“What Does It Take to be #1” by Matthew D. Christianson

JacquesPepinToday at L’Ecole, the restaurant at the French Culinary Institiute where I work in SoHo, I got the pleasureof waiting on Master Chef and Head Dean of the the school, Jacques Pepin. He is one of my favorite people and despite all of the attention that he gets he is very down to Earth. Chef sat at the bar and we chatted about the complimentary water that we are serving to the public and how the price of bottled water is extremely outrageous. As I worked the bar and talked to this legendary culinary icon, I remembered something that had happened during yesterday’s lunch shift. Jacques had made a 1:30 p.m. reservation at L’Ecole to speak with some people about some future business plans. There was a young man who I got the pleasure of meeting on Friday afternoon of last week and who is a potential student at the International Culinary Institute. The young man happens to be a huge fan of Chef Pepin and while he was visiting the school he got wind of his hero’s business luncheon scheduled for what was yesterday. He asked the hostess to make a reservation for him and politely asked if he could be sat as near to Jacques as possible. He proceeded to tell the hostess that he was really hoping to meet his idol in person and that he was also really excited to be starting culinary school in a couple of months. I overheard the conversation that they were having and I peeked around the bar to see a young man who was holding a stick and wearing dark glasses. The young man was speaking eloquently about his passion for cooking and his plans for attending the ICC in the near future. He explained that he had been dreaming of meeting Jacques Pepin, as he had been his inspiration for years and was a major reason why he chose to attend the ICC. The most amazing part about this young man was the obvious passion that has for cooking despite his being blind. He was holding the red and white walking stick that blind people use to help them get around and the glasses were dark due to their eye protective properties. I was amazed that this young man was so inspired to become a chef that he was not willing to let his handicap keep him from going after what he wants in life. The hostess was in awe and told the young man that he would be sat for his lunch reservation right next to his hero and that she would personally make sure that Chef Pepin stopped by after he was finished with his business luncheon. So yesterday, after patiently waiting at his table while he dined alone the young man finally got to meet Chef Jacques Pepin. Chef Pepin stopped at the young man’s table and sat down in the empty chair. What they talked about I can only imagine, but I know that the young man was in 7th heaven as he was beeming and grinning from ear to ear. Chef signed an autograph for the young man then he shook his hand no doubt encouraging him and wishing him good luck in pursuing his passion for the culinary arts. Today when I asked Chef Pepin about the young man I could tell that he was amazed by his courage and his iron will to not let a lack of sight keep him from becoming a chef. I could tell that Jacques was impressed by the young man and for me it was a nice thing to see a Master Chef, someone who is admired by so many, show that he admired that brave young man.  Awesome display from two guys that are both #1 in my book and I am so thankful for having been able to witness such an amazing story!

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