Beth and I recently celebrated our 5th marriage anniversary. To mark the occasion we went to an elegant restaurant in Manchester. We were very excited, both for the occasion and the venue. In a true food connoisseur style we decided to order a tasting menu – a culinary delight of nine signature dishes, each served with matching wine. This was all very exciting but before the excitement began, we had to start with traditional British bread and butter with an opening drink.
Typically, with bread and butter, there’s is nothing exciting. At the most you will have a choice of bread, something that I quite don’t understand. For me, a simple differentiation is white and brown, rustic or with bits on.
Serving us the bread basket was a young man, probably straight out of a college, visibly shaken; we both could see his hands trembling as he approached the table with the bread basket, accompanied by an experienced staff member. Now, as per the tradition, every dish – including the bread basket – is to be formally introduced to the customer with a brief commentary on what’s so special about it. We observed with curiosity as the young man introduced the bread basket to us. He couldn’t look us in the eye as he was trying his best to make a simple bread basket sound exciting. In that moment he mumbled something, we continued listening and pretended to have understood. Once he was finished, we made it a point to say a genuine “Thank you, well done” to him. At that moment, we both noticed a child-like glee on his face. He looked happy.
Beth and I wondered if it was his first day at work (and first job). This triggered a discussion about our career, formative years, first day at work and how a single opportunity had made a huge difference. We enquired with the maître d’ and found out that it was indeed the first day at work for this young man.
At this point, we both made an unusual request to maître d’. How about this young man serving us the entire nine course meal? Maybe not the wines (best leave that to an expert) but how about just food? This was unexpected and quickly resulted into a mini-conference of sorts on the floor – a new starter serving a full nine-course sample tasting menu on the first day of first job? We couldn’t hear them but it appeared to have started with confusion, morphing into encouragement and ending with excitement. Everyone realised the importance of this moment for the new starter. The maître d’ and other staff members thanked us for giving the new starter a chance.
So it began, he served us the first dish, a rather complicated menu item; he was still nervous but tried his best to introduce the features, occasionally helped by an overlooking but caring supervisor. We could now see a change in him. He still mumbled but we didn’t really care. We were just happy about the whole thing.
One after the other, the young man served and introduced a new dish to us; now with visible happiness on his face, confidence on the rise, no trembling of hands and a – quickly rehearsed – commentary delivered with passion. We could feel the excitement in the air building up with every course.
Towards the end of our meal, the maître d’ and staff members thanked us. We had a happy chat and also learned that our initially nervous but now happy new starter was to finish his shift after the bread basket round, but continued for extra 3-4 hours to make the most of this new challenge coming his way.
The restaurant, to our surprise, gave us a generous discount. Beth and I were touched by their kind gesture. Our take home that day was not the cost saving but the happiness that we could feel and share and the fact that we were able to provide an opportunity for someone.
I think all of us, people like you and me, were fortunate to have someone, somewhere giving us that first chance. All the passion, effort and commitment could easily lie wasted if we didn’t get that chance. It may be a distant memory now, overshadowed by thoughts of our subsequent achievements but in our hearts we remain grateful for that first chance which started the journey. That was important and we were fortunate.
If you get an opportunity to do the same for someone, do it. It’s the right thing to do: everyone deserves a chance!