Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Mentors-Teaching how to learn

One of the thousands of perks of my job is to attend ridiculously cool food and wine events. That was the case this past Sunday when I scored a ticket to a big SOS dinner at Lola. This was no ordinary dinner, guest chefs included Bobby Flay, Jonathon Waxman, Paul Kahan, Jonathon Sawyer and Nate Appleman. The theme was mentors and their students. It's strange to think about Michael Symon or Bobby Flay before they were Iron Chefs when they didn't know anything. Today, they are all experts at what they do. Having mentors is undoubtedly an important part of their success. This event made me think about my mentors over the years in the wine business. I am fortunate to have had many, and the thing I learned more than anything was how to to learn.

In the wine business, there is a tendency to puff your chest out and pretend like you know more than everyone else. This is a sure sign of knowing enough to be dangerous and that's it. I'm sort of arrogant by nature (thank my father), but that shouldn't be confused with acting like I know it all. I was told many years ago that the second you realize how much you don't know about wine is when you begin to really learn about wine. I've always liked this and It has guided me well. I didn't know everything,and will never know everything. But I do know a lot, much of it arcane, but more importantly, I know how much I don't know. It's this attitude of always learning and never feeling like the master that I picked up from many people I thought of as mentors. I'm never afraid to ask questions, and I feel like the cocky wine geeks have forgotten how to ask the question.

I know that Symon et al, are amazing chefs, but they would never call themselves experts, even though they truly are. It's this humility that breeds excellence. It's the patience of a teacher that helps instill the thirst for knowledge. Thank you chefs for reminding me an important lesson, oh, and for the bacon ice cream too!

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