Last December I was invited by CS Magazine (a.k.a. Chicago Social) to attend a very special dinner party at Charlie Trotter’s test kitchen in Chicago. Instead of sitting in the main dining room, twenty-two guests were invited to experience Trotter’s private kitchen where he films his PBS television series, The Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter.
Trotter attended the event, as did every member of his staff, each of who was periodically asked to step out from behind the stove or climb up from the wine cellar below to speak to us on the subject of “excellence.”
So there I was, New York food maven that I am, sitting among all of Chicago’s movers-and-shakers and their reigning culinary sovereign, when I was asked, “Kimberly, what does excellence mean to you?”
It surely didn’t mean the dried cartilage bone and soy reduction I found on my plate that evening (sorry, Chef!). Nor does it mean white linens, silver flatware, fancy dresses and suave suits, though all were brilliantly in attendance that night. To me, excellence is without definition because it is without boundaries. It isn’t a singular experience, but rather a pursuit as common as you let it live.
I try to let excellence live in my life in all that I do. When I was in grade school, I thought excellence meant straight A’s. I was wrong. When I moved to New York, I thought excellence meant rave reviews and loud applause. I was wrong. When I started my catering company, I assumed excellence meant beating out New York’s first-rate culinary competition to get hired. Wrong again. Excellence isn’t an achievement; it’s the intention you hold onto when achieving. It’s the drive. It’s the joy!
Whatever part of me might harbor excellence has pushed me toward those straight A’s and rave reviews and has absolutely given me the courage to leave behind a boring desk job in pursuit of a food life for which I am an untrained, inexperienced, and unlikely candidate. Excellence is what I let in when I live fully. Excellence is the journey toward whatever’s in my heart.
I’m not sure this was the response Trotter was looking for, but it’s the philosophy I live by. I hope I get asked back. But more importantly, I hope I continue living open-hearted and food-forward.
To catch a glimpse of moi in this month’s issue of CS click here and turn to page 145…P.S. I’m the one with the “excellent” cocktail ring.