Integrity? As the Merriam-Webster Dictionary puts it, “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values; the quality or state of being complete or undivided.”
At Thomas Keller restaurants, it’s also one of our strict core values.
So what is integrity? In each kitchen this will vary by each chef, and the chef who trained him or her. In Chef Keller’s kitchen it has many meanings: not taking the last sheet of parchment paper, and going out to storage to grab a new box before taking that last sheet. When food is not cooked correctly, whether it is over- or under-cooked, don’t serve it—and for that matter let everyone know about your mistake so that you don’t screw up the entire pick.
When the fish cook screws up, keeping your head down and not throwing him under the bus, that’s integrity. When you screw up, being the bigger man or woman and admitting it, that’s integrity. No one in the kitchen is exempt, from the dish steward to the sous chef to the chef de cuisine. This right here is one of the most important lessons you can teach in your kitchen: no matter who you are, everyone screws up. Being honest and facing your mistakes is a part of having integrity.
In everyday life, integrity is knowing the obvious right thing to do, and then actually doing it, regardless of the sacrifice to make it right. It is the simple concept of knowing right from wrong. It is listening to that little voice inside your head that tells you, “Wash your hands,” or “This isn’t right, I can’t send it out.”
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