Old Cooks, New Cuisines

It’s Foodie Friday and this week I want to report on a business point I learned at supper last evening. IMG_20140801_092530It was a lovely, small Italian restaurant and the food they were serving was really excellent. High quality ingredients were used which always makes a difference but the skills the cook showed were impressive. He had a firm grasp on southern Italian fare.

I chatted up the owner who, as it turned out was both Italian and the wife of the cook.  I mentioned how much I appreciated his skill and apparent knowledge of Italian food and techniques.  I then asked where he was from, wondering as I asked it if he was from the north of Italy or the south.  As it turned out, the answer was south as is VERY far south.

As in Morocco.

They had met in New York  and she had taught him Italian food.  He was already an accomplished cook when they met and he was able to translate what he knew into another form.  After all, what is couscous if not a cousin to acini di pepe or pastina?  Many of the spices and seasonings are the same and the basics – knife skills, etc. – never change.  What does this have to do with business?

We tend to pigeonhole people.  This one is an accountant, that one is a fabulous assistant.  We don’t spent enough time thinking about how the skills they have can be used elsewhere in other contexts to make the business better.  There was a shrimp dish last night which had an extraordinary broth.  The cook had added a bit of his marinara – just enough to make the “usual” scampi broth a lovely light pink.  That sort of addition is more common in his native cuisine than Italian and, with the addition of some scallions it make for a great dish.  We need to let smart people with excellent skills use them in new cuisines and see what emerges.  As I found last night, the result is often surprisingly good.

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