Hey, who doesn’t love to eat? Seriously. Dan, Matt and I are definitely guilty of this. We love going out to great restaurants, we love socializing, having great meals and talking about them for hours or days after (with the occasional filtered pic or two thrown-in).
In the early days of Fade In, we were looking for truly signature stories to tell in addition to our day-to-day corporate / commercial work. We’ve always enjoyed producing “profiles” on individuals creating interesting things or accomplishing inspiring acts. A lot of times these stories are opportunities for us to try new things creatively, whether from a storytelling or aesthetic perspective.
Personally, I’ve always gravitated towards professional passion. People following their bliss so to speak, finding an art form, pursuing a craft or mission that seems to have almost been equally as destined to discover them. That perfect, symbiotic, destined-to-be fit is fascinating.
When we decided to produce our first film in this culinary series, we chose an Executive Chef who exuded such a lifelong love for cooking. He talked about summers spent in Italy learning how to cook, experimenting, discovering what tasted best from those closest to him. Telling the story of Chef Chez and Tolani back in 2014 verified my belief in people discovering and following their bliss. Since then, follow-up films on Hunterdon County’s Milford Oyster House about a brother and sister duo (Chef Ed & Amy) co-running one of New Jersey’s finest seafood restaurants and Top That! Donuts owned and operated by a husband and wife team (Chris and Danielle) who’d always dreamed of owning their own special place that payed homage to their favorite treat shops as kids visiting Point Pleasant’s boardwalk at the Jersey Shore.
While the stories of Chef Chez, Chef Ed & Amy, and Danielle & Chris are all unique in their own ways, there are some common themes that pop up in all of these stories, and have provided the foundation for the spirit of this signature series we’re developing. They’re qualities that I think each of us can learn from, no matter who we are and what we do for a living.
1. Passion & Perseverance: Running a small business is very tough and very competitive, especially in today’s world where options are seemingly endless. And running a restaurant…even tougher. The people we’ve interviewed for this series have worked relentlessly to make their restaurants successful. They’ve sacrificed time away from friends and family (even their own children) putting in long hours in difficult physical conditions (Try spending even 1 hour in a piping hot, noisy, and chaotic restaurant kitchen, never mind 8-10) to get better at their craft and fulfill their dreams. Many times they’re working when most of aren’t – weekends, holidays, long nights.
So why do they do it?
2. They Love Making People Happy: That’s why.
After doing a couple of these films and talking to chefs and restaurant owners for upcoming stories I can tell you with 100% certainty that the people driving the success of any restaurant do it because they LOVE making other people happy. It goes hand-in-hand with cooking for and serving people food, you want them to be comfortable and savor the foods they enjoy the most, or to surprise themselves by trying new things and finding new favorites that’ll expand their tastes. You want them to come in hungry and leave wholly satisfied, spending time with the people they love the most – their closest friends and their dearest family. They don’t serve people because they have to, it’s not “just a job.” They do it because they enjoy watching people smile when their favorite dessert lands on a plate in front of them or hearing them a customer excitedly say,“Oh My God” or “WOW” after taking that first bite of a delicious entree. That’s mission accomplished for a Chef, and the inspiration to keep learning, cooking, and sharing.
3. Remember Your Roots: My favorite part of any of the interviews we’ve conducted is talking to chefs about their original inspiration. “When did you know you wanted to become a chef?” is the question that usually illicits the longest response of the interview. Usually, they talk about their earliest memories of smells and tastes associated with the kitchen, during unforgettable holidays and family parties, carefully learning from a parent or grandparent how to prepare a delicious meal that will feed their whole family in a mere matter of hours. In the case of Chris and Danielle in Top That! Donuts they talked about Danielle’s beloved Aunt Betty, who believed in and encouraged her niece to follow her passion of opening her own sweet-shop by the sea. Aunt Betty wasn’t there to see the doughnut shop but I can assure you, she’s there in spirit. Her story hangs prominently on the wall for each of their guests to read and TTD even has a doughnut on the menu named the “Aunt Betty,” featuring many of her favorite ingredients. At the time of our filming, the “Aunt Betty” was their most popular doughnut, and somehow I have a feeling that hasn’t changed.
I guess I naturally gravitate to these stories because so much of my craft and professional passion is tied to my grandmother’s love of stories and my grandfather’s love of old television shows and films as a little kid. I try to honor them with the stories I tell, each and every time. I believe that the friends we’ve interviewed for this series do the same for the people they love, the people that taught them the most, with each and every dish or treat they make. They’re a humble reminder that people we love are with us always, especially in our acts, in what we do and create for others.
4. Stay True While Evolving: It’s a unique lesson in the achievement of balance. All of these chefs and entrepreneurs stay true to who they are and the delicious foods people have come to expect from them. They aren’t constantly re-inventing themselves in drastic terms which to me is always a sign of quiet and inner confidence. At the same time, each of these individuals is constantly trying to evolve and calibrate their craft. They’re obsessive tinkerers and experimenters who aren’t afraid to explore new things in moderation. They’re always learning, trying other people’s restaurants and taking note of the unique things they love from their colleague’s cuisine. It doesn’t threaten them, it inspires them.
I really hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our award-winning Culinary Film Series, and now that you know the inspiration behind it, here’s a link to watch the films and get REALLY hungry.
We’re really looking forward to announcing our next few films in the series (one of them coming real-soon). Feel free to leave your comments and questions here, or to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to share your own story.