Great ingredients treated right make for an amazing culinary creation. Likewise, great employees treated right can make for an amazing workplace culture.

By John Gonzales

About 5 years ago I discovered my true passion in life: cooking. Oh the joy it brings to my evenings! I’ve become an amateur chef and I love it. My wife’s only complaint is that I found it so late into our marriage.  

There’s something spiritual and deeply satisfying for me when I prepare a meal for friends and family. I find in cooking that I can lose myself in the creative nurturing of a sauce, or coaxing that perfect sear on a steak. I find respite from my often hectic days in the dicing of vegetables, replacing the concerns of work and stresses of life with the striving to ensure perfectly symmetrical knife cuts on my zucchini.  

Even after returning from a long business trip, my wife will often offer to cook dinner for me, knowing the usual jet lag and tiredness a 3-hour time change can bring – but perish the thought! I look forward to creating the perfect Bolognese sauce no matter how fraught with peril my adventures on plane, trains and automobiles has been. The Sauce MUST go on!

I’ll be modest here – I’m an outstanding cook!

Some of my dishes are – dare I say it? Yes…I must: Master Chef worthy! Chicken fried chicken, carne guisada with cilantro and lime rice, cedar plank salmon, shrimp scampi, halibut and butter, poached lobster tail with sautéed rainbow carrots and spinach, crispy sesame chicken with sticky Asian sauce, the list goes on!

But the pièce de résistance is my Pasta Bolognese. It brings tears to my eyes, and makes young girls cry – especially my daughter – who cannot resist coming over each and every time I make it. Want to see your adult kids more often? Learn this recipe. If you cook it, they will come!

So here’s where I give you the secret to my Bolognese sauce. Ready?

Great olive oil (don’t skimp here), fresh garlic, mushrooms, carrots and onion, dry white wine, chicken stock, fresh basil, lean ground beef cut with Italian sausage and San Marzano tomatoes. Paired with an al dente pasta, a nice glass of Cabernet and a slice of my equally world-famous garlic mozzarella toast, well . . . let’s just say it’s amazing.

Great ingredients treated right.

It’s a perfect analogy for a great company or community culture, isn’t it? There really is no “secret” to my Bolognese sauce, other than I seek out and use the best ingredients I can find, then treat them with respect and care. A great company will seek out and hire the best people and then treat them in like fashion. There . . . the secret is out.  

And if a company fails to do either of these things, it’s destined for the trash bin of the kitchen.

I’ve been privileged to have been part of some great company cultures, and they all follow similar (but not exact) recipes. My Bolognese sauce is never exactly the same twice – there are always slight variations, tweaks, experiments, risks. However, after having cooked it so many times, it’s always delicious because I follow the same basic secret recipe: great ingredients, treated right.

Want to be part of a great organization? Follow the “Secret Recipe.”

Don’t hire substandard people – it’s akin to using spoiled tomatoes. Don’t overwork your ground beef – it’s akin to burdening your employees disproportionately. Don’t cross contaminate your cutting boards, it’s like…well, that’s a hard one, but you get the idea.

The truth is that there is little difference in great Bolognese sauces, they can all be terrific and delicious; the same is true for organizations – be part of the right ones. Those that seek out and hire great people, then treat them right. You don’t want to end up on a plate being sent back to the kitchen – or worse – making someone sick.