Over 10 years ago I bid on and won an auction item that made a dream of mine come true. I won a day in the kitchen at the infamous Charlie Trotter’s restaurant. I felt like I had hit the jackpot.
I showed up at the restaurant at the requested time, 11 a.m. I was expected to work until 8 p.m.
When I walked in to the restaurant, I gave them my name and I was brought up to Charlie Trotter’s office. I’m thinking I’m going to be vetted or something to make sure I wasn’t some lunatic coming in to the restaurant. To my surprise, in walked Charlie Trotter.
He extended a hand and half jokingly asked, “What made you want to pay for a day in my kitchen?” I told him about my love of cooking and how I admired his journey and accomplishments. I finally confessed, “I’m just a big fan and wanted to see the inner workings of your shop.” I then went on to share that I owned my own business and was hoping for some business insight. When he heard it had to do with health and fitness, we chatted about that.
After a few minutes I was escorted out to change in to my new kitchen attire. I felt so important, so cool. Once in the kitchen I felt almost as happy as I am at the beach. Water and food, two of my favorite things.
By 8:00 p.m. I was exhausted. The kitchen was tense, constantly busy and I learned more about cooking in those 9 hours than I ever did in any cooking class or “how-to” cookbook. It was incredible. I couldn’t wait to get home and try out some of the things I learned.
At one point, Charlie came in to the kitchen and the yelling started. But what I found interesting was when he left there was no rolling of the eyes or disrespect. Charlie Trotter demanded perfection because he wanted his guests experience to be perfect.
At the end of the day, Charlie Trotter was dedicated to people having a great experience. He knew they were spending a lot of time and money there and he wanted to make sure they would leave anticipating their next visit.
A couple of years later, I repeated my Charlie Trotter experience. He was even friendlier the second time around. I was able to attend their staff meeting, (that was interesting) and interact with some of his chefs. I wonder now, what chefs I might have been working with back then that went on to greatness because of Charlie Trotter? Charlie made me feel comfortable and welcome. I’ll never forget that.
When I owned my studio, I would always tell my staff that if you go off and open your own studio, or become a great trainer, I will be proud of you. I will be proud because I hope that it was something you experienced under my tutelage that made you better, stronger, more business savvy and successful.
That is what Charlie Trotter did for me. In just two visits to his restaurant and my brief conversations and full day observations I was reminded what a brilliant talent he was, not only as a chef, but as a businessman and philanthropist.
I will treasure my conversations with him and my time in his kitchen. I will always admire his ability to change the rules and make them his own with the end result being satisfaction for his customers, staff and hopefully for himself. Her deserved that.
Here’s to never wishing for more time, rather making the most of it.