You probably have a new idea every day. Getting it off the ground is a lot more difficult than just thinking of it. Nothing in life is easy (except failure). ere are some suggestions from the inspiring life of ChefGail.
It’s not what you look at but what you see that matters. – Henry David Thoreau
There may be nothing new under the sun yet people are coming up with new products, services, and ideas all the time. Gail looked at the local catering scene and recognized that hosts wanted more than the pedestrian fare being served by existing catering companies. She offered market tours and culinary travel long before anyone else caught on. She was inspired by chefs and markets around the world and brought their recipes back home. She looked at the same things as everyone else but saw unique opportunities.
Gourmet Goodies was a catering company but it did more than deliver the food. Gail brought in event planners, pastry chefs, and specialized wait staff so that she could deliver the total experience. Inspiration was part of her long-term business development but it was also part of her outreach.
Countless entrepreneurs sought her advice on recipes, business concepts, or the business building process. Gail embraced their ideas and helped mold them into viable models. She looked beyond the surface of an idea and expanded the creative process, the aesthetics, or the marketing of the final product. By reverse engineering the idea it became more real and realistic.
Seek a mentor and ask for help. Together you too must examine your best idea; look through it to see how it will make a difference or what makes it unique. In other words, try to see what others have overlooked.
It's a new year and you have another 12 months in which to become famous. ChefGail was a well-know personality in Edmonton but she didn't get famous from self-promotion. It took hard work at the community level where she gave as good as he got. Is this the year you will receive an award?
#5 If you can't serve, you can't rule. Bulgarian wisdom
Whenever awards are handed out you will notice that the award recipients got credit for contributions did that are over and beyond their job. No business leader has ever won an award for just for doing their job. In every case they served on committees, coached minor sports, or volunteered at community events. It was the things they did away from work that made them stand out.
Gail’s work life was very busy yet she still served on a diverse range of boards from the Chamber of Commerce to a theatre company. She was involved in work related activities as well such as conferences, meetings, and government lobbying. Her volunteer activities made her well known in the community and boosted her self-esteem.
Like a true leader, she did not get involved to win awards but the recognition did come over time. You can follow a similar path. Start slowly and at the beginning of your career choose ad hoc committees that complete a task and then disband. You can also volunteer for a conference or event organizing committee that will keep you busy for a whole year. As you gain confidence and experience look for boards or policy committees that meet on a regular basis. Attend all the meetings, complete your commitments, and you will soon be invited to join more influential committees where you can make your mark. Volunteering is the rent you pay for being given a career. As your career matures you may find yourself being called forward to receive an award but more importantly, you’ll find your life enriched with friends, memories, and self worth.
As an entrepreneur, ChefGail had a remarkable success. She idolized her entrepreneur father and followed in his footsteps. Through her efforts she was able to find herself and you can too.
#2 Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. - George Bernard Shaw
Like her father, Gail was a serial entrepreneur. Nothing was going to keep her down. When her government job became too stressful, she created a catering company. When the economy kicked the legs out from under her business she expanded her culinary tours and started a cooking school. When you turn a diamond in the light it sparkles in different ways depending on the angle. When you turned Gail she sparkled differently from every angle. It takes six or eight adjectives to describe her: cook, chef, entrepreneur, writer, tour leader, media personality, educator….
You too, are a real three dimensional object. You may define yourself by your job, your heritage, or your family position (mother, uncle etc.) but these and all the other aspects of your life can be developed to create a new facet on the diamond of your life. Sit down one day with a close friend and list all the features of your life, personality, hobbies, and work experience. Gail liked to cook, so she transitioned from a government consultant to caterer. She knew she could sell so she tried working in retail. She loved travel so she became a tour leader.
With your list in hand, start looking for opportunities to develop another facet. Libraries, career consultants, and college councillors might help. You’ll soon see the opportunities and be inspired to grasp them. