What ‘Replacing Chef Chico’ teaches us about leadership | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

It doesn’t take a genius to see the potential of stellar leaders in our midst. Some people are born with all the makings of them. Others? Well, they’ll learn and get there, too. Their potential to command a room has always been there, anyway. Just give them a few years in the business, and they’ll have leadership roles to their names in no time. 

Usually, a year or two would be more than enough for incoming leaders to start speaking up and stepping up to their new responsibilities, duties, and acts of service. 

In the romantic drama “Replacing Chef Chico,” though, protagonist Chef Ella only had a month to step up to the plate. She not only had to earn her colleagues’ trust, but prove to them that she could fill in for their snarky head chef and get their restaurant out of the trenches, too. Nonetheless, she persevered, and every episode was nothing short of a learning experience for both the viewers and Chef Ella herself. She transformed from a subservient sous chef who walked on eggshells around the kitchen to a confident head chef with a heart that beats for Hain and its guests.

In the face of adversity, passion persevered in Chef Ella’s pursuit to literally and figuratively serve. Amid the pressure of a bustling kitchen, she delivered labors of love that stemmed from customers’ anecdotes. On off days, she treasured and supported the Hain team’s encounters with love, loss, and acceptance. 

There’s an unsung satisfaction in relating to “girl boss” moments in movies and TV shows. What better way to witness that than through a woman managing a fine-dining kitchen? Chef Ella was no paragon of authority, but over time, she pushed herself to embody the traits of the woman in charge that Hain needed all along. From spearheading an influential couple’s anniversary celebration to accommodating a last-minute gay wedding, here’s a look back on memorable life lessons Chef Ella learned through her highs and lows at the restaurant’s helm.

Lending a listening ear

Photo from Antoinette Jadaone’s Instagram

On most occasions, our carefully crafted work style guides us through a new job. But becoming a leader will make us realize that eventually, our personal preferences aren’t always the key to collective success. Chef Ella learned this the hard way. But she eventually took her fellow chefs’ strategies and ideas into account. Reluctant as she was to put her own work habits aside, she blossomed into a caring listener and helping hand—the polar opposite of Chef Chico’s sharp tongue and iron fist. She also became the extra pair of eyes Hain needed, bringing the details of every dish to light even on their most jam-packed days.

Support systems will never let us down

Photo from Antoinette Jadaone’s Instagram

The Hain team wasn’t entirely on Chef Ella’s side during her first few days as head chef. In fact, they were opposed to her taking charge. The whole group even made bets on how long it’d take before Chef Ella would eventually quit. But a little encouragement goes a long way, and this rang true to her budding connection with Hain’s newly hired consultant Raymond. He believed in her when no one else did. No matter how meticulous he was, Chef Ella found strength in Raymond’s words of affirmation. Soon enough, she proved her naysayers wrong. From believing that “there’s no Hain without Chef Chico,” they didn’t hesitate to become the wind beneath Chef Ella’s wings. 

Experience is the best teacher

Screencap from the “Replacing Chef Chico” trailer

There are no shortcuts to unlocking our full potential as leaders. As Chef Chico’s right-hand woman, Chef Ella had to endure years of his unbridled rage before she guided Hain toward a more promising future. His presence was so ingrained in the team’s minds that they hardly saw Chef Ella as his worthy replacement. But all those years of surviving Hain’s own Gordon Ramsay also helped Chef Ella hone her core skills and self-worth. Her keen eye for Filipino cuisine prevailed, allowing the team’s shared passion for cooking to dethrone Chef Chico’s anger. Like her, we all have knacks for certain aspects of our work. They keep us moving forward no matter what obstacles may stunt our growth. 

Ditching the blame game

Screencap from the “Replacing Chef Chico” trailer

A missing key ingredient to Hain’s bopis recipe proved that even the most respected leaders can’t avoid roadblocks at work. Chef Chico would’ve thrown a fit at the mishap and taken his anger out at his subordinates. Chef Ella, however, stayed calm and prioritized finding a workable solution. She took responsibility for the dish’s lacking parts and encouraged her fellow chefs to make up for it next time. She acknowledged the mistake and took accountability instead of pinning the blame on others and adding fuel to the fire. Whatever the oversight, it costs nothing for leaders to get off their high horses and be kind and transparent, even on their worst days.

Empowering an open mind

Photo from Antoinette Jadaone’s Instagram

“New” was a word that the series tossed around each episode. With a joint goal of putting Hain on the map of Asian fine dining, the team kept churning out fresh and unconventional menu items that Chef Chico coldly turned down. Little did he know that those risks were exactly what the Hain team needed to make a name for themselves. With their jobs on the line, Chef Ella trusted her colleagues’ visions and willingly brought them to fruition. Her openness to new ideas got her a glowing review that posed hope for Hain—a feat she celebrated with her found family in the kitchen. They say too many cooks spoil the broth, but with leaders like Chef Ella, a little variety in the workplace surely can’t hurt.

Photo from Alessandra de Rossi’s Instagram

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