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Romania Is Like a Poorly Run Restaurant

If we keep it this simple, we got ourselves an analogy: The restaurant and all of its amenities represents the country. The management and staff are the government and functionaries, while the patrons are the ordinary citizens -who keep coming back (therefore contributing in its success), or who leave and never return (leading to failure).

Admittedly, making the comparison between restaurant and country isn't the first thing that comes to mind. But then I happened upon an episode of Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (stream by pressing 'close ad' and ignore the popups) and the more I watched, the more the comparison made perfect sense. The premise of the show basically revolves around Gordon Ramsay's attempts to make failing restaurants turn over a new leaf. Often, there is a dysfunctional family involved and that makes for the meat of the entertainment, but at the bottom of it there is always the bottom line that's being affected by unsound business decisions. Ramsay, with his vast experience as a chef and Michelin star holding restaurateur, attempts to make sense of the mess and usually does so quite astutely.

In this particular episode, he goes in to Michon's restaurant in Atlanta. The building is well kept, the interior is  tastefully decorated and spacious, and the kitchen is equipped  with modern top of the line equipment. To top it all off, there is a very large staff. Flip this analogy and we got a similar story here. Romania is a big country, well-positioned globally -particularly within the 'Rising East' context - it's got abundant natural resources, plenty of manufacturing infrastructure (or at least the possibility to build it), and plenty of people who *should* be able to contribute plenty.

Ramsay asks the server, Todesha, to tell him what she thinks the biggest problem is with the restaurant. She sums it up in one word: "Management." Kinda worth watching the episode for how funny she is. At some point, musing about a particularly awful piece of beef brisket, she goes, "I don't know anything about smokin', I don't even know much about cookin', but I know that ain't right." Back to Romania now. Does anyone in this country need to know anything about being the President or the Prime Minister, or just a Deputy in parliament, to know that what our leaders do ain't right? That they're just lazy and no good?
They ain't right
Romania needs a Ramsay, or a bunch of 'em. Barosso and the EU aren't doing it. Writing letters expressing "concern" and demanding "transparency" won't change anything. The entire western world, anyone who does business here, anyone who ever sets foot in Romania and knows better needs to tell the Romanians with whom they do business what Ramsay tells the staff and owners of that beautiful restaurant: "I've never seen a more fragmented, disorganized set up. I've never, ever, seen anything like this!". Then he continues, "you've got the most equipped kitchen ever, a stunning dining room, and look at the amount of staff in here. But all of the advantages can't fix the mentality of how we're working  -with our head up our ass, rudderless. The biggest problem; the system." Do I even need to point out the similarities here?

So on the one hand, Romanians are happy to lay blame where it deservedly lies, at the top. On the other hand, unlike with any privately owned business, the incompetence of a country's leaders shouldn't inhibit the personal initiative of any of the citizens to simply do better and to be better. But in Romania it does. Because here, if it's not written into law, it must mean it's illegal. So trying to convince a high school principal to accept a volunteer to help kids practice their English is like asking her to allow a felon to roam in the school's hallways. If volunteers aren't written into the curriculum, approved by the ministry of education, decreed by the county inspectorate, and approved by the director, there is no way in hell they'll allow someone to donate any of their precious time and expertise out of the goodness of their heart. I digressed there, but it's a real-life example that should give you an idea of the situation.

The restaurant in question, Michon's, has one other striking resemblance to this country. It's a beautiful place that's getting handed down to the owners' daughter. She doesn't understand what gift she's getting, so she does nothing of consequence, offering no leadership nor inspiration to the staff, resulting in the mess in which they now find themselves. Romania is handed down generation to generation. It may not be the best country in the world, but that concept is extremely subjective anyway, if you think being born in Romania is bad, just turn on the TV and check the news for all the other places where you could've been born. You've been handed a gem. A diamond in the rough. A shiny, bright, diamond is the most boring thing on earth, what you see is what you get, whereas a diamond in the rough can become the most beautiful precious stone ever uncovered.

Episode link, in case you didn't get it up there:


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