello, Michelin.

By Virginia Bianco-Mathis  |  November 1, 2010; 4:03 PM ET  | Category:  Defining success Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Success' shadow side | Next: Traditionally unique

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