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getting out of our comfort zone

Lighten Up and Let Go: Flutter Breath

By September 10, 2014 feeding ourselves, getting out of our comfort zone, having flexibility, inspired by others, living a joyful life, personal growth, pleasure, practice, self care, silliness

I have been in a pretty serious and focused space over the last few weeks. I have been craving avenues to express silliness. Who would have thought that an expression of silly would be found in my yoga practice?

I was reminded how invigorating it is to be silly this evening in my yoga class when the instructor guided the class through a series of breaths. The final breath in the series was what is called the “flutter breath.”

I found a delightful snippet about fluttering on a blog about breathing and yoga. I found this image on there too! I am not sure who to give credit to, but I love it!

Fluttering Image

Here’s what Diane Neuman, author of Breathing Deep Exercises, had to say about fluttering: 

Fluttering is an effective way (albeit silly) to dump some tension from your face. Face muscles are very small, very complicated and, therefore, a bit difficult to unknot.

Considering all the personal and professional challenges that get dumped on you during the day, it is no wonder that you squint, grimace, clench your jaws, wrinkle your forehead, tense your tongue and jut your head forward! Small face muscles eat up an enormous amount of energy. A tense face messes with your breathing and that messes with your speaking and that messes with your accomplishments.

We will stray briefly from the preferred nose-breathing. Keep any mouth-breathing brief and stop for water if you begin to feel dry.

Keep your mouth closed with lips and jaw muscles completely relaxed. Your lips will be parted slightly only by the escaping exhalation.

1. Breathe in through your nose. Softly blow out each exhalation through your relaxed lips until they flutter. Wet your lips when necessary. Horses and babies make this same sound.

2. Inhale slowly through your nose and breathe out through your “flutter.” Gently squeeze out as much air as possible. The gentle vibration will gradually melt away tension from your face and jaws.

Lesson: I am working on letting go of my serious approach to a number of things in my life. I am sending soulful gratitude to Jennie Dickson at Durham Yoga Company for facilitating the flutter breath in class tonight! I have learned a new strategy to be silly on the mat and in life. I can do it anywhere! 

What strategies do you have to allow some silliness in your life? What might happen if you allow yourself to be silly in unexpected places? 

 

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A Short and Sweet Reminder of How Important You Are

By August 24, 2014 feeding ourselves, getting out of our comfort zone, living a joyful life, nurturing, personal growth, practice, self care, slowing down

I could give you a post about a recent trip, making refreshing beverages for hot summer days, or how to preserve the last of summer vegetables.

Instead, I am keeping this post short, sweet, and to the point.

Who knew I was capable of that?

I am sending a loving nudge and a reminder to you of how important you are.

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Self care and nurturing are expressions of loving ourselves.

Learning to love ourselves is the most important work that we will do in our lives.

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Lesson: We are worthy of being a priority in our own lives. I know that the world is busy. There is a lot going on right now -inside and outside of us.

What can you do to treat yourself extra special this week?

How can you plant some seeds to keep you in the forefront of importance in your life? 

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Six Degrees of Separation: A Memorable Meal at La Morra

By August 4, 2014 asking questions, Boston, building relationships, getting out of our comfort zone, inspired by others, working in restaurants

You know when things line up so well, you can’t stop smiling or for a moment bathe in the feeling of wonder at how magical life can be? This is how I was feeling when I was preparing to leave for Boston a few weeks ago.

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As I mentioned in my post about o ya a couple weeks ago, this was my second time to visit the city of Boston. I had been dreaming of returning since the beginning of this year. Then I was offered an invitation to come out to visit a friend for a few days off of the coast of Boston, on one of the Elizabeth Islands. How could I have resisted? The timing could not have been better, as I had a chunk of free time in July. Indeed -things lined up nicely!

As you might imagine, I work my travel plans around food experiences. I had a mental list of places that I wanted to dine while I was in Boston. Josh DeCarolis, a chef who runs the kitchen at Mateo in Durham, is from Boston. I ran my list by him, telling him that I would be willing to have some flexibility with my plans if he had any suggestions. He told me about an Italian restaurant, La Morra, where he worked for a number of years. I have enjoyed Josh’s cooking style, which is as he is – very Italian. I trusted his judgment when he told me to make some time for his old stomping grounds, La Morra.

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The next phase of this story has to do with my friend Peter, who is from Boston. He and I worked together at Magnolia Grill. I knew as soon as I met him in 2011 that I wanted us to be friends.

