Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Underacheiver

My first experience with a large Hotel Chain was to be the Lunch Cook for the Gourmet Restaurant. On my second day the General Manager came down the line to
meet me. I was just finishing a batch of Hollandaise Sauce. He says
"Hello, I’m Pat Cowbell, General Manager. Welcome aboard.
Do you mind?"
and produces a handful of spoons. I do think he means to try everything I have prepared.
He dips a spoon into the Sauce, as he tastes he
closes his eyes for a moment, and then opens them slowly.

"It needs a little Lemon" he says.

I happen to have ½ a lemon in my hand that I was going to finish it
with. I hope that he is impressed that I am so on top of things. He
watches me squeeze and stir the juice into the sauce. It needed only a
touch of lemon and I was quite impressed that he would even have
noticed the subtle difference. I also give it a half shake of Cayenne Pepper.

So I ask, as I stir, trying to be non-chalant
"Do you like to cook, Sir"?

He dips his spoon back into the Sauce, closes his eyes and tastes the
amended product.

He reopens his eyes, and gives me a knowing smile.
"No" he says "I like to eat."

He gives me a grin and exits my line with all the spoons still in hand.

This was my first experience with a big time G.M. They are all class
acts that are as comfortable at the Ballet or Opera as they are in an
impromptu Poker Game or a smoke filled Strip Joint. And while the Chef
may love the Doing of a Thing, the G.M. loves the Thing itself.
"Do you like to Cook" I asked.
"I like to eat" he said.

Reminds me of my Nephew Dave, the CEO of "Dave Mows Grass". See, Dave could care less about ownng a Landscape Company. What Dave likes is to mow grass. There were times in the Kitchen that I would have done it for free.
I hope Dave, as thrilled as he may be to discover old mufflers and Baby Diapers where he is trying to Mow, and as much as he loves the challenges of removing baling wire and old rugs from the blade of his very high Tech Mower (yes, its an industrial Toro, on a custom Trailer with all the accoutremonts that enable him to do a First rate Job) never does this for free (or the paltry sum I made as a Chef) and charges the pretty penny his work is worth!
Dave has a Personal Mission Statement that I think is pretty cool.
It should be noted that Dave, in addition to his position as CEO, also works a job as a Machinist upwards of 40 hours a week. Dave considers himself an "Underacheiver" but I think he is a real stepper, and am proud to know him.


Rod's Duck Farm said...

I had a great-uncle-in-law who said, "Genius is knowing how much is enough. For instance, a good lawn mower is a nice thing but if the carburetor falls off ... so what! Put it back on. On the other hand, if a rocket to the moon has a problem you can't just fix it under a tree somewhere. Rocket manufacturing has to be held to a higher level of quality. Over-doing a lawnmower only results in an unnecessarily expensive mower."
Dave specializes in the correct level of quality - the level that establishes excellence without being wasteful.
Dave intentionally stops short of perfection - underachieves. According to Dave, it doesn't make sense to package a candy bar so that it will last 1,000 years. For one thing, in the future people might not eat candy bars .... you would think they would come up with something much better than the crummy junk we eat. Would you like to eat a 1,000 year old dinosaur gizzard? How frequently?
Jesus was the only one who was perfect and they nailed him to a cross. Underachieving is a healthy level of excellence!!!
Quack, Quack!!

Dave said...
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Dave said...
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steve said...

I would agree that Dave has it going rightly- someone told me a long time ago that we humans fall somewhere on a scale of -5 to +5 and the world would be better, and we would be happier, if we were all just Zeros...made no sense to me back then but it does now...

Dave said...

Dave said...
Wow! Thanks for the triple-plug! I've actually never called myself an underachiever nor do I consider myself one. I have achieved quite a happy life for myself which, if you read the first sentence of my mission statement, is my highest goal. My goal is not to make other people happy. People get pissed when I don't live my life for them and they lash out by calling me an underachiever. That's the crux of the Paradox.

I'm glad you like my mission statement, bye the way. Writing that personal mission statement was one of the best things I've ever done for myself. It keeps me from zigging when I ought to be zagging. I'm proud that it has stood for three years now with absolutely no need for amendment. It is a timeless document.

Thanks again for the plug!


9:55 AM

Mother of Invention said...

Wow! That's some underachiever! he's done a lot for a young whipper-snapper!

Mother of Invention said...

A powerfully driven mission statement! Yikes, mine would be pretty lame beside that one! Not sure I have one! Happy to get by most days with just offering my gifts and understanding to people.

David said...

I would have loved to put some of that Hollandaise Sauce on some asparagus or artichokes! Sounds delicious. Sounds like you maintained complete composure when the GM tested you. I probably would have been in my pants.

steve said...


Old Lady said...

GM's don't scare me,

Annelisa said...

Your GM must've liked you if he came to see you every day just to bust you - either that, or he liked your cooking!

I like to hear stories about when you were a chef... espcially that he walked away with the rest of the spoons... a very telling detail!

I read Dave's mission statement a while back, and thought it an excellent set of goals - for a very excellent person!