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Plating Lunch at Six Years Old

By F Joshua Bunker

In the proper spirit of American Capitalism, my friends and I compared educational and professional goals as we caught up over the holidays. Among my family and friends, professions range from attorneys to businessmen to engineers and doctors. Conversations in relation to what we do, or will do, become filled with complicated jargon and concepts and my friends justify the many years and dollars they have spent going to school. IQs and egos are stoked as I sit quietly to the side. As they become bored with comparing themselves to each other, they turn to me, “So Josh, what are you going to do?” I shrug and smile, “I’m going to make people fat and happy for a living.”

Ever since I was young I have been in the kitchen. I’ve never thought anything of it until recently, but even at a young age I was cooking. I realized just the other day that I used to plate my lunches when I was young. Most six or seven year olds, when making a peanut and jelly sandwich, make a mess that produces a sandwich in some shape or form and then eat the sandwich as it is. As a child, I would make the sandwich, cut it, clean it up and cut an apple or peel an orange to go with it. I would then plate my lunch on small plates. The sandwich would lay nice and neat on one side of the plate and I would put the fruit on the other, ready to serve. I was six and did not have any experience going out to restaurants but I would take the time to plate the meal I was about to eat.

Hippocrates stated, “Let food be thy medicine…” At the end of a long and hard day, I think a good meal is the greatest medicine available. Too many people turn to drink when there are so many other options because they don’t want to take the time to make a meal that they will truly enjoy. Why not have something to satisfy the appetite with that glass of scotch or whiskey?

My first job in a restaurant was as a dishwasher. I had little contact with customers and, at the time, I didn’t mind. Then I was moved to the counter and work took on a completely different meaning for me. I learned quickly how much fun it was to have regulars, getting to know them and their preferences. This is when I saw the first experienced the power of familiarity and good customer service when coupled with good food. It wasn’t unusual to have someone come in after a bad day or meeting and I would have food and a smile waiting for them. I was able to talk to them and bring a smile to their faces as they enjoyed a good meal; that smile meant everything to me.

I’ve had a good day at work when I know I have made someone’s day brighter. The thing that has kept me going throughout the long hours and impossible weekends is the look on the host or hostess’ face when they turn to me and say, “Thank you.” That’s all I ever need. I have made their day better by doing what I love to do. These are the reasons that I have chosen this line of work. Good food has the power to turn something boring or dull into something enjoyable and fun. Presentation can set the mood for any function, even with the drabbest décor, and can turn a frown upside down. Yes, there is money to be made in this industry but what I look for are the smiles, the “thank yous”, and the knowledge that I was able to make someone’s day better through the medicine of good food.

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