Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Setting the Table with Lee Haywood

In the wonderful book "Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business" author and restaurateur Danny Meyer speaks of his mission for hiring staff that have 5 core emotional skills.
They are:
1. Optimistic warmth (genuine kindness, thoughtfulness, and a sense that the glass is always at least half full)
2. Intelligence (not just "smarts" but rather an insatiable curiosity to learn for the sake of learning)
3. Work ethic (a natural tendency to do something as well as it can possibly be done)
4. Empathy (an awareness of, care for, and connection to how others feel and how your actions make others feel)
5. Self-awareness and integrity (an understanding of what makes you tick and a natural inclination to be accountable for doing the right thing with honesty and superb judgment)

We tagged along with Lee as he shopped for a new outfit for an up-coming dinner party at two of his favorite stores in Portland, Magpie and Avalon.

When asked about this notion of "Enlightened Hospitality" that is core to the Danny Meyer philosophy, Lee agreed that there may be people pre-disposed to succeed in the service industry.

"Sure, any person can be trained for things to look for, or pay attention to, but I think it is crucial to have an innate sense of what guests might anticipate at any given moment, especially in a multi-course restaurant like Genoa. I believe I have an inherent ability to read people's energy, facial expressions, tone of voice, and mannerisms. All these things speak far louder than words."

In reference to a question of what makes a restaurant truly extraordinary, Lee is quick to mention that it is the relationship between the server and guests. That time shared in the dining experience. "I cannot begin to tell you how fortunate I feel to be part of Genoa 2.0. I feel honored that I am allowed to be, once again, a part of the stories that are created within those four walls."

Perhaps one of his proudest contributions to the Genoa story comes in the form of music.
"The last incarnation of Genoa was silent for the first 35 years. When I became part of the team, I started playing standard and Brazilian jazz from a tiny CD player on top of the fridge in the kitchen. The guests could hear it through the tiny pass window and began to request that it become part of their dining experience. I moved it out into the dining room thus began my tradition of compiling mixes for Genoa. The best music I have discovered for Genoa, is the music you don't really notice, unless something sparks interest and curiosity. I have made many complimentary play-lists for inquiring guests. I love to do it, it is so flattering that people enjoy it."
Having found a perfect vest for his dinner party, and our time together coming to an end, we asked who his dream dinner party guests would be.
1. The English writer and raconteur, Quentin Crisp.
2.Italian wine producer from the Langhe region of Piedmonte, Bruno Giacosa
3. The minimalist composer, Arvo Part
4. Early Netherlander painter, Hiermonyus Bosch
5. The unprecedented, Nina Simone

With his characteristic raised eyebrow and life loving laugh sending us along... Buon Appetito!!!

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