This month I had the pleasure of working in the kitchen with three of my most treasured friends. These consummate professionals represent, to me, the most vivid reason why I have truly loved working in the food business for five decades. I went on a culinary journey with these chefs as we found ourselves in the competition arena at the 1988 Culinary Olympics. As exciting as this moment was, it was the process of learning about team, accepting each other’s strengths and weaknesses, pushing us to constantly improve, and thoroughly enjoying the years of preparation that became the most important. Since that time we have continued to follow, support, and learn from each other as our careers moved forward.
On the surface, this time together in Vero Beach, Florida was a celebration of our friendship and our accomplishments as a team, but more importantly it was another opportunity for each of us to give back. This opportunity to work together was made possible through the efforts of Chef Joe Faria and Amy Haase-Hughes, the event coordinator at Quail Valley River Club. The event, recognized our team, but more significantly was an opportunity to raise funds to support charity efforts in the Vero Beach area.
Behind the scenes this time together was also an opportunity to work with and share what we know with the fantastic team of young cooks who are part of Chef Faria’s kitchen crew. The Quail Valley culinary team is a microcosm of backgrounds and nationalities that is representative of the wonderfully diverse foodservice industry. We had the pleasure of working with aspiring cooks from Kenya, South Africa, Portugal, and various parts of the U.S. Under one roof we felt the oneness that is possible and the responsibility that we all have to listen, understand, and support others with the generosity of our time, expertise, and uplifting words and thoughts. Following the dinner – Chef Faria sent me a letter that he received from one of his kitchen employees who masterfully pointed to how fortunate we are, how unaware we might be of the challenges that others face, and the importance of giving. I could not say it better so I thought that I would share these words with you.
A letter to Chef Joe Faria:
“Humanity is a blessing to some extent, we wake up to a beautiful sunrise, rub off the sleep from our eyes and stare at the beauty of nature around us, make plans for our day and go on with our daily business. To many it’s a routine that they have known from young age but to others bearing a smile on their faces in the morning is a gift. It’s a gift since it only comes about in rare occasions. Spend a lifetime fighting illness, go through a day without a meal, wake up in the morning and pray the sun never sets since you don’t have a sheet or for much better option a blanket to shield you from the ugly cold stare of the night, oh and not to mention you pray and hope that the trash will not be moved from that corner in the street so that you may dig in and maybe find some left overs that will be your dinner then lean your head on the trash can and hope to see another day. Who knows it might be raining in the morning, might be sunny or freezing cold.
We live in a society where all these is present and everyone plays their part equally both rich and poor, sick and health, old and young, deaf, blind, crippled, you name it. The question arises as to what we all do for each other. The sick will seek the doctors help, the jobless will knock on every employers door just to land a job that will drop a dollar or two in their pockets while the healthy ones break their sweat trying to figure a way on how to improve the society and make sure every living being is happy and safe at the end of the day. Be it directly or indirectly we all live by a code: “push and pull”. The successful one does his or her best to pull up the poor while the poor ones appreciate the effort and work hard to push up the effort showed to them. I believe in it, do you?
Let’s take a walk into the recent charity event that took place at Quail Valley River Club. Charity, to me, is not just about helping the needy, its more than just holding the hand of the weak -to me, charity is a chance one gets to give a sense of purpose in another person’s life, it’s a chance to help another person hold a bright smile on his or her face, it’s a chance we get to give someone else a reason to fight for tomorrow. We all work at aiming to improve our lives, and earn better pay at the end of the day, but what if we took a time off the daily routine and work hard not just aiming to improve ourselves but to uplift someone else’s life? Quail valley Golf club provided the platform for this to happen. I felt so humbled to be a part of the team that put the effort together to make that dinner a success. Having a chance to practice your passion and serve a group of guests just to achieve a target at the end of the day which is to build someone else’s existence, what an amazing feeling it is just knowing that your effort is focused on a motive for which there is no monetary value.
Chef Joe, a man that I hold great respect for, played a big part in ensuring that a strong team was in place that held hands with no compromise and ensured that perfection was attained on each single plate that the service team took out of the kitchen. Mistakes? Oh yes plenty of mistakes were made whilst preparing the meal but he always ensured that every mistake was rectified. He brought together a team of three of his longtime friends together to help build a scrumptious dinner, the love, the energy, and the hard work all put together with a common goal of ensuring that the big vision was attained.
When everyone left the club that night despite being tired, we all had smiles in our hearts knowing that someone’s future will have a strong foundation as they stand a better chance of receiving a good educational background made possible by every ounce of sweat broken by the strong, happy and loving team at Quail Valley Golf Club.”
To my culinary colleagues: Let us not forget how important it is for us to listen and support others. Let us never put aside our responsibility to teach and to share what we know with others. May we never lose sight of how blessed we are to live in this country with all of its flaws. May we always remember that America has always been, and hopefully will continue to be that shinning light of hope for others and that we hold true to our generous nature to help others in need.
Thank you Chefs Faria, Beriau, and Zuromski for taking the time to support, share, teach, and celebrate what it means to be a chef. Thanks to our other teammates who are always part of this giving team spirit but were not involved in this particular event: Chefs Johansson, Higgins, Carroll, and Varano, and Allen-Miller. Thanks to our team members and supporters who are no longer with us physically, but whose giving attitudes will always be within us: Chefs Flory, Connolly, Czekelius, Carroll, and Corelli. And thanks to every cook and chef who knows that giving is an essential part of our job.
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC
Restaurant Consulting and training