food diplomacy through the story of a meal

How many grandmas does it take to cook a meal?

I have completed my two-day orientation as part of Leadership L.A. with the Southern California Leadership Network and it was quite  informative.  Some takeaways that can be related back to food diplomacy surround the body.  Not just in the nourishment or caloric intake, but how does our food stories inform us as leaders in our jobs, volunteer organization, or with our family and friends.

Leading in the workplace takes a lot of skills, but to be an “authentic” leader, one cannot consider how it affects the body.  Between stress, inattention, and old scripts, these can take a toll. The word authentic is defined by individuals in leadership positions who demonstrate a passion for their purpose, practice their values consistently and lead with their hearts as well as their heads.   You must understand the story of your life.  Part of this knowing is how you came to be who you are.  Who and what were defining influences and what resonated the most.  Was it a friend, a teacher, a writer, an artist?  Was it a holiday, a vacation, a moment in time?  Throughout our life we are faced with situations that can inform us as authentic leaders, are we listening?

The body holds many clues for us.  With an increased multitasking society, are we giving ourselves the attention we need to have clarity of thought, creative ideas, or time to contemplate solutions for implementation?  Does the collective stress of job, home, family, friends, the world weigh on us so that our bones and bodies are collapsing in fatigue?  Can we sit still, in a chair, with our back engaged and our feet rooted into the floor so that every other muscle can relax?

Inattention, stress, fatigue affects us all.  For some we retreat to food, the fuel for keeping us going.  It is also something we do to remind ourselves of comfort, home, security, and joy.  Some of us do this in isolation, and others collectively.  However, I would believe that most of us reach back into our family food narrative in order to make sense of the chaos.  What does sharing a meal around a table with others give us–human connections.

For those who wish to share their leadership through food, we usually read about a chef or organization that tackles a large social issue such as poverty, homelessness, hunger.  However, there are those who work on the micro-level and one such person comes to mind.

Staten Island restaurateur, Joe Scaravella, wanted to create authentic home-spun place and bypassed “name” chefs when searching for the leader of his kitchen.  After losing his mom and sister, he missed sitting down with family for home-cooked meals. So he created something different.  A place that can reach right into people’s hearts.  A restaurant that you have to go out for a home-cooked meal.

Joe’s food narrative is the joy and deeply held meaning that home-cooked food meant for him.  Being Italian, he wanted to give others the experience of eating “nonna’s” food and the shared values that anybody’s nonna would bring to the family table.

As an authentic leader, Joe’s desire to share a piece of a family memory around food that was deep and profound and subsequently gave him deep satisfaction in his work.

Enoteca Maria doesn’t make a lot of money off the restaurant, he says. Instead, he does it for the homey — not to mention lively — atmosphere the eight or so nonnas create.

To  listen to the NPR story, click here.

Meet the “Grandmas

Make your favorite food based on a memory and toast the person that gave it to you.  Then, share that recipe with a friend.



1 Comment»

  Exaltación Brito Reynoso wrote @

This is precisely the important information I’d been searching for. Incredible blog. Very inspirational! Your posts are so good and also detailed. The links you come with are also very beneficial as well. Many thanks 🙂

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