!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Cooking for 15,000

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Cooking for 15,000

One of the earliest themes of this blog is "critical caring" — making sure, as far as possible, that your work is something you really and truly want to do well.

I recently came upon a prime example of this philosophy in the culinary area. At the Reluctant Gourmet blog, there is an interview with Todd Mohr, a man who began a second career as a chef after spending about ten less-than-fulfilling years as a middle manager in marketing and advertising.

Todd Mohr and his wife Heather
(Savor Hospitality)

Having recognized that "I was spending the majority of my life in an endeavor that was not fulfilling spiritually," Mohr jumped ship at considerable financial cost and enrolled in the culinary arts program at Baltimore International College. He finished the two-year program in 13 months and went on to his first job in his new field — working at the National Security Agency, where the kitchen team prepared two meals a day for a workforce of 15,000. Among his remarks about this experience, Mohr notes:
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the NSA taught me a tremendous amount. There were certainly times I wanted to quit, but I’m glad I persevered, because that knowledge paid off.
After a couple more jobs in institutional cooking, Mohr returned to his home state of North Carolina and opened Savor Hospitality, a catering business. He explains his thinking:
I didn’t want to start just another catering company. I wanted to create a unique niche. I started to notice large, important, companies having important business meetings and getting wax-paper wrapped sandwiches brought by an unskilled delivery boy, dumped at the receptionist’s desk.

The secretary now has to set everything up, clean it up, stuff that’s not their job. I created “Business Dining Catering,” elements of a wedding caterer brought to the business environment. This unique approach that included a Chef on site, gold and chrome chafing dishes, white linens, and return clean-up service separated us from every other caterer.

Now, 7 years later, others are copying what I started.
The whole discussion with Mohr is quite informative and engaging. For my purposes, I would just reiterate what I take away from the interview: Mohr is working hard and productively, and is continuing to expand the range of services he offers (which now include a cooking school for laypeople). He is motivated to put in all the time and effort this requires because he truly cares about what he is doing. As Mohr puts it, "I would be terribly frustrated with 12 - 18 hour days if I worked for someone else. The fact that I'm forwarding my own business makes it a joy."

Earlier this year, Mohr began a blog, where he posts brief instructional videos. In the example below, you can learn how to make a Japanese omelet, a technique Mohr was taught by a Japanese chef who visited one of his classes at culinary school.


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