December 19, 2014

Generosity and Gratitude

By: Ryan Hodros, Culinary Arts Student

I’ve been struggling with what to write about for this blog entry.  There’s a lot going on in the next two weeks:  I’m catering an event for Escoffier, Christmas is coming up, I’m actually going to travel this year, and I have done very little Christmas shopping.

So the old brain has been struggling with focus (typical brain).  Not wanting to work over the weekend, I was starting to panic a little bit, which is always such a help in the creative process, when my editor Amanda came over to my desk.

She was just about to leave for the day and wanted to drop off the present she had gotten for me, complete with a hand-tied, handwritten nametag.  I’m not typically an emotional man, but I was genuinely choked up at her gesture.

I know this entry isn’t about cooking or the culinary arts, but let me explain:  I was a sailor for six years. Four and a half of those years were spent in the same building with the same person acting as my supervisor in one context or another for nearly all that time.  That is over 1600 days working for the same person.  When I left the Navy, never to see this person again, after countless operations performed and assignments completed, she didn’t even say goodbye to me.

photo2 (2)

Amanda’s gift wasn’t overly extravagant—a pack of “playing cards” where each card is a coupon.  But it was incredibly thoughtful, and that she would have taken any time at all for some guy who had only been working for her for 24 days really got to me.

You know, it’s really easy to get accustomed to things.  Spend enough time in the tropics, and 60 degrees makes you shiver.  If a bell rings every time you eat, you start to salivate at the sound of a ringing bell.  “You only have to show a stick to a beaten dog,” as the saying goes.  And if you get used to being treated like a cog in a machine, eventually you become one.

I’m not saying my supervisor in the Navy was a bad person for not giving me a sendoff—she was perfectly within her rights to ignore me right out the door.  That’s what makes these gestures so special—they’re not required.

Auguste Escoffier’s staff has been doing this for my wife and me since Tressa enrolled in 2012.  We get hand-signed cards on holidays and on our birthdays (can’t even remember my birthday half the time).  We still get advice from chefs we’ve worked with.  I get unsolicited encouragement from Chef Kelly and Chef Suzanne to this day, just at random.  I’ve met some of the best people I’ve ever met through this school.

photo3 (2)

In a lot of ways, it makes me feel sort of like an alien trying to figure out these eee-moe-shuns that you hoo-mans take for granted—having gotten accustomed to the way my old job worked, I internalized that things like gratitude and generosity only happened in the movies.  REAL workers are “intrinsically motivated” (a phrase I hate to this day) and need no reward or encouragement.

But here at 5280 and at Auguste Escoffier, those are things that you get—not because you killed a dragon or beat Communism over the past fiscal quarter—but just because you apply yourself and you work hard every day.

And your boss gives you a Christmas present just because she’s nice.

I’m getting all gushy now, but I guess what I am saying is that, having been a cog for a long time, it sure feels nice to be treated like a person again.

Photo1 (2)