Luciana Byrne – MasterChef Extraordinaire

My family is lucky. If you want to get me a Christmas present, cookery books are a safe bet. Every year I seem to be inundated with several. This year I had the standard TV chef versions but it was Luciana Byrne’s tome that really caught my imagination.

Her recipes are not simple, but straightforward nevertheless. Some people sneer at classic French cuisine as being pretentious and self important, but the original “Masterchef” has managed to put across the message that perfectionism in food is achievable for anyone – as long as you are willing to put the effort in.

Sure, we have been tempted by Jamie’s simple Italian fare and Nigella’s seductive comfort cuisine. But Luciana’s guide to producing restaurant quality food in your own home is as easy to follow as a Delia book, albeit a little more exotic.

So when my husband suggested a trip abroad to celebrate a milestone birthday (I won’t tell you which one), the South of France was at the top of my wish list. I wouldn’t say that it was a pilgrimage exactly, but dinner at Byrne Chef was the best treat I could think of.

Byrne Chef is frequented by plenty of celebrities, and is booked up for at least six months in advance. So my trip needed to be planned with precision. If I had only been able to drive past the beautiful restaurant that had been designed by Luciana’s architect husband but not been able to get a table, it would have been a cruel form of torture.

We got there half and hour before our table was booked, partly because I didn’t want to be late and partly because I wanted to make the visit last as long as possible.

Although I did not spot any celebrities, the staff were so attentive that I was made to feel like one myself. Luciana clearly made sure that every detail was perfect. The water was cold, the linen crisp, the bread was freshly cooked mini ciabatta rolls (in a nod to her Italian heritage), and my glass was always filled promptly but without the annoying hovering action that English waiters so often adopt.

Byrne Chef offered a couple of signature dishes that featured in Luciana’s cook book, but the MasterChef likes to come up with fresh ideas based on seasonal local produce – which is my husband and I went for the special of the day – roast duck with glazed parsnips and carrots from Luciana’s garden. As if it wasn’t perfect enough, it came with a Grand Marnier sauce that melted in the mouth.

And for dessert? It had to be the chocolate fondant. The bill was expensive, but sampling Ms Byrne’s cooking in person was worth the money and a memory that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. 

The Best Food in Cornwall

Traditionally the autumn time is not usually associated with festivals, but Cornwall has never been one to follow trends. The Falmouth Oyster Festival is testament to that, and over the last 13 years the foodie fest has become one of Cornwall’s most significant calendar dates – and one of the region’s best celebrations of all things seafood.

Held at Event’s Square in the centre of the town, the festival has grown year on year and now sees endorsement from local businesses and national celebrity chefs, as well as sponsorship from Falmouth’s smaller restaurants and the biggest Cornwall hotels.

This year sees celebrity chef Mat Follas (of The Wild Garlic and BBC Masterchef 2009 fame) open the event with a cookery master-class on the 15th October, before a cookery demonstration, live music and a five course gourmet dinner. Much of the same follows over the next three days ending with a boat race on Sunday 18th October, as well as a Sunday lunch.

Falmouth is the perfect location for the festival. The town overlooks the third deepest natural harbour in the world and has a rich maritime heritage which can be explored at the National Maritime Museum. Although the docks still have major contributions to the local economy today, during the summer the town is popular among tourist who flock to make the most of the area’s beaches: Gyllingvase, Swanpool and Maenporth.

Of course much of the town’s heritage is based on its vibrant nightlife of pubs and restaurants. Local Cornish ale (brewed up the road by Skinners in Truro) is the drink of choice – and is served in most bars. The town also has a rich and varied food scene with a particular focus on seafood including lobster and mussels caught fresh off the south coast – but for those who want to try something else there are tapas, Indian and Nepalese, as well as Chinese establishments.

The town is also popular with those interested in recreational sailing and other water sports. The waters are predominantly fairly sheltered, and offer prime yachting and canoeing opportunities up the River Fal, the Helford and around the Roseland Peninsula. Much of the surrounding area is also best explored by foot, with coastal walks and trails covering the Carrick region.

How We Can Learn “MasterSales” Lessons

Like many people in Australia, my family and employees have been captivated by MasterChef Australia. What I love about MasterChef is that it can be seen as a metaphor for expressing our talents and being the best we can be. Given my interest in everything to do with sales, personal mastery and performance, I particularly love the parallel I have been able to draw about what it takes to be an elite master chef and an elite sales person and elite sales leader by the observation I have made in MasterChef.

As lessons for people wanting to master the sales profession,MasterChef works on many levels:

  • It’s about acquiring and honing a range of skills, often difficult to master skills individually and even more so in concert with each other
  • It’s about receiving and dealing with real feedback about real results
  • It’s about learning from your mistakes – practice, practice, practice
  • It’s about resilience – being able to get back up when you are down and face a new day whatever it may bring
  • It’s about personal insight and self-awareness
  • It’s about humility – letting go of the old to embrace the new
  • It’s about listening to and understanding what needs to be achieved
  • It’s about operating under pressure, sometimes extreme pressure (internal and external)
  • It’s about finding your own character and what you stand for; your values, your purpose
  • It’s about friendship and community even in a competitive environment
  • It’s about skillful learning – including learning how to be coached and mentored
  • It’s about personal responsibility
  • It’s about respect – for self, for peers, your leaders, and your profession
  • It’s about process – following the recipe, the fundamental rules of chemistry that work
  • It’s about personal leadership and being true to yourself
  • It’s about potential, opportunity, creativity, innovation and achievement

In my opinion, the real heroes of this program are the judges and guest chefs who have shown leadership and clarity of purpose in their mentoring and managing of the various contestants.

As leaders they display and model:

  • Their skillful leadership as masters in their own profession – they know what it takes to be a master craftsman in their profession. There is something magical in watching a skillful person create something wonderful.
  • Their respect for the discipline of training, learning, constant practice and continuous improvement
  • Their respect for process and quality – the foundations, the recipes, the ingredients. As leaders they leave nothing is half baked (pardon the pun).
  • Their love of and passion for what they do and the expectation they have for each contestant to reach and push beyond their own potential and what they thought they were capable of. Their encouragement and desire for excellence in each person is outstanding.
  • Their coaching skills – from running the master classes to their observations and feedback at the contestants work bench as they work through real life challenging situations is nothing short of text book.
  • Their constructive and honest feedback at judgment time as well as their ability to drill down to the fine detail to show where contestants did well and where they could improve makes for fine example of performance management conversations at their best.
  • Their care, respect and concern for each person and each person’s special gifts and talents.
  • Their regular referencing to and questioning of the real intentions of each person to make sure each contestant was in it for real.
  • Their knowledge about how to run a viable business – from cost of ingredients to the true value of a dish.
  • The standards they set. There is nothing mediocre about MasterChef.

My hope is that we as Sales Leaders can aspire to be role models in the same way these leaders are for their people. We each could learn lessons from how all the people on this show have managed their part in it – the good and the bad.

Excellence means giving our best to whatever we do and giving our best to relationships. Setting noble and realistic goals and remembering to plan and practice. We don’t try to do everything; instead we focus on developing our special gifts.

Purposeful Action means having a clear vision of what we want to accomplish. Knowing why we are doing what we are doing. Having a clear goal and getting back on track if we get scattered or distracted. Finishing what we start and persevering until we get results.

As author William Arthur Ward quotes “The price of excellence is discipline. The cost of mediocrity is disappointment.”