Both Out In The World and Inside Ourselves
Gael is a waiter at a steak house/Spanish tapas bar in Shoreditch, London. His passion and pride for Spanish food is evident in his work, and because of this, his boss, Florian, put him forward for an award that recognised the good work of people working in hospitality.
The award is a one-month paid sabbatical programme where each year, ten people will get to ‘Live Their Dream or Give a Dream’ and be given £10,000 to pursue whatever that is. Gael was one of the ten to win the award in its first year.
The idea behind the initiative is to empower people working within hospitality to flourish in and out of the workplace by providing personal and professional growth opportunities. The purpose is to elevate people to new perspectives to cultivate diverse and inclusive environments, and to create great workplaces that work for all.
Florian and the people he worked with to launch the initiative want to create a bright future for hospitality and let people know that now is the time to join. Wanting to raise awareness to the programme, Florian asked his friend, Saoirse, a freelance reporter and journalist who also writes a popular blog about food and drink and how it connects to culture and history, to work with the winners to help them tell their story, which would also be shared in publications and across platforms connected to the industry.
Florian hosted a dinner at his restaurant to recognise Gael’s achievement, during which he shared his story.
As guests were being served, Gael described the food and drink for each course. His pride in describing the food he was introducing prompted Saoirse to ask a simple question as a cue for him to share his story:
“Where does your passion for these dishes come from?”
Gael smiled, and having captured his audience’s attention; he began to tell his story:
Exploring Parts Unknown: Both Out In The World and Inside Ourselves (That was the title and sub-title Saoirse gave Gael’s story when writing it)
“My passion for Spanish food is part of who I am and began as long ago as I can remember. Preparing food and eating together as a family holds great memories for me.”
“My dad is British and has wonderful memories from his childhood of holidaying in Spain with his family. He wanted to explore the country further, and when he was in his 20s, he spent one year driving through Spain on his motorbike. One day he rode up on his motorbike to the village where my mum lived. They met, fell in love, and dad never returned to live in Britain. He says to fall in love with Spain is special. To fall in love in Spain is the kind of special that seeps through every fibre of your being and remains in your heart forever.”
“My dad’s stories of journeying around Spain, the people he met, the places he explored and discovered, and the food and traditions he experienced gave me a great sense of curiosity to learn more about my own country. And so, as a student, I set off on my own motorbike adventure to discover the different foods of Spain. I would set up camp, and at the end of the day, I cooked a meal for myself with the ingredients that were available to me. Those ingredients were pretty extraordinary, even more so as a student, because I was operating on a shoestring budget. The memory of that time and the meals I created remain with me.”
“I followed my passion in my WorkLife, first working in a restaurant in Barcelona, where I was born, and then working in a restaurant in Madrid. Everyone I worked with at both these restaurants lived and breathed a passion for the food they served. It was in Madrid that I had a chance encounter with Florian, which led me to move to his restaurant here in London. Coming to London was always my dream. Working with the team here makes it easy to keep my passion alive.”
“I still take culinary road trips through Spain on my motorbike. When I do, I am always looking to discover traditional Spanish cuisine that I haven’t experienced before and new dishes created by chefs who pride themselves on celebrating local seasonal ingredients and close relationships with farmers and food producers from the area. Sons and daughters of Spain looking to honour the traditions they grew up with but with a more modern sensibility. I always share my discoveries on my return to London with Florian and the team. Together we seek to bring our extraordinary discoveries to our guests.”
To help Gael tell his continuing story, Saoirse said, “it’s easy to understand how your passion and pride for Spanish food and culture led you to be a worthy winner of the ‘Live a Dream/Give a Dream’ award. You chose to ‘Live a Dream’. Can you tell us about your dream and how you lived it?”
Gael continued his story.
“My dream has always been to take a bike ride through the Andes to the remote parts of Patagonia in Argentina and Chile. My dream was inspired by my desire to continue my motorbike adventures through South American countries that have a connection to Spanish food and to understand how our cultures are connected through history. My dream was also inspired by Anthony Bourdain’s TV show, Parts Unknown. The stories he uncovered and discovered through the connection of food, culture and history as he travelled to new and different places were so fascinating that I wanted to have my own experience of what that could be.”
“In preparing to Live my Dream, I read World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever. I read it not to retrace Bourdain’s steps and visit the places he had visited but to have a better understanding of his ability to go deeper into his experiences to connect to people through the food and stories they shared. He had such a gift for curiosity and connection. These are qualities that I believe I have, and to continue to grow personally and professionally (which is the idea behind the Live a Dream/ Give a dream initiative), I want to learn how I can continue to develop these soft skills.”
“The stories in the book helped me appreciate the reasons Bourdain found a place enchanting and memorable.”