I asked Peter to listen to my list of plans. I wanted him to give me the scoop on public transportation in Boston. When I said that I had decided to go to La Morra, he expressed his approval. He said the La Morra has been one of his favorite spots for years.  His pottery studio was near there, and he has had many meals at their bar with their longtime bartender, Bernie. La Morra even served espresso in Peter’s handmade cups.

Fast forward a couple of days – Peter and I were sitting at my table enjoying dinner together. I was texting with another friend, Jesse, who lives in Boston. Jesse and I worked together in a couple of restaurants in Nashville, TN. His uncle owns a bistro, the Tin Angel, which was the first restaurant where I worked in Nashville.

Jesse and I were discussing dates, attempting to figure out when to meet up while I was in town. I asked where he was working these days, assuming that I should check out where he works for a meal. Then I ignored my phone for a bit – re-directing my attention to my dinner companion, Peter.

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Peter and I continued our conversation, which was mostly about specifics of the Boston subway.  I checked my phone and saw the Jesse had responded to my question. He said that he works at a place in Brookline called La Morra. I responded internally, with a “get out of here!” Then I handed my phone to Peter and said, “will you check this out!”  Needless to say, I was definitely going to La Morra for dinner.

There are restaurants where I want to eat when I want my palate to have a new adventure. There are restaurants that I go to for comfort. There are certain restaurants that I will choose simply for the sentiment. I am not a total food snob.

La Morra was one of the coziest places that I have ever been for dinner. Peter nailed it when he said that the bartender, Bernie, was worth her weight in gold. She was warm, welcoming, funny, and incredibly knowledgeable about the food and wine. I enjoyed sharing my first evening in Boston with her.

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La Morra is known for their pasta, which is made in-house with an imported Italian pasta-making machine. Their food was un-fussy, as any fine Italian meal should be. Here’s what I ate at La Morra: smoked wild bass salad with fennel, pate di baccala, fried squash blossoms with a drizzle of honey, a seasonal green salad, and house-made pasta with zucchini ribbons and lobster.  If you’re in Boston and in the mood for fresh pasta, join Bernie at the bar for a lovely experience. Please tell her I said hello!

This story is one of many that I have about synchronicity of crossing paths with people and places. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to create connections with so many wonderfully talented and fine people in the culinary world. I have said it many times and will continue- food brings people together. It transcends boundaries in a way that many avenues cannot.

Lesson: Before I thought of consulting with Josh about my dining plans in Boston, I had my list well-defined. I was thrilled that I shifted my plans to make room for dinner at La Morra. It’s a beneficial exercise to take the blinders off and be open-minded about new possibilities. We never know what we would miss otherwise. A good question to ask in any situation would be: “What other options are possible that I am not thinking about?” 

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My o ya Experience

By July 21, 2014 attention to detail, creativity, feeding ourselves, getting out of our comfort zone, living a joyful life, nurturing, personal growth, pleasure, practice, self care, so much to learn, Travel

First, I want to extend my apologies to anyone who was looking for my post from Loving Food and Life in their inbox this last Monday. I unexpectedly did not have Internet access that was strong enough to handle posting to my site. I decided to chill out about it. Unexpected things happen. I was on a magnificent island at the time. What else was I to do?

I have at least 20 tales to tell you about the last month of my life. I have been making some leaps. I have been having a blast. I have been on vacation. I have been laughing or crying tears of joy depending on the moment. I have been appreciating these human-ly emotions that I have been feeling.

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This post is about exhibiting one of the finest meals of my life (so far). What lands it on the list of the finest? For one, I decided to take a leap and go explore the city of Boston by myself. This meal was a magical benefit of my decision to take this trip. There was no way that I could return to Boston (my 2nd visit there) without a meal at o ya. To make it even more special, my friend and past colleague from the days of working at the Magnolia Grill, Maggie Warren now lives in Boston and works as a server at o ya. She wanted to wait on me, and I was thrilled to have her share a dining experience with me.

It might be redundant for me to say this, but I dig deep into the beauty of a meal. By the time I left o ya, my eyes were filled with tears of joy. I was full of gratitude to all of the people who participated in running this restaurant. Each one contributed to making my experience grand. I was appreciative of how thoughtful Maggie chose each course for me with a perfect sake pairing to match. I almost felt like I had been transported to another world. Then I became deeply in touch with my own creation of this experience. As the tears uncontrollably fell down my cheeks, I realized how it felt to be responsible for all of this.

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I went to o ya early on a Friday night. When I made my reservation, I asked to be seated close to the “pass” at the chef counter where I could see the food coming out. I went in feeling thrilled to be there again. This was my 2nd time dining at o ya. My anticipation of many exquisite bites was bubbling over.

