The Three Factors to a Fulfilling First Day at Work: A Close Reading of Zakarian-Casanova Faceoff



“You say that you have been waiting your whole life for this showdown in kitchen stadium, will you remember today fondly or you will need intense therapy to erase the horror?” – The Chairman to Victor Casanova in “Iron Chef America’s” battle brook trout episode


Along with a toilsome, most coveted post comes the first-day-at-work experience. In Mark Dacascos’ term, that experience can be remembered either with fondness or with horror.

Geoffrey Zakarian would remember his first cooking melee as an Iron Chef with fondness. Who would not? After acing out nine other well-accomplished chefs in the “The Next Iron Chef,” he was able to beat his first challenger, Victor Casanova. While Casanova did not win, he fought tit for tat, endured the one-hour grueling process of prepping and cooking, and came up with creative, palatable, and well-presented array of food. His passion, energy, and output disqualified his first cooking brawl at the kitchen stadium under the horror category.

American_Brook_TroutBattle brook trout had a first-day work element for the two chefs. For Zakarian, it was a first-day work for his newly established career as an Iron Chef. For Casanova, it was a first-day work for a one great dream: to cook at the kitchen stadium. Regardless of the result, both chefs were able to make fond memories, and those getting ready for their first day at a new job this 2012, can learn from their styles. I have listed at least three factors for a fulfilling first day at work as shown in the show’s Christmas Eve episode.

The Vichyssoise and Carbonara Factor. First day at work should always be about putting out your best foot forward. Whether you like it or not, your first day will make an impression to your boss and/or co-workers. If you come late, you are communicating to them that you have a penchant for tardiness. If you come in the company’s prescribed office attire, you are showing them that you can follow orders. If you are inattentive in the orientation process, you are conveying your disinterest in your position. Like Zakarian and Casanova, render your Vichyssiose (Zakarian’s soup) and Carbonara (Casanova’s pasta dish) – the best of what you can offer. Zakarian’s Vichyssoise and Casanova’s Carbonara were the dishes, which impressed the judges the most. They were regarded as excellent, and the said dishes were not the product of the two chefs’ second best; they were the result of putting out their optimum best.

Support System. While it is still debatable whether Alex Guarnaschelli should be working as sous-chef for Zakarian, it is evident that having a support system is essential to a fulfilling first-day work. Having people to assist you in prepping for your needs and to give you words of encouragement make a lot of difference. Ask for assistance from a family member or a close friend a day or two prior to your first-day work. There is no harm in requesting loved ones to help especially if it is for something that will yield a long-term gain.

Sportsmanship. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote, “Win as if you were used to it, lose as if you enjoyed it for a change,” which was recited by Alton Brown at the last part of the show, was best exemplified by Casanova. For sure, he hoped to win the battle, but when the outcome was the reverse of his expectation, Casanova mustered enough sportsmanship to congratulate Zakarian. That act of sportsmanship made Casanova’s loss a fond memory. That should be the case too for those getting ready for their first day at a new job this 2012. Regardless of your workplace’s atmosphere, whether you have a disagreement with your co-worker that early, enjoy the experience and learning. In the end, what will matter is your commitment to carry out your responsibilities in the most ethical and excellent manner that you can.

Nobody wants to look back on his/her first day at work in horror. So, like Zakarian and Casanova, put out your Vichyssoise and Carbonara, have a support system to draw strength and encouragement, and embrace the day whether things go your way or not. What makes a first-day work fulfilling is not the smooth sailing of the day’s events but in knowing that you labor against mediocrity for that special day. Happy 2012, everyone!


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