“I loved his stories of off-the-grid places to eat, where menus weren’t available, and ‘diners were greeted and asked how hungry they are, and what they like to eat, and then the dishes are delivered accordingly.’”
“I loved how his first visit to my home country, Spain, was described ‘Tony was riveted by the culinary culture of Spain, where centuries old traditions bump up against some of the most modern techniques and ideas in the world, against a backdrop of exquisite natural beauty and several eras’ worth of stunning architecture.’”
“I loved how he described my home city, Barcelona ‘Outside of Asia, this is it: the best and most exciting place to eat in the world. This is where all the young chefs in the world want to work. This is where all the young apprentices want to do their stages. This is where the innovation is. This is where the creativity has been happening. Along the way, they encounter this sort of everyday food of Spain. The simple, good things of Spain, that most Spaniards see as a birthright.’ ‘Simple things – an anchovy, an olive, a piece of cheese. Really simple things, the little things that you see every day here – that’s what’s cool about Spain.’”
“These words captured the essence of my home city so truthfully and so eloquently. These words enabled me to know how to prepare for my trip. Because these words allowed me to recognise that this is the approach I had always taken on my bike rides through Spain. I had simply appreciated the simple, good things of Spain. I just needed to adapt this approach for my bike ride through the Andes to the remote parts of Patagonia in Argentina and Chile. These words brought me back to Bourdain’s gift for curiosity and connection and reminded me that I already possess these qualities. To continue to develop these soft skills, these words reminded me that I simply need to continue to appreciate the simple, good things in my everyday WorkLife, and on the adventure I was about to embark on.”
“In planning my trip, to get the most out of my bike ride, I decided to join a group for part of the journey. I knew the guide and other riders who knew the terrain would be better than me, which would help me push my limits. Surrounding myself with people who know their terrain better than me, whether on my bike trips or at the restaurants I’ve worked at, has helped me to push my limits to grow personally and professionally. I wanted to continue to learn and develop in this way.”
“ I also knew a guide who knew the area could connect me to the people and culture to help me experience the local style, feeling, and spirit of the place. This was important in helping me make the most of my experience in living my dream.”
For the rest of the journey, I travelled alone. This was important because it allowed me to go off the beaten track. Then I got to decide whether to keep going or stop and stay awhile.
All of this allowed me to Explore Parts Unknown: Both Out In The World and Inside Myself. Throughout my journey, riding in the company of a group or alone, my shared food and story experiences gave me the understanding I was seeking of how our cultures are connected through history. Camping out under a starlit sky enabled a deep yet simple practice of going inside myself to think. Thinking is a beautiful thing.
As I always do, I shared my discoveries on my return to London with Florian and the team. Together, as we always do, we seek to bring our extraordinary discoveries to our guests.
These discoveries are the dishes you are about to experience.
As guests were being served, Gael once again described the food and drink for each course. He described them with the same passion and pride he always brought to his work. The passion and pride that made him a worthy winner of the ‘Win a Dream/Give a Dream’ award. The passion and pride that will drive his continuous learning, development and growth to flourish in and out of the workplace, to live a fulfilled and happy WorkLife
Remembering Anthony Bourdain, a man from whom I’ve drawn much inspiration in my WorkLife, on the day he would have been 66 years old – the 25th of June 2022, I opened his book, World Travel: An Irreverent Guide to Ireland/Dublin, to read these words: “Ireland: I don’t know of another place in the world where the word, both spoken and written, is so celebrated. Where storytelling, through poetry, prose, or in song, is so integral, so influential, so much part of all English language literature, that we, all of us, regard it as a birthright.”
Being Irish, these following quotes from his upcoming film, Roadrunner, sum up why Anthony Bourdain has been such an inspiration to me:
“Tony had a gift to find the essence of a country or the culture.”
“Tony was very aware of his own ability to promote other people’s voices.”
Thank you, Anthony Bourdain, for being you, and thank you for sharing your beautiful gifts, that enrich so many lives.
Florian and Saoirse are members of the WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch.
Gael’s story was featured in the book.
The title and sub-title for this story were inspired by a post on LinkedIn by Arianna Huffington, written in memory of Anthony Bourdain on 25/6/22, on what would have been his 66th birthday.
This story is part of a series of stories that share insights into the characters in my book WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch. Stories that share insights that aren’t shared in the book to the main characters, the support characters and the behind the scenes characters. While the characters in the stories are not based on real people, they are representative of the people who are an integral part of Shoreditch life, the neighbourhood I live in, which is full of people with different WorkLife experiences.
Shoreditch is a special place, and I believe what makes it so is the incredible diversity of life paths that cross here, spanning the whole globe and many walks of life.
You may also like my Learning Through Reading Series: A collection of stories inspired by real WorkLife struggles and successes presented as case studies for group discussion. The case and the recommended book are the required reading for each book club meeting and help frame the subsequent discussion.