“I’m so happy right now” is what I said to Laura, my server at Farm 255 in Athens, GA. It wasn’t an excited statement. It was said from a content heart. Why? Because I had just experienced an absolutely outrageous meal prepared by the incredible Chef Whitney Otawka.
How did I come to experience such greatness? Well, to be honest, it was suggested by my crew chief, Terry Jinks. You see, today was the day that I came early to the Atlanta area to pour a seat for my Formula car. After a long time of getting in and out of the car, and sitting in a seat where the epoxy resin seemed to be cooking my back like a ribeye steak, I wanted a nice place to go and get something that wouldn’t weigh me down for tomorrow’s practice day.
Terry mentioned a few places. One of those was Farm 255, where they do kind of a farm to table style cooking. That ALWAYS is right up my alley. When I walked in the door, there were roughly ten workers…and me. Yep, I beat the crowd by a few minutes. I sat at the bar facing the kitchen so I could watch the magic happen.
My first plate fired (now you get the title) was an Heirloom Tomato Salad with mouse melons, arugula, Pearson’s peaches, basil, mint, and shaved baguette that had been frozen. It was a great balance of acid from the tomatoes, pepper from the arugula, sweetness from the peaches, and bitter from the mint. It was very nice and clean.
The restaurant quickly began to fill, so I took the chance to talk to Chef for a few minutes about the dish and how great it was. As she fired my main dish, I noticed something that was unusual to a lot of kitchens. It was……calm. Like, REALLY calm. Nobody was stressed. No one was running around shaking like a scared dog. Everyone was doing exactly what they needed to do, and they were doing it well. In fact, the team seemed…happy.
Pretty soon the line of orders was great, just like the team preparing them. The only time Chef raised her voice was to say, “Cibo”, which means food in Italian. That was the que for the servers to come get what ever dish was ready. The thoughts in my mind were about how great of leader Whitney must be to have a highly functioning and happy kitchen crew. It’s almost impossible to have both.
When my entree was set in front of me, I was stunned. It was drop dead gorgeous. Braised Border Springs Farm lamb shank with black cherry tomatoes, baby fennel, polenta, romanian pepper agro dolce, and mint. Chef explained all of the different ingredients she used and how they would compliment. I took one bite and knew that I was now ruined for all future lamb shanks. This was by far…far-far-far the best lamb shank I had ever had.
As I finished my Georgia Peach Fried Pie and vanilla ice cream, sitting there in my contentedness, I thought, this is how so many businesses should run. A calm, competent, passionate, caring leader, with a happy and productive team, can create a product that absolutely makes the customer want to come back every day for more. Click to Tweet If Chef Whitney Otawka can create that experience in an industry that is polar opposite, why can’t so many more businesses?
Oh, and yes, I told Chef that my plan is to come back tonight. So if you’re around the Athens area, feel free to join me at Farm 255. By the way, when I got back to my room, I discovered that she was on Iron Chef. I’m not surprised in the least.
Question: Is it possible for other businesses to operate this way?