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I sat at the chef’s counter thrilled to have Maggie as a dining companion, while I would be the only one eating. I told Maggie to feed me whatever she wanted. I told her that I would let her know when I needed to slow down. She brought me a beautiful flute of champagne to get things started.

Here’s what happened next: (I have posted the dish and then the picture)

Kumamoto Oyster watermelon pearls, cucumber mignonette

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Hamachi spicy banana pepper mousse

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Salmon unfiltered wheat soy moromi

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Santa Barbara Sea Urchin and Russian Ossetra Caviar

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Karikari Crispy Sesame Chicken Skin yuzu-honey pickled ginger, schmaltz powder

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Artic Char yuzu cured, sesame brittle, cumin aioli, cilantro

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Fried Kumamoto Oyster yuzu kosho aioli, squid ink bubbles

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Wild Bluefin Maguro soy braised garlic, micro greens

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Kyoto Style Wild Morel Mushrooms garlic, soy

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Line Caught Ishidai Usuzukuri spotted knife jaw, ponzu, green onion, spicy daikon

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Scottish Salmon Belly cilantro, ginger, hot sesame oil drizzle

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Hamachi viet mignonette, thai basil, shallot

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Bluefin Toro Tartare ginger kimchee jus

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Chilled Maine Lobster Salad avocado, creamy yuzu dressing, micro greens, cucumber gelee

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Tea Brined Fried Pork Ribs hot sesame oil, honey, scallions

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Grilled Chanterelle and Shiitake Mushroom Sashimi rosemary garlic oil, sesame froth, soy

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Kushiyaki of Kobe roasted onion, yuzu kosho, maple soy sauce

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Foie Gras Miso Spoon tempura bits, preserved yuzu

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Chilled Daikon Dumpling miso nut “cheese,” homemade kimchee, wakame, spicy pine nut mayo

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Yuzu Curd almond, blackberry-jasmine, meringue and Aged Sake Gelato miso-hazelnut caramel, vanilla cremeaux, financier

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I am not a restaurant critic. You can find all sorts of amazing reviews of o ya here from critics all over the country.  Please check out o ya for yourself if you’re curious in learning more about them. If you’re in Boston, make a reservation.  It truly is a “don’t miss!” They pay attention to every detail you can imagine. When you are there, you will see beauty at every turn. I definitely had moments when I thought I could’t bear to lose the taste that I had just experienced. In his review of o ya in the New York Times in 2008, Frank Bruni said that he ordered a 2nd piece of one dish right after the first. There was no way he was leaving o ya with the memory of just one.

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Lesson: I have been in the process of stepping into a new way of living. To give you contrast, I spent many years often expecting the worse or not having much expectation because I was afraid of being disappointed. I am learning to trust that life is joyful and full of beautiful experiences. This dinner at o ya was indeed aesthetically beautiful. The presentation of the food was an exhibit of art. The smells and tastes of each plate were inviting and expansive. This dinner was an exhibition of how beautiful life can be. It served as a reminder that I am an artist to the depths of my soul. I have the ability and the power to create anything that I want in this life.

I am going to continue to practice this art of creating. It is bringing so much joy into my life. It’s not that fleeting kind of feeling that comes and goes. It is hanging around. It is flowing through me and into each encounter and experience that I create. It is hard to put into words what this is like. It is my wish that you can feel what I am saying.

What steps are you taking to make room for more joy in your life?

 

 

 

 

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Dear Summer, thank you for the pleasures you bring!

By June 30, 2014 feeding ourselves, getting out of our comfort zone, nurturing, pleasure, practice, self care, simplicity, slowing down, summer veggies

Here’s a visual expression of a few things that are bringing pleasure to me right now. IMG_0169The anticipation of tomato season is beyond words. I savor every juicy bite!

IMG_0288There are few pleasures greater than homemade vanilla bean ice cream.

IMG_0321I wake to see blossoming all around me! 

IMG_0335Fruits of summer at the Durham Farmers’ Market.

IMG_0284Grilling and chilling.

IMG_0388More blossoming. Sungold tomatoes on their way.

IMG_0407Okra flower.

IMG_0417My garden mentor, Peter.

IMG_0451Look at those beautiful bean plants.

IMG_0445Cantaloupe, I can eat all day every day.

IMG_0476Summer supper with friends. My first corn of the season, elote` asada.

Lesson: Summer brings simple pleasures. I am taking the time to appreciate all of the simple things in my life right now: the juicy bite of a tomato, the refreshment that a slice of cantaloupe brings to my senses, learning in the garden with my dear friend Peter, time spent in my garden reflecting on the growth I am seeing inside and outside of me, and so much more.

