A simple looking plate of fried rice can cost mere dollars, but can embody decades of discipline, experience, and love behind it. A small roadside stall cook can easily beat the best chefs in a top restaurant, simply by some simple and yet demanding factors.
I love to cook whenever I can, because there is everything fulfilling about taking some basic ingredients, and then transforming them through heat, movement and time, to become something radically different, something wondrously satisfying.
I have never cooked as a child or a young man, until in my thirties. And yet, perhaps because of my creative genes and my slightly autistic bent, I would be able to learn on my own, how to cook various things, including those foods I enjoy, like pan-fried fish, pasta, ramen, and of course, fried rice.
I am not ashamed to say that I can serve up quite a decent plate of fried rice. I never did use a wok, but use the non-stick pan quite often, which means I do not need to use too much oil in my cooking. The best fried rice, according to the top chefs, is that the egg and the rice grains must be seamlessly melded together so that the rice grains are distinct, not oily, not clumped together, and have a “golden” sheen. I have discovered on my own, how best to create that golden sheen without the oily look found in many hawker-fare and even in restaurants. Talk to me, and I can share with you how.
What I have learned in cooking, echoed with what I just saw on a Taiwanese cable TV channel. It is all about faith and commitment.
A small stall in Taipei recently beat the top dim sum restaurant chain in fried rice, according to the news program.
The top restaurant chain is quite popular in Taiwan and elsewhere in Asia. It uses premium ingredients, and their chefs were handpicked for the jobs. And yet, the small stall beat the restaurant chain in what seems like the simplest of dishes – fried rice. Why?
The reason is simple. The stall owner and cook relies on 100% faith in what he does every day, with his whole heart and soul poured into every single plate of fried rice he serves his happy customers. He bonded with his wok and he excelled in understanding the “fire” (火候) through decades of relentless pursuit of the perfect fried rice. He beat chefs trained in culinary schools who demanded a fixed salary every month, simply because the stall cook relies on faith and commitment, and the chefs do the same task with an obligation.
Another stall in Taipei also serves simple fare, including fried rice. His stall is also immensely popular with the locals. He cooks well, no doubt, but he also added a sensitive human touch in what he does every day. He would observe each customer as he or she steps in. If the customer is a young career lady, a young child, or an elderly person, he would adjust the ingredients, such as decreasing the salt used for health reasons. And for those he discern to have labored hard, he would increase the salt accordingly. It is with this humane sensitivity to all his customers that he has endeared his stall to many.
In many of the greatest of business stories, and in many of the most memorable achievements in science or art, those who emerged at the echelons of their game, have sought after those things they loved with just faith and commitment, and not after dollars and cents.
In our business, or careers, let us ask ourselves – are we merely seeking after the ever-elusive wealth, or do we simply hone our craft and sharpen our minds, and seek after the kingdom of achievement only on the journey paved with our steadfast faith and commitment to our roles because we love what we do?