We are all a product of our past and the experiences before lead to the expressions of the present.
I am asked constantly about where I got my culinary training. It would be so much easier if I could say the Culinary Institute of America, or some other noted school. And since I don’t have a list of chefs under which I apprenticed, or the names of fine restaurants in which I have cooked, I have to come up with a different response.
So far, the food has spoken for me.
No, I have to say that I had been a collegiate pastor for 18 years. I spent the first part of my career years watching over the needs of eighteen to twenty two year old men and women.
How did this help me become a better chef?
I know it’s not true in every case, but in the ideal sense, a pastor concerns him or herself with one primary question, “How are you doing?” Not in the cliché form where you ask it because you are standing in the checkout line together, but something much more.
A good pastor is concerned about well-being, not just whether or not you are going to heaven when you die, or if you show up in church on Sunday, or if you’ve written your check for the offering plate this month. No, the best ones want to see people become whole.
It is in this spirit that we create our restaurant. This is why I mock the judges’ comments on shows like Top Chef, when they overlook a young chef’s relational weaknesses and say it’s all about the food. No, its not.
You can’t extract the role of food away from the broader sense of what it means to be human.
Our need for food is married to our need for connection and community, of good conversation and relationship. It is to be integrated, not detached. Instead, eating has become mechanical, much like pulling into a gastronomical filling station. Open the tank, pump in the fuel to the brim, and race off to the next destination, and all the while never realizing the price we are paying for it.
Last Saturday was a rewarding example of customers embracing this idea. Several tables of friends, lingering for hours, laughing, talking, enjoying the near perfect weather outdoors. One patron came up to me as his group was leaving and said, “We have had the best time here. Thank you.”
And our food and drink helped make that happen.