When travelling today, I found myself, unexpectedly, a few minutes from a little known restaurant, part of a low key, two start hotel, in a peripheral Spanish village, sleepy cold and silent this time of the year. What attracted me to this place, and prompted me to give them a call to book a table, was curiosity. I learnt a while ago that, just three months before, this little restaurant inside a two star provincial hotel had been awarded one Michelin star, the world recognition of being somebody different in the gastronomic universe.
The place was indeed unpretentious, small, ten tables, entrance by the main door of the hotel. Inside, by the door, a table with a family picture with a few chefs, more pictures of people, and a proud copy of the red Michelin book.
The food was not only delicious but unexpected. Flavours and taste did not seem to correlate with the look of things. Service was good, but not theatrical. Most food was sourced locally, including a prologue of four different olive oils brought to the table with care and slow pace as if in reverence to the soil of origin, of course accompanied by abundant ‘real bread’.
Let me stop the gastronomic report here. I engaged in conversation with the waiters, they looked like brothers, and congratulate them. I was curious to know how they felt last November when they got a call from the Michelin secret visitors. I asked about their elaborate kitchen and cooks and, surprise surprise, about the business and how it was run.
I specifically asked about what was the proudest thing of all, the highlight above the rest, the real reward. Somewhere in my mind I was expecting some narrative about quality, or uniqueness, or how a two star hotel that wins a one start Michelin in a zero star place beats the competition, I don’t know, how naïve, perhaps something about sustainable competitive advantage , shareholder value and winning the war on food. That kind of business stuff that is usually in my consulting background.
Straight to my eye, and just very slightly emotional, with just slightly changed voice, one of the brothers said: ‘nothing compares with giving the news to our very old grandparents, whose parents built this place fifty years ago; that they could see it’. And he continued: ‘it has been hard work for them, lots of ups and downs, fifty years always wanting to produce something new’.
And my Daily Thought took this shape of simple, almost banal reflection. How wonderful to see in action a piece of reverence to the elders, a proud family who is probably not making an enormous amount of money, a little veneration to the legacy created day by day by others before you, by your parents or grandparents.
And I thought that I had not been in such anti-bullshit situation for a long time. I smelled the authenticity of the earned recognition that the young members did not attribute to themselves but their elders. I felt the envy of the plain language that cut through any possible ‘business achievement’ to talk about pride of the ones who were the real builders. I was glad I had that chat.
How many people go about their business, perhaps small, perhaps away from any possible newspaper headline, with care and pride of what they build, the legacy that is constructed daily, the sense of achievement that does not translate into any heroic story. How different from other people who are not so lucky, that can’t see the fruits of their imagination or their efforts in general, who are trapped into a mechanical business life dictated miles away from their minds.
Just a thought, a Daily Thought.