Nellaiappan’s Column-1: Story of the Chinese Cooks

This is not another Zen story. Nor has it any link to the great Confucius or even my favourite writer, Lin Yutang. It is just a management lesson, which I learnt from Bhimraoji, the hard way.

My association with Bhimraoji was short and was more than professional. We both were trying our luck together, me as a production head and he, as a technocrat. It is a 25-year-old story.

Prior to becoming a technocrat, he was associated with the paper industry and had undergone training in US. Like other “States Return”, he used to brag every now and then about his US experiences. But again this has nothing to with US; it is just a story he learnt in US.

By the way, do you know anything about Chinese cooks? They are the best cooks in the world, Bhimraoji used to say. They invent new dishes with the available materials. That is, they will never say something is not there to make a dish but improvise with the available materials and come with a new dish with a new name, yet tasty. They are famous for their improvisation and managing the show with available resources.

Well, whenever I approached him with a list of requirements for our factory, Bimraoji would repeat his oft-repeated question: “Don’t you know why Chinese cooks are very famous?” Fearing repetition of the story, I would interject, I got your point, sir.” He would nod his head approvingly and the matter ended there. I would cannibalize or do some such thing and would somehow manage the situation without the required materials.

Picking up the cue from my boss, I also started taunting people below me with the Chinese Cook Story. When somebody wanted some facility or modification in the plant, I would do a ‘Bhimraoji’ to him and he would also disappear saying, “Yes, sir! Yes, sir!”. Deep down everybody was resenting it; but all of us were helpless anyway.

One day when Bhimraoji started talking about quality improvement in the finished goods. I interrupted him, “Don’t you know the story of the Chinese Cook, sir!’ He was stunned. You would get a tasty dish but it will not be the one you wanted. Then came the anticlimax a month later.

When all of a sudden, batches started failing without any significant reason; we were checking all main ingredients for quality and found them to be okay. We have even stopped production for few days to fix the problem but in vain. Then one of the shopfloor supervisors raised doubt about the quality of the neutralizing agent. Then we found that when there was a shortfall in calcium carbonate stock due to transporters’ strike, the stores-in-charge had applied our Chinese cook story and had used the calcium carbonate from effluent treatment plant. What he did not realize was that there was a major difference in quality of both carbonates!


When Bhimraoji came to factory one week after that incident, with a sad face, I told him that how our Chinese cook story had got us into deep trouble.

Thereafter Bhimraoji never talked about the Chinese cooks to anybody. But I used to quote this in all my training programs while stressing the importance of ‘not compromising on quality and the dangers of ‘ad-hoc’ism’.

If you happen to come across Bhimraoji somewhere in and around Hubli, please tell him how much I adore him.

When something is needed to deliver the result, do not hesitate to ask for it; demand it! If you stick to your demand and repeat at every opportunity, invariably you will get it. Always ask for the best quality. The secret is, “quality is always cheap in the long run”. If you have a long term perspective, you will realize its importance.”

Well, my cook, sorry, my betterhalf is waiting for me with some bittergourd soup. If you believe in destiny, I shall meet you again with another story!

2 Responses to “Nellaiappan’s Column-1: Story of the Chinese Cooks”

  1. Kasi Alagappan Says:

    This is a nice and thought provoking post, blended with humour to make the final dish a totally delicious! And of course, without compromising on quality :-)

  2. nellaiappan Says:

    Dear Kasi Alagappan,Thank you for your feed back.Regards,S.Nellaiappannellaiappan62@gmail.com


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