Posts filed under Festivals

A Mardi Gras Secret Told

Since 1819 a little known Mardi Gras tradition has accompanied New Orleans’ chefs as they make their way to work during the wee hours of the morning.

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Along their way to work the chefs often nod and smile as they pass the members of the Skull and Bones Gang. No, these are not the northern members of Yale’s elite secret society come South. Rather they are followers of a tradition as old as Mardi Gras itself.

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Dressed all in black, their costumes are painted with the outline of a fleshless human skeleton. Their faces are covered with large papier-mache skulls, making their true identity a closely held secret.

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So attired, they knock on closed doors and tell those within to get up and start their day no matter the length of their evening before. Truly this is a message any weary chef can understand as he wait for his staff to arrive.

They remind sleepy business people on their way to work to remember that life is short, to make the most of every day, every hour – to be fair and honest in their dealings. 

They tell the children leaving home to hurry along to school, that education is freedom and the creator of choice. They also warn the children to avoid drugs that hurt and harm.

In short, they are the early morning conscience of the City, reminding all that life’s lasting values are in the everyday, the normal flow of life. The exhilaration of celebration is delightful, but the truth of life lays in the reality of a day started and ended with purpose achieved.

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And that is why the chefs of New Orleans and the Skull and Bones Men knowingly nod to each other in the early hours because they share a secret - a secret they hope everyone else will soon know as well, that life is shorter than we think. Why not honor this meaningful tradition by serving some 'bone' cookies to your staff, especially if they're running late.

Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2014

In Memory of Our Friends Who Died on 9/11

The date of September 11th is a painful one for all of us in the Hospitality Industry. On that dark day, when the sun was shining so brightly, we lost so many friends and dear colleagues.

Each day we reenact how those we knew started their day. Like them we open, greet the vendors as products are delivered and plan with staff members how we will serve our many guests.

Perhaps we stand with a cup of coffee in our hand, just as they did, listening, planning, hoping, as they did, that perhaps in some small way graciousness and hospitality can make the world a better place, at least for a few minutes.

How we miss them even now twelve years later. We miss their talents, their creativity, their laughing voices on the phone and their warm greetings at conferences. It is a "pain that goes on and on..."  

But they would want us to go on, to continue. Currently the world is talking yet again of war and battle and death. Surely there are better ways than sticks and stones, though today we call them smart bombs and nerve gas.

There is a better way to go, a road less taken but well known - try a conference table, negotiate, reconcile the differences, speak with respect to each other as human beings  - in short, find a way that does not involve the scream or death of a single child.

If our leaders could be that brave then be assured we in the Hospitality Industry, who have endured our restaurants and hotels around the world being bombed and gassed, would gladly serve each leader their beverage of choice as we all toasted together the longed for blessings of universal peace

Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2013