kate.. i find this topic interesting. it is very opinionated.
anyway, my two cents:
i think that you have to have enthusiasm and a hard working ethic to achieve the standered that is set. see, if person x is a hard worker and has awesome enthusiasm, then his standered will be higher for himself and since he has enthusiasm and he is a hard worker, he will go into work and challange himself every night versus someone who just comes in and gets the job done. thats what is wrong with this business. a lot of people think there is big money here and a lot of people just go to work and get the job done and go home. look at the people on the cutting edge... they are hard workers and enthusiastic. loo kat the people here on the cheftalk forums... not many people would take them time out of there day to talk about food. i know cooks and chefs who just look for the money and a lot of cooks and chefs just dont care ( for one reason or another), but i know chefs and cooks who strive everyday to get better. they are hitting the library while in cooking school while there peers are drinking and doing drugs. they are watching the cooking channles and cruising the magazines for more and more info and ideas. THOSE are the people who are hard workers and are enthusiastic.
see, school can teach you food preperation and presentation but they cant teach you how to work hard and be enthusiastic. i beleieve that when chefs hire people, they are looking for people who have those ingredents. that is what makes succes. i remember going to culinary school and thinking that if i dont work my butt off on the off hours and hit the library, etc then i will come out of culinary school knowing the same thing that my peers know. that scared me becasue one wants to be diffrent then the majority.
all in all... hard workers and people who are enthused will go farther then those who just know how to prep food and how to present it. i might be in a job that pays more but they are not happy. i always told people that i owuld rather make less and have to work harder and be happy versus being at a job where i get paid more, work less hours, and not happy about being at work.
i hope this helps. feel free to email me with anymore questions at firstname.lastname@example.org