I am shifting my attitude about my life. I am making room for more pleasure. In previous posts I have mentioned that I am only choosing to do things that feed me. Paying attention to pleasure and allowing it in my life is what is feeding me right now. What is feeding you? 

 

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What Feeds Me

By May 26, 2014 creativity, feeding ourselves, getting out of our comfort zone, nurturing, practice, self care

There are many things that I could share with you that express all of the ways that I am expanding my comfort zone these days. To give you an idea, I have started a new job that challenges, inspires, and stretches me every single day. Every day is an adventure. I am loving it! Upon taking this new job, I made a promise to myself. From this point forward, I am only going to put my energy into things that feed me. What exactly do I mean by this?

I was pondering “what that means” the other night while preparing kale salad for myself and a friend who was joining me for dinner. I prepared one of my favorite salads for us – kale with avocado and lemon dressing with chiles. I also made tuna salad to go with it with lots of capers, spring onions, and very good mustard. One might say that I fed us well. We ate nutritious greens, which some call superfood. We had lean protein, which feeds muscles for people with active lifestyles. We had avocado, which is full of healthy fat. One might say that what we ate was good for us.

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Feeding ourselves runs so much deeper than what we are eating at the dinner table. This weekend, I have fed myself by crossing some meaningful plans off of my to-do list. One of those plans was riding my bike from my house to the American Tobacco Trail here in Durham (by myself). I am new to riding a bike in and around downtown. When I got my bike, it had been over 15 years since I had ridden one. I have been working on building up my endurance for longer rides and varied inclines. That old saying, “it’s like riding a bike,” doesn’t negate the need for practice to be better at your endeavor.

I have a running list of plans for myself of activities that will feed me. For those of you who read last weeks post about my adventures in relaxing, the list includes continuing to prop up my feet once in awhile. I propped my feet up for over an hour this last week, which surpassed my goal. Other plans for feeding myself include completing a new gardening project that I have just begun. I want to create a space in my yard for growing veggies and flowers. I will keep you posted on the progress of that project. That one will be feeding me literally and beyond!

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I love to dance and sing, so stay tuned for some invites for joining me at some local events. I have been wanting to check out the Contra dancing scene here for far too long!

Lesson: It is easy to take for granted that eating well and exercise are the most important ways for us to care for ourselves. The most important way that I take care of myself right now is committing to only putting my energy into what feeds me. I am still discovering and unfolding what that means. I know that when I do something that is feeding me, I feel deeply cared for and nourished on many levels. The beauty of this is that it’s this is achieved by something that I do for myself. I could not achieve the same result otherwise.  

How about you? What feeds you? What meaningful plans have you been crossing off of your list? 

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Adventures in Relaxing

By May 19, 2014 creativity, getting out of our comfort zone, nurturing, self care, slowing down

Greetings from home! I am back in Durham, North Carolina. It has been an incredibly gorgeous day today! My neighbor says that she is “bottling up” days like today and saving them for the hotter months to come. I will be sure to invite you to the party when she opens up the 70 degree bottles of sunshine, blue skies, and cools breezes.

I am refreshed and feel some renewal within, thanks to my weekend getaway. I spent 3 nights in the mountains with the goal of relaxing. I did well! I succeeded with my goal. I made only 2 trips out of the house. One excursion was to check out a couple of local art galleries, the other was to the farmers market in Boone. Both trips fed my creative nature and appreciation for expression.

In the picture below, you will see one of my favorite spots of the weekend. From the kitchen stool, I had a beautiful view of the mountains outside a sliding glass door. I ate there. I drank there. I read there. I pondered life sitting on that red stool enjoying fine coffee, farm eggs, and fresh strawberries that a farmer named Tom hand selected for me.

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This was my post-farmers market breakfast. This was a lovely sourdough pecan sticky bun from Owl Creek Breadworks. If you’re in the Boone area, I highly suggest their bagels and sticky buns. All of their breads appeared to be thoughtfully prepared.

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It was rather chilly in the mountains. I built my first fire in the fireplace. Thanks to youtube.com, I had several teachers in multiple videos that I watched. As you can see, my fire was successful. It created warmth and comfort, too!

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I must admit that this is my favorite position that I took the entire weekend. I don’t allow myself to prop my feet up as much I would like to.

Seems like a worthy new goal -propping up my feet for at least an hour a week.

