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17 Entrepreneurship Lessons from MasterChef USA: The Trucker Burger Challenge

I had just got home from work and was in the process of looking for a good movie to watch while i ate my dinner when i tuned in to MasterChef USA. I had watched a couple of episodes in the past but none had ever made such a profound impact on my professional life.

I'll first give a brief summary of the events of the show but don't get lost in the cooking recipes and ingredients, what was important here was the business and entrepreneurial lessons hidden inbetween the beef and seasoning.

MasterChef USA: The Trucker Burger Challenge
For those of you that don't know what MasterChef is all about; it's a cooking competition where a group of wannabe Master Chef's are given a series of cooking challenges each episode and the contestant that comes up short is eliminated from the game.

In this particular episode, the contestants where split into two teams and were tasked with creating the best burger from scratch for a group of hungry truckers. They had 30 minutes to get started with a variety of raw ingredients to create the perfect burgers and each trucker would sample one burger from the red team and one burger from the blue team and cast their vote on which was the best. The team to get the highest score wins.

The Dream Team
The blue team leader was the winner of the last competition so his perk was to choose his team. He went about selecting his dream team. His game-plan were straight forward and clear cut; create the perfect all-American 100% beef burger, no designer stuff.

The red team on the other hand were a real mess. Pick out all the cool and athletic kids on the playground for your football team and who are you left with? The underdogs. A group of uncoordinated strangers that had to achieve the impossible; mesh and work together, somehow pull through and win this competition.

The Fundamental Flaw
Both teams had 30 minutes to get started and start churning out the burgers before the truckers arrived. The blue team got stuck in almost immediately, creating an almost assembly line-like production method (you'd actually think they were automated robots), on time, in sync, like a symphony of blending, grilling and mixing. The red team on the other hand went the international designer route. Mixing in exotic ingredients like blue cheese and a lot of seasoning into their mix. However it wasn't until the grilling that they realized there was a fundamental flaw. The blue cheese was causing the burger to burn quickly in the grill before it cooked and the blue cheese was dripping everywhere messing up the grill.

Half-way into the game they had to change their mix... Big Problems!!!

The blue team on the other hand had already started grilling. Each team had to make 100 burgers and the Blue team had maybe 40 on the grill ready for the Truckers who would soon start arriving.

Back to the Drawing Board
The red team went back to the drawing board with their beef mix and came up with a brand new mixture. They were already lagging behind on supply and the demand was about to hit the roof. The red team had barely started grilling their first 10 burgers when the truckers arrived. The blue team immediately started serving up their piping hot burgers and the hungry truckers sat down to chow. The pressure on the red team was overwhelming and it started to show. Team mates screaming at one another, running around like headless chickens, not sure what to do, but what held them together was their leader who at this point had to take up the position. He had a clear vision and the personality to command them with enough authority. On the flip-side the blue team were cool, calm and collected.

The Secret Ingredient
About 30 or so truckers had already downed their blue team burgers when the red team started their supply. Now what was interesting here was the ingredients and how the truckers described the tastes and sensations. The blue team had... according to one of the truckers, the best "home-made" burger they've ever tasted; safe ingredients, onion rings, tomatoes, coleslaw, etc. The red team on the other hand I guess had nothing to loose so were willing to take more risks. Their leader even created a special BBQ sauce which probably gave them a very good edge against their competition.

The truckers finally started to sample the Red teams offer and the voting began. The first team to get 51 votes; the majority, would win the competition. Voting started and guess what... it was a tie all the way to around 25 trucker samples. What happened next was nothing short of creative genius. The leader of the red team, in a surge of creativity made a great call and decided to add another innovation; marinating the bacon in the sauce for a bit before the grilling, and also heating up the burger buns on the grill with seasoned oil till it was a perfect golden brown. This proved to be the winning formula as the votes started to favour the Red team more.

Corporate Espionage
To give the blue team a little insight into the red team's operation (call it corporate espionage if you will), the blue team were given a red team burger to sample. They liked it, gave their criticism but more notably the blue team leader refused to acknowledge the fact that the red team burger was better than theirs and because of that refused to change their formula mid-way maintaining that they had a wining formula. The blue team stuck with their tried and tested.

The red team did another +1up and started to engage the customers more and with extra offers, double cheese? Double burger beef? Extra bacon? More special sauce? You got it! The truckers where thrilled and their cast votes reflected.

It wasn't long before the deciding trucker was to cast his vote, and he went red all the way. The Red team came out victorious.

17 Entrepreneurship Lessons
Now that we've gotten that Hollywood Blockbuster synopsis out of the way, we can focus on the meat of the story (pun intended). An entrepreneur and business-minded individual can see the hidden business lessons in this challenge. Here are the ones i could grab.
  1. Dream team doesn't equate to winning team.
  2. Don't assume what the customer wants, give them a taste and modify your sample according to feedback.
  3. It doesn't matter how unlikely the team is to mesh, team members can be from any location and have any personality, but a good leader will find a way to glue them all together.
  4. If there is no clear cut leader, and you think you have what it takes fill the slot, then what are you waiting for? An official appointment!? Step in! Your team will benefit greatly if orders are coming from a single source.
  5. The most organized design and development method doesn't give much room for creativity, innovation and trial & error; Innovation is usually born out of chaos!
  6. You're bound to make mistakes, don't think for one second that it's the end of the world, go back to the drawing board!
  7. Don't convert all your raw materials into final product, perform continuous testing and refining.
  8. First to market doesn't translate to long-term market dominance.
  9. When the heat is on and pressure mounts (and it will), it will take a leader with a clear unwavering vision and the personality to command authority to keep things together.
  10. You can keep customers waiting for a little while but you better make sure your product is the bees knees and is worth the wait (if you want them to wait any longer).
  11. Home-made isn't always a good thing, descriptive words like safe, same old same old, the norm, etc comes to mind and this ideology doesn't foster creativity and innovation.
  12. Having nothing to loose means you're more willing to take risks, what do you have to loose?
  13. You need a secret formula! A trump card, an Ace up your sleeve, a signature, a way for the consumer to know instinctively that hey, that's your product!
  14. It's never too late to modify your product for the better, listen to customer feedback or your inner guts, separate yourself from the competition and put yourself in a position to change easily with as little effort as possible if the need arises (and it will).
  15. Corporate espionage is good when healthy, sample the oppositions product, don't be too proud to admit that your opposition has a superior product and don't be too proud to change your game if the need arises.
  16. No matter how good you think your product is personally, it's all about data, data, data! If the data says it sucks or it isn't as good as the competitions offering, they're probably right, remember who you're serving!
  17. It's all about the customer, give 'em what they want!
It's possible to find lessons for your professional (and personal) life in almost any form of art out there, even cooking as I have seen from this example. You just need to be in the right place, at the right time and have an open mind. :)

Posted 12:26am, Wed 6th June, 2012 by Webmaster

1 comment

Re: 17 Entrepreneurship Lessons from MasterChef USA: The Trucker Burger Challenge
by Honeygee posted 1:57pm, Mon 5th May, 2014



What more can I say! Spot on!!! A lot learned!

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