The chefs I had the privilege of working with on the Stored Potential dinner on Sunday afternoon were some of the best professionals I could have ever imagined. You might think that getting 8 chefs together in one location would only lead to something akin to a Top Chef episode, but it was far from it. No drama. No egos. Just old fashioned hard work, respect and an elevated level of cooking for 500 unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of.
Being an hour away in Lincoln put me at a disadvantage in laying some of the groundwork of preparation for the event, but my partner Chef Paul Kulik at the Boiler Room took a lion’s share of responsibility that helped put us way ahead in our compostion of eight pork courses (kielbasa, ham, pate, heart, loin, belly, ribs, 4 split heads and a whole lot of pork stock.) We divided up some of the courses to be prepared in our own restaurant kitchens, and then together congregated at a local Omaha kitchen to finish the prep work.
I call it event stress. It is the emotion you feel prior to showtime, usually in the form of fear that you will not deliver a proper performance for the audience who is waiting in anticipation. People respond to that fear in a variety of ways. Some yell, others withdraw and go inward. Some shutdown and become less efficient, while others seem to thrive on the stress and do their best work. Everyone on our team fell into this later category, kicking it into gear when needed. I admit I did not know how we were going to get that much food out to 500 people in the time allotted, but the chef’s true colors shone brightly, and seemingly with one mind, we all knew what to do.
Thanks also to the army of culinary students and volunteers who go unnoticed by the cameras, but not by us in charge. In the kitchen there is not much democracy, because there isn’t the time to vote on every little step of the process. Without the words, ” yes, chef,” in your vocabulary, such an event would be a disaster.
The reward of it goes beyond the applause; the smiling faces at the table and the many “thank you’s” from happy people on the way out, because these images will fade over time. Instead, it’s the camaraderie of these like minded individuals for whom our paths will hopefully and eventually someday cross again, if not to work together, but to eat in their restaurants or read of their accomplishments and to recall that big event we did together in Omaha.
This is the kind of collection you won’t have to sell on eBay when you get old.