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So what is the point of me sharing my weekend expereince with you? I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for us to take care of ourselves. It can be a challenge for many people to slow down. I don’t know many people that grew up learning the importance of self and what it means to take care of ourselves. I am not talking about eating a balanced diet and getting enough exercise.

I am talking about nurturing ourselves with things that we love and enjoy. I am talking about giving ourselves permission to be at the top of our own priority lists. I am talking about giving ourselves the space to process changes and transitions in our lives. I am talking about creating a space for us to acknowledge and be present to our emotions. I understand that learning how to do this is indeed a process. What can you do to begin to plant the seeds to take care of yourself in a new way?

Lesson: I became fully aware over the weekend that I don’t allow myself to prop my feet up once in a while. My feet carry and take me all over the place. I have worked for over 20 years standing on my feet for 8 or more hours a day. I am claiming a gift for me and for my feet! One hour or more a week there will be “feet propping up.” How about you? What is something that you haven’t allowed yourself to do for you? What are you going to do to change it? 

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Slingin’ hash

By April 11, 2014 building relationships, customer service, Durham, getting out of our comfort zone, people skills, working in restaurants
Menus that I translate 2 shifts a week at Mateo Tapas in Durham, NC. Come see me!

Menus that I translate 2 shifts a week
at Mateo Tapas in Durham, NC. Come see me!

 

I am currently faced with the decision to leave the world of working as a professional waiter. The energy and action that I have been putting into new goals for myself are transforming seeds that I have planted into blossoms of new opportunities. Exciting!!!

Making this decision to leave waiting tables is more of a challenge than I would have ever anticipated. I savor the work that I do in the restaurant world. As with any transition in life, I am working this process one step at a time. I do intend to stay connected to food, wine, and restaurants. I will keep you posted on my new adventures!

I truly delight in being a professional waiter. There are two key titles for this position; some people prefer waiter, others prefer server. Some people find either title offensive or demeaning. In my own mind, I have livened up my title to “hash slinger.” It makes life more fun!

What is so fulfilling about slingin’ hash? I relish being in an environment where people care about food. I crave expanding my food knowledge. I appreciate the creative nature of the people with whom I work, and service rocks my world. Yes, I said it – and I will say it again! Service rocks my world! I am one of those crazy, weird people who love all people – with no exceptions.

There are two ways that I look at service. First, it’s the time in which the restaurant is “on the move” with a lively energy of diners, tickets rolling in one after another to the kitchen, wine glasses being filled by attentive waiters, and carefully crafted food being placed in front of excitedly awaiting mouths and taste buds. Secondly, service is facilitating an experience for restaurant guests.

I enjoy facilitating dining experiences for people. I really get engaged in the “how” of providing these experiences. I admit, working with people can be a challenge. Yet I find great pleasure in turning those challenges into personal victories.

My approach to creating victories is one of the ways that I am able to leave work at work. I don’t rant about people and their so-called idiosyncrasies. I focus my energy on how I can provide memorable service to people and sharpen my skills along the way. This is an attitude that would serve a lot of waiters well. It would certainly make their lives smoother. It’s a way to take the “hate” out of the love-hate relationship that many waiters have with the profession.

How do I approach my job? It is all about making people happy. For me, it is a simple equation: making people happy brings satisfaction to my soul and puts cash in my pockets. Please come see me at Mateo Tapas in Durham, North Carolina!

One of my fave bites at Mateo - pan con tomate with boquerones

One of my fave bites at Mateo Tapas
pan con tomate con boquerones

What are some important skills that have I learned slingin’ hash?

– how to build rapport with people from all walks of life

– to encourage people to try new dishes that they probably would not have considered otherwise

– how to assist someone who seems uncomfortable with the environment or the menu so that they can become comfortably engaged in their experience

– how to lead someone from being angry into a smoother state of being

– how to get out of my own comfort zone in order to accommodate someone else’s needs

– to build rapport with (sometimes) cranky chefs to provide my guests with special requests

– how to ask questions to gather information so I can provide my diners with the experience that they want – not what I think they should have

When I am working, what I do is all about my guests. My job is about combining all of my skills and knowledge to facilitate an experience for them.

Lesson: In any field working with people, there is opportunity for learning and growing. There is magic in this human experience.  I often find this magic in unexpected interchanges with others. Where do you uncover this kind of magic? 

 

Note: For those of you who know me from Pizzeria Toro in Durham, NC – I am still gratefully employed by Pizzeria Toro. We are patiently awaiting getting back to business since the fire that stopped us in our tracks in November of 2013. I don’t have any word on what is happening. Like you, I can’t wait for them to open again! I will keep you posted.

 

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