My first task was to say “NO” to a variety of commitments. Reduction in my activities had to be a priority to regain and sustain my health and fitness. The first test was a call from Community Care offering more opportunities as a Brokered Helper. My answer was a polite yet firm “no thanks” with no interest in even listening to the offer. A call to the PCKC Commodore to resign from the board didn’t go as well. He pulled me back in with his smooth talking and request to stay on for a few months to complete the year end and do a hand off in April. I accepted, it still fit into my overall plan as a reasonable time line and kept a good friendship in tack. Some things took care of themselves as the entrepreneur I was mentoring moved back to previous employment and others didn’t move forward with their plans. Although there were three opportunities to expand the Mount Food Operations, we picked one and left the others on the back burner.
Things were better but not good enough to reduce my stress and workload to allow for a full rebound from the tough winter months and hard work. My pet project of “Food Diversion” had to be put on hold. Lack of volunteer commitment left to more work that stretched from Saturday noon to Monday afternoon for my wife and I to complete. Catering functions pushed the café to a better bottom line but required me to jump in as the chef, cook and chief bottle washer too frequently.
My participation in a long-term study of Parkinson’s was coming to an end but needed a more days of tests before the year end. During one of those trips, my son Luke talked about the changing environment at work and how he would leave and take a much needed holiday from his restaurant management position. During this conversation my thoughts went back to a finance committee meeting in which I offered to be the Volunteer FCM for the Mount but recommending that a 35 year-old “mini me” would be the perfect permanent solution. As Luke carried on with his story I looked for the opportunity to offer him a change rather than a rest. With 15 years in the restaurant business and a Diploma in Culinary he brought all of the skills and a much younger set of legs to challenge the workload. I also knew that he would bring excellent people skill, technical abilities, current knowledge and enthusiasm to job everyday.
Approvals were sought and gotten. Transition was expedited. We were on our way! And true to form Luke jumped in and took to the role like a duck in water, quickly gaining the confidence of everyone around him. He worked hard and long to meet the deadlines and very quickly alleviated stress and concerns that kept me up a night(literally). My mini me was turning out to be the perfect fit for the job. With a knowledge of current technology, he designed the best cost effective POS for the new Café. His branding concept was quickly accepted over mine which was somewhat disappointing but exciting. New menu items were created, tested, costed and approved by the client. Selection of equipment, supplies, and suppliers was done without interference as he now had our complete confidence. Opening day was a success, on time, under budget and exceeding expectations. All this was getting done by Luke while I slowly tried to regain balance and better management of my health.
With an outstanding obligation to cater lunch for 120 people, I was hesitant to drop this on Luke as his time commitment was already stretched. This was my last major obligation for the Mount. Like the trooper he is, he jumped in taking my notes and got things organized. Working with my son on this catering was an experience I will treasure forever. Stepping back, I let him formulate the plan, call the shoots, check the details and direct me and other staff. We went through 3 days of planning, prepping, and cooking 10 turkeys, 100 lbs of potatoes, gravy, peas and apple crumble often coming up with the same solutions, ideas and suggestions. We worked like a team, no stress, lots of genuine conversation and collaboration never loosing focus on the meal ahead.
Luke left me in great shape to serve the meal with the buffet set-up and food transported to the Parish Hall. A group of volunteers assisted with the serve and smoothly transitioned to the dessert course. After lunch I was given the opportunity to speak about the work we do for the Mount and the Pantry and I had to mention both Luke and Andrew as collaborators on this meal as well as other projects. It was emotional moment to share with the crowd and was rewarded by a standing ovation. Only would have been better if Luke & Andrew were there to share it.
Luke will finish up soon with hopefully others jumping in to provide the same level of tenacity, perseverance and commitment to the job. He had even fixed the old food mixer which deemed deceased by the nuns of St. Joseph had been given a full funeral in days past. It was easy to see Luke’s ease in this kitchen which he had transformed into a professionally functioning production facility over the past two months with one last major piece of equipment to be installed to complete his design.