June 18, 2005

What makes "IT" worth it.

Most frequent readers of my blog know this is LESS about being a chef and MORE about being an entrepreneur. Of course, the nuts and bolts of my business is deeply integrated with food, cooking, clients and such, that it's hard to separate the two, but I don't post many recipes, menus, or techniques. I never got into the "is my blog burning" or "paper chef" memes, and I don't post any google ads here. Many would say that I'm doing the whole blogging thing wrong. I'd like to think "differently" doesn't have to equal "wrong". It's just a food blog from a different perspective. Here's one of those perspectives:

I did a very small party last night. Only 9 guests, so I did it all by myself. I was on the phone with the client almost every day this week, and I must have spent 45 minutes per phonecall (including ensuing emails). On one hand, it crosses my mind that if people did that much negotiating and research for everything they did, they'd probably not get much done in life... but on the other hand, people who spend that much time getting to know me are probably more likely to call me again. Anyone who's worked with me knows -- repeat business and referrals are what I consider to be the highest compliments.

But it's more than the work. It's a relationship. My clients have invited me into their homes, and asked me to put on a good show for their guests. They want all the luxury of having a professional chef for the night, and I'm going to indulge them. I work hard, they appreciate it. They have a good time, I have a good time, they get a great meal served to them, and they pay me fairly. It's a good way to make a living.

I am lucky that I have regular clients as wonderful as LS, or B&A. I really love them. Once in a while I'll have clients who hardly even talk to me. Even though they were friendly on the phone, once I got there and was working, the dynamic changed, and suddenly, I was The Help™. I don't expect to be treated like a guest -- my job is so that you feel like YOU'RE a guest, in your own home! -- but when a gesture of friendliness is extended, that's a big deal to me.

Like last night: the simple gesture of offering me a taste of their champagne, and a slice of the fruit tart they served for dessert is truly the most appreciated gesture. It was such a wonderful, warm feeling to be standing in my client's kitchen with the two sisters who hosted the party, talking about our various cooking equipment while we ate this simple fruit tart purchased from WF. It's special to me because by sharing the dessert, they're not treating me like The Help™... I'm just someone who happens to cook for a living, and tonight I'm doing it for them.

If I wanted a job where I showed up, did my work and left, I'd be a Patn¡a slave. I'm just not interested in that. I need a connection with the people I cook for. Feeding people is a really intimate thing. I don't expect applause after a dinner, or a hug from the host after the event... but I truly do appreciate a sincere "thank you". As long as I know you enjoyed it, it's worth it. Not in that sappy "they like me, they really like me" way, but I know that clients who enjoyed themselves will call me again. They'll refer me to their friends. They'll find ways to get me involved when they know of events that have food as an element of the festivities. That is what's worth it!

Last thing I ate or drank: a nice little latte and a fresh mango.

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