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Make each hire ‘one for the ages’

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Toiling away at the Gotham Bar and Grill for 19 years, Alfred Portale produced something else besides his own three-star restaurant in Manhattan: He taught the rigors of fine cooking to eight other great chefs, who went on to create their own highly rated restaurants.

These protégés, in turn, have so far turned out at least nine more masters of cuisine.

Portale offers a few tips for deciding whom to groom:

Rule 1: “I watch for a certain positive energy, a certain intensity. I watch how they carry themselves. I watch how they stand. I look at their hands. I look at the way they pick up a plate or set it down. It all comes across.”

Rule 2: “I don’t chase after people. It’s very important that a person recognizes that being here is a positive experience and an important place for his or her career.”

Example: When he hired Jacinto Guadarrama as a dishwasher in 1985, Portale noticed that every night, Guadarrama would hurry to finish washing the pots so he could hang out and learn from the appetizer chefs. Portale told the rookie early on that he seemed headed for management, and in 2000, Guadarrama became chef de cuisine, or second in command, at the Gotham.

Says Portale: “I always have a very long-term goal for any individual I hire.”

— Adapted from “How to Spot A-Players,” Ryan Underwood, Fast Company.

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