I read two books while on vacation. Stones Into Schools, by Greg Mortensen and Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw. I was amused by Bourdain’s tales, somewhat offended by his constant use of profanity and very impressed by the fact that he does know good food and appreciates the hard work required to make a restaurant successful.
Greg Mortenson’s sequel to Three Cups of Tea affirms my strong passion for education. In my restaurant world training is an ongoing process. Skilled, caring and passionate cooks are limited in our industry, so daily training and mentoring is now our way of life.
At first one might think these two books are polar opposites- certainly their authors are. I am certainly different from both authors.
At my peak, my level of cynicism never came close to Bourdain’s. I wonder if my total lack of drug use, moderate drinking habits and total lack of fooling around with the staff kept me from going farther in our industry! Those traits certainly seem to have been in evidence among many of our finest and most successful chefs.
Greg Mortenson’s altruistic life came from his failure to climb K-2. That failure took him to Afghanistan, a place where education did not exist. He saw the need and his inner being not only asked him to be involved but perhaps forced him to take that path.
There are pieces about each book I loved. We’ve all struggled to climb the figurative and literal mountain that Greg Mortenson refers to.
His failure led to levels of success and accomplishment unknown to most. What I am constantly reminded of and do enjoy thinking about is how the goal of climbing that peak, though perhaps unattainable, is still worth it. I still have not reached the top of Ben Nevis in Scotland!
I love the part where Greg refers to his dad’s accomplishments and his dad’s full belief that the locals near Mt. Kilimanjaro would be in charge of the hospital project in ten years and in Greg’s own case that his in-country staff would ultimately be able to do the nuts and bolts without him.
I’ve always believed that premise is not only true, but also necessary. The thinkers and visionaries need to eventually yield to the doers. We, who are control freaks and I am one, sometime hate to admit that others are not only necessary but can and often do outshine us.
I take great satisfaction in seeing young professionals grow. I take equal satisfaction in knowing that their growth allows me to look at my role differently. I loved my time as the working chef in the kitchen. Loving the days when the sales reps would see me while I cooked lunch. We’d talk, I’d send them off to the walk-in to check on something, the order would be completed and we’d both continue our days.
Bourdain’s path went from a hard partying, hard working and somewhat successful restaurateur to food celebrity. Mortenson’s path took him from abject failure in his eyes to the development of 131 schools. My path followed a route from the apple orchard and vegetable garden of Northbrook, Pennsylvania to The Wurst Place in 1971 to the present. No culinary superstar, no world known educator. I am a cook, a restaurant owner and operator. And I often feel as if I have succeeded equally.
The new fall menu goes into place on Monday October 18th. The minor physical changes with Tony’s Off Third bakery cases commence that same week. Each day for the next few weeks we’ll see Tony’s bakery come to life. Still lots of mountains to climb, only now I have a superb crew of doers and the journey seems easier.