I Predict a Tie

As Rich Gore made his way to the front door of my restaurant, I put an arm around his shoulder, pulled him close and mumbled, “I’m gonna wipe the floor with Phillipe.”

Rich pulled on his jacket and smiled casually.  “Malik, I’m gonna predict a tie.”

Once upon a time, I was a B list celebrity chef with an A list ego.  And I’ve also had a competitive nature for a very long time, and while that nature has many positives, it also comes with a bit of a downside.  And that’s what led me to spend an afternoon in a local shopping mall wearing a chef’s coat and a red silk boxer’s robe.  The Food Network was in town with a travelling live show that included a wine tasting, cooking demos, cookbook signings and a cooking competition; but with a guy like me on stage, I planned on winning, no questions asked.  Cue the theme from Rocky.  But over in the producer’s corner was Rich Gore.  And he was going to make sure the whole thing ended in a tie.

When show time came the next day, myself and Chef Phillipe Chin each had a mystery basket of ingredients, a picked-from-the-audience assistant, and a pantry of dry goods, the MC Bill Boggs, and a special guest in none other than Southern food authority Nathalie DuPree.  We had thirty minutes to cook and an audience of a couple hundred shoppers watching and cheering us on.  Like many other cooking demonstrations I’ve done, it was on a narrow stage with a minimum of equipment, and little room to work.  But that can be a lot of fun, and I’ve always been good at making do with what I have.  When Nathalie called time, I believe I had three different dishes.  Likewise Phillipe.  And I have no idea what I made, I can’t remember.  But I will remember the next few minutes for a very long time.  Mr. Boggs announced that the winner would be declared through the audience’s reaction and that our producer, Mr. Gore, would measure their reaction trough his computer.  I looked down at Rich as he donned a pair of enormous headphones.  In one hand he held a heavy laptop computer, in the other he hoisted what looked like the antennae from an old Chevy.  The antennae had a wire wrapped around it and it was plugged into his computer.  And those of us on the stage were the only ones that knew the laptop wasn’t turned on.  Rich stood up and waved that antennae around and pretended to listen intently to the beeps of his reaction-judging software while Bill Boggs had everyone cheering first for me, then for Phillipe.  After a couple of minutes, Rich whipped off his headphones and with unbridled enthusiasm announced: “It’s too close, we gotta do it again!”

Super Chef!

Cue the theme from Rocky!

And I stood up there laughing myself stupid.

We did the whole thing again and Bill really got everyone screaming and yelling, first for Phillipe then for me.  Rich directed his antennae towards the loudest screams and the shouts, his eyes wide and intent on judging their enthusiasm.  Finally he ripped off his headphones, threw his arms into the air and with a look of shock and disbelief announced a tie.

“It’s too close to call. It’s a tie!”

Phillipe and I were both laughing so hard that Phillipe chided me.  He was afraid we would give away the secret.

“Chef! Behave, behave.”

“Yes, Chef.”

What was at stake?  From the chef’s point of view, not much.  Phillipe and I both had solid reputations; there was no money riding on the outcome, no contracts to star in the latest cooking show, no kiss from the local beauty queen.  What was at stake was Rich’s reputation and his desire to be successful.  And he measured success in the audience’s laughter, smiles, and applause.  So what if the chicken dishes were thrown together in thirty minutes or less, did the audience enjoy the show?  And the answer was yes. When we came off the stage, me and Phillipe signed autographs, took handshakes and returned a lot of smiles.  And the biggest one was from Rich.

“What’d I tell ya, Malik?  It was a tie.”

That’s a lesson I’ve carried with me for a long time. Is your audience getting what they came for?  Have you engaged your audience, your staff, your customers, or your family?  Are they having a good time enjoying the show, their job, or just their day?  When you’re on the stage, the real winner should be the audience.

Thanks, Rich.

 

 

128 Miles

Have you ever seen that motivational poster that says, “Shoot for the Moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

The Moon

I hate that poster.  For a lot of reasons.

The moon is roughly 240,000 miles away from Earth.  The nearest star, about 4.5 Light Years.  If you don’t remember how far that is, it’s the distance a beam of light could travel in a year’s time.  And remember that light travels at 186,000 miles per second.

And I hate those sort of cheesy, fuzzy platitudes.  And besides, that’s hardly a goal, right?  But 3,000 miles on a bike, in a year, now that’s a goal.

The end of 2014 will mark my second year in business.  And it’s been a very good year.  I diversified my services, found a niche and have exploited that niche.  Along the way I’ve learned some tough lessons on salesmanship and trust.  One particularly glaring mistake was trusting a PR gal out of New York.  The company she represented sold high-end grills and I was a natural for their product.  A guy that can write, manage social media, and has a food background would be the natural fit for a grill company, correct?  Well turns out she was only interested in my ideas.  Three days after discussing my proposal and ideas, I knew I had been “had.”  Ah well, live and learn.

This year I also got back in cycling in a big way.

RTR 4

Halfway through day three of the 2014 Ride to Remember.

I have a cycling team dedicated to one event, the Ride to Remember.  It’s the largest fundraiser for the South Carolina Alzheimer’s Association and it happens to be a 252 mile, three day bicycle ride across the state.  All of us on Team Coast Busters have a personal connection to #ALZ and that’s what brought us together.  And in  the process of preparing for this ride, I reconnected with road cycling.  Heaven help me, I do so love it.  About two months ago, I realized that I have a very good shot of putting in 3,000 miles for the year.  Three thousand!  I certainly didn’t start out with that goal.  I just wanted to complete the #RTR with my team and along the way raise a nice chunk of money.  Which I did.  And now here it is early December and I’m only 128 miles away from three thousand.  December…with its endless invitations, cold weather, minimal sunlight and endless temptations.  You would think I would totally devote myself to putting in those final 128 miles, but I’m not.  I’ve already reached my cycling goals for the year, but haven’t reached my business goals and honestly, those are a bit  more important.  If I end the year with only two thousand, nine hundred and forty miles then that’s that.  Not bad for a guy that spent the first half of 2013 on crutches, right?  I’ll delight in the fact that this year I’ve made a lot of new friends, seen some incredibly beautiful sights, lost twenty four pounds, and increased my company’s reputation in Greenville’s business world.

GSC at night

Greenville, SC and the Reedy River at night

The lesson?  Set lofty goals but make sure they’re concrete, something you can track and manage.  But make sure they’re big.  And if you don’t make them, then you’ve still gotten close.  But along the way to achieving those goals, enjoy the view and the fringe benefits.