Sunday 24 November 2019

The boy named Budi

Let me tell you a great little recipe on how to make success using hard work.

I got a job in Spain. I spoke no Spanish. I knew I was screwed. With absolutely no idea of what anyone was saying and no idea of what I should do, I knew one thing for sure, it was only a matter of time before they would fire me. So, the plan was simple: survival, and this is how I did it. I needed to be the hardest worker in the kitchen, the first one in, the last one out and the one who said yes to everything, every job, and every task. My logic was that any human being with a basic conscience could not fire that guy, the guy who is giving it all, the guy who you feel sorry for, the same guy who is getting you zucchini when you asked for carrots because he has no clue what the hell anyone is actually saying. I did make many mistakes and I did get yelled at a lot, but the end result was victory. They didn’t fire me and I eventually learned enough Spanish to participate and gain their respect in place of their pity. So, this formula I know well, but I am always so proud of others who choose to apply it. One such example was Budi.

Our philosophy in Cuca from the very beginning was to train from zero and give young, happy, eager Indonesians a chance to become professionals. We are talking about 20-year-old kids with no English, and no previous experience. For most of them, the interview was their first time stepping into a restaurant. They would learn slowly, but they would learn our way, the precise way we wanted everything to be done. We were building professionals from scratch with no bad habits. The system was designed like high school, where each grade led to the next, and each one is necessary for the success of the one to follow. Graduation for each level came quickly, giving each student the feeling of success and motivating them to continue to the next grade, and by separating very well each level, the person above you was already a master of all the tasks you were doing, so the training could be done by them, providing a “big brother” system of caring unlike the standard military discipline of “life or death”. Now you can imagine the challenges, but the hope was we and the customers would benefit from the team’s fresh excitement and sincerity, and they from the opportunity of a future in hospitality. The idea came from years of doing the exact opposite and hiring the best bartender, the best cooks and the best waiters, where everyone wanted to score the goal and nobody wanted to pass the ball. So, Cuca would be a team where everyone would work together, with no superstars but a super team. One such example of this system is Budi.

Budi started working in Cuca from the day we opened our doors and was hired as stewarding. With no English, no restaurant experience and absolutely no clue, his task was to clean absolutely everything. He did, and after a few years, he wanted to learn kitchen. We granted his wish and transferred him, and he started from scratch, but with effort came skills and, before long, he was keeping up and getting it done. The more he learned, the more he grew, and last week we sat with him for yet again another promotion. Budi, the kid who started 7 years ago from zero, is now officially our Head Chef in Cuca. My right-hand man, the guy totally responsible for delicious. Now ain’t that a recipe of success through good old fashion hard work!

By Kevin Cherkas