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Making innovation work for good. T:@inspirechilli

Sunday 10 November 2013

The Big Picture

Back in March, I went to New York to speak at the 10th anniversary of the Chelsea Foyer. I was waking up over my coffee, waiting for the audience to arrive at BNY Mellon on Wall Street, when I was approached by a smartly dressed young man called Christopher. I was struck by the kindness in his welcome as much as his history as an ex resident from Chelsea Foyer - and his knowledge of London restaurants I had never eaten at. He told me a story about how learning to cook had freed him to travel Europe.  He ended up working at some of the best restuarants in  the US and Europe, including Per Se and Eleven Madison Park in New York, and El Cellar de Can Roca in Girona, Spain. For Christopher, the transition to adulthood became a real journey of discovery. He was only disappointed not to have made it all the way to the Aberdeen Foyer restaurant before it got closed down. I was blown away by that determination. We talk alot about encouraging young people to be more mobile. Well, here who was someone who used his talent for hospitality to find himself in the world. I was struck by the power of the words, and Christopher's generosity to want to share them with me.

This is my 100th blog. I started writing Adventures in Advantaged Thinking back in December 2011 on my first trip to Australia. A lovely women who organised the conference I was speaking at in Sydney said, 'You'll find it harder keeping it going when you get back.' That fuelled my heart. When I feel like giving up, I remind myself of the passion of all the people I met on that trip, what Open Talent meant to the young people who rushed to the front row after my speech because they 'felt' what I was saying. I wanted my 100th blog to be a little special. I can't think of a better way to do that than to share what 'living the dream' means for someone who finds their voice. So, this is Christopher's story below. Story by story, our world gets reshaped when we piece together the journey to ourselves. Just look for the big picture in every person's step, including  your own...

Living the Dream - a Journey through Hospitality

'I was introduced to the culture of the hospitality industry at a young age while paving my way to a future at the Chelsea Foyer. A journey that has multiple steps forwards, as they do backwards: put up for adoption at an early age, having a disruptive high school education, introduced to the Chelsea Foyer program, and finally aging out of the foster care system. Then, finding comfort in the most uncomfortable environment of the kitchen.

Throughout my career I have found the kitchen to be a constant challenge that does not allow for failure. Similar to life experiences, things aren’t as planned and you have to adapt. To be able to recognize and overcome this is what makes all the difference. Having found countless hours and years in the kitchen, and to this day continuing my education at Cornell University Hotel School of Administration, is all proof a tree can grow in Brooklyn.

Hospitality to me can be defined simply as a set of experiences, both in and out of the kitchen. Whether it’s providing a seven course meal at a wedding; serving a birthday cake in an elegant environment surrounded by loved ones; teaching kids the nutritional value of fresh local products; or explaining to young adults the importance of purchasing whole ingredients and utilizing them for budgeting purposes: all sum up an experience. Through hospitality, experiences of culture, travel, discussion, and trying just about anything, developed the confidence for me to do those things.

A career in hospitality is one of few industries that truly involve all the senses and tastes. Constantly learning, constantly tasting, constantly reinforcing a technique. A word any young professional must accept is 'repetition'. Repitition to the extent that Albert Einstein defined as 'insanity'. Hospitality is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. The results being different experiences because senses and tastes are so subjective to each and every individual. Accepting that life does not get easier, we just get better, is a pleasurable thought.

For myself it started with the discipline and commitment in the kitchen working alongside the most talented chefs, servers, and food industry professionals. It wasn’t until I was told, 'Christopher take a step back and look at the bigger picture' that hospitality truly smacked me in the face. I was being selfish for my own gain of being greater at the trade, rather than learning to give to others through it. Taking the leap overseas and living between Paris and Girona taught me true humble cooking - and being able to look at that bigger picture.'


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