The Dallas Cowboys
One of the greatest things about being a chef is that the nature of the job makes people happy. Most people love to eat, but they also feel important and loved when someone prepares something nourishing and delicious for them. By cooking for someone you are saying: "I care about you. I care about your health and happiness." I realize I'm lousy at shopping, writing cards or giving gifts, but I'm good at bringing over a meal. That is why it is so important for me to connect with my clients because I can't cook for people I don't like. My food has so much love in it and is such an extension of my entire being, that it is never just a job for me. I care deeply that each person and each guest love the food and can somehow "taste" how much I care.
The second greatest thing about my job is that I often get to give the staff the most memorable nights of their lives. I've gotten to cook for everyone I could ever dream of cooking for and we've meet some extraordinary people. The interesting thing I've found is that everyone has their own "famous person" that matters to them. If you ask each person in a room of people "who is the one person you would want to meet if you could meet anyone?" They will each answer someone different. For some people it is a sports star or a musician, for others it is a successful businessperson or mentor, for many it is an actor or actress. Being in this position I've had the supreme joy of matching people up with some of their favorites. Sometimes I know and let the person serve and sometimes I have no idea and a server will come walking in the kitchen because they are about to pass out because they just waited on so and so. The biggest surprises for me are the people who wouldn't usually be starstruck in general, until they meet that one person.
Karen, my assistant, isn't usually very starstruck. She loved 90210, so of all the parties we did, I think Tiffani Theissen's wedding and then Jason's Priestley's shower, were her favorites. I have still never seen the show and only know Tiffani as the sweetest person under the sun. Which proves my point. There were people at Tiffani's wedding about to pass out because they were such huge funs and I had no idea who anyone was. So who is famous is different to each person. (the closest I ever came to fainting was when Sue and I met Martha Stewart in Atlanta. My heart never beat so hard in my life and I couldn't speak or write or anything.) I wrote in a previous e-mail titled "Is Julia Roberts famous" to illustrate that point. I'll have to dig that up and add it to the blog because I wrote it to the recipe testers before I figured out the blog thing.
Back to Karen. I was often surprised that certain people weren't a big deal to her. She always liked the clients and the jobs, but their fame or fortune didn't really matter to her. That is until a party we did recently. I never even told her who the party was for. I just gave her the dates as I always do and she planned her babysitting around prepping and working the event.
So during the week of the event I mentioned to her that my Mom was having a challenging day working on one of the best commissioned cakes she'd ever made. And Karen is suddenly quiet on the phone. And then she tells me this story:
"When I was growing up we lived in San Luis Obispo. My dad was from Dallas and loved the Dallas Cowboys. He wanted his children to grow up with the same love for his team. So he flew my brother and me to Texas each year to watch the Cowboy's games."
And I already knew the rest of the story: Karen's father died of a sudden heart attack when she was 18 years old. And she and her brother and mother miss him on a daily basis.
So when I told Karen that the party we were catering was for Jerry and Gene Jones, owners of the Dallas Cowboys, she was speechless. She was thinking of how much it would mean to her dad and how much it meant to her and her brother and her family. For Karen, she was happy just to be in the kitchen with me. Just to know that we were cooking for them. And that my mother had made a surprise cake of the new Cowboys Stadium. (I have to mention that the real stadium is an architectural feat, but to make a version of it out of soft and edible cake is the ultimate challenge.)
The party was wonderful and I'm going to send you the recipes for some of the food we made as soon as I can get some accurate measurements tested and written down. The recipes are all in my head. The Deep Fried Mac and Cheese was a particular hit, so I'll work on that one soon. It was a great night and Karen was so happy just to be there and to be a part of it.
But to our surprise, at the end of the night the hostess called Karen out of the kitchen. Waiting there to meet here were Jerry and Gene. Jerry let Karen wear his Superbowl ring (in the picture above). Karen was weeping at the joy. And Jerry and Gene were so truly kind and gracious. It was a magical night of love and extreme thoughtfulness and I felt lucky to be a small part of it.
I know that food can't erase death or fire or solve autism or cancer or other tragedy. But what food does say is "that I care." Food is used for life's greatest celebrations of birth, weddings and birthdays. It represents love. And it's true value comes when it is given and shared with someone else.
So cook for someone you love because you never know how far that love will go!
PS And now it's time to go make dinner for my family:-)