#CookingAMA

I was invited to host a feed of the cooking week ask me anything on amafeeds. Feel free to drop in and fire off a question. As I have nothing in particular to sell, I took the ask me anything format to heart and will answer anything you think you may want to know about my life (provided I don’t feel it is too personal). Most of the questions so far are about my vocation but a few are more about life. All the questions so far are interesting and many have caused me to ponder and even reestablish some first principles. 

What is this quintessence of dust?

Recently I had the pleasure of being interviewed about my small work by the good people in the ATO of the US Consul General for Hong Kong and Macau. The resultant fine edit is a string of strange non sequitur statements (by yours truly), all ending in the form of a question? Whatdayagonnado! It was very nice being presented and of course the school, students and my team look lovely. 

In the hours of actual footage the idea I was trying to get through was:

I am the result of a deep culinary tradition of the melting pot of America. Brought to love diverse, ethnic home-style cuisine by my heritage, and especially by the wonderful home cooking of my Mother and Grandmothers. That the America I know, love, and am proud of is a place that celebrates diversity, pluralism, and damned good food. Some of the best food in the world comes from my place of birth, and certainly The USA produces many of the worlds finest ingredients.

While I may have become a gypsy – traveling the world, considering it my nation, and its people my brethren – I am still guided by the wondrous bounty, eclectic variety, and warm conviviality that, to me, is American cuisine. In my work here at HKA, and in all past stations, I have tried to share my love for all that I received by accident of birth. To me that is quintessentially what being American is all about. 

How The Mighty May Have Fallen

 

As many in Hong Kong know, Dan Ryan’s in Pacific Place is closing down after 27 years. I hasten to add the group is still alive and kicking, even though the flagship is about to close. Dan’s was not only one of the first tenants of Pacific Place, a once singular hub of Hong Kong shopping elites, but was also one of the first authentic, successful, freestanding, restaurants here. Dan’s was founded in part because the group of bankers who started it were sick of what they called hotel food. At that time about the only way to get imported western food was to eat at hotels. Hotels often tend to fuse things and in so doing make passable but often inauthentic or caricatured dining experiences. Continue reading

75¢ Service

The two on the right were customer made.

The two on the right were customer made.

In my industry, and in my current company we often talk about superior service in terms of universal superlative memes like “Million Dollar Service,” or “Five Star Service.” I am often suspicious that these memes are just paying lip service (a common meme used for insincere service) to a nebulous goal that is unattainable in part because it is ill defined, and in part because there is no apparent actual ambition to reach it, as in budgets, training or other real-world initiatives that would at least move a service team closer to the goal. At any rate, it has been a hot topic recently, with a lot of energy being spent and fuelled by the alleged pursuit of the height of service excellence. Continue reading

In Practice

Gather ’round children and heed my words. While you play with your sous vide, hydrocolloids, emulsions and foams; serving wagyu, caviar, foie gras, and truffles, you may gain a Michelin star, media fame, a cook book, a tv show or even a celebrity chef boxing match. If your life goes that way and stays that way, I hope you get all you can of fame glory and all that you deem good in the world. However, if you are like most, the best you can expect is a fleeting brush with recognition for your style, skill, talent, Je nes sais qua, and personal point of view. Regardless, and just in case, I suggest you keep your basic knife skills well honed. Happy Holidays.

Fitbit: New Technology, Old-School Service

IMG_5660I remember once my Mom sent a letter to Jays potato chip company (A Chicago favorite) about some burned chips in a bag of chips. A few weeks later a truck arrived at our door, unannounced, delivering a sincere apology letter and several cases of free potato chips. When I was a kid, this kind of customer service was a more-common reaction for reputable product vendors. Continue reading

More equal than…PWIF Part 1.

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None Shall Pass

As many of you know I my employer shut down in May without notice and without final pay. Therefore I and all of the staff to some degree, were abruptly hurled onto the boggy path of seeking redress through the Hong Kong Protection of Wages on Insolvency Scheme.

Continue reading

Act As If You Are Free

Today, June 4th, I am reminded again of Tank Man, and The Gate of Heavenly Peace. On this day, I offer a toast to those who resisted so valiantly. Acting as if no mob, no matter how large, powerful or well armed, could dissuade them from self determination. Acting as if their right to liberty were inherent, and unalienable. In so doing they showed us all that it is, if we only dare live it. Those who died, and those who lived, made the world a better place, if only just slightly. It is by progress of this kind that most of our battles are won, after all. Sure the occasional significant shift, the punctuation in the equilibrium, is noteworthy…who could ignore it? But the gradual freeing up of ones mind and perhaps of ones peers is the sure, steady, path that has taken millennia and continues clearly just ahead. Unlike Allegro Non Troppo, we march steadily towards our betterment as individuals and as a species. Occasionally one of us, say a shy cook in Phoenix, is inspired by the courage and active liberty of one such as Tank Man…in that moment there is magic, and perhaps a small amount of hope for the future of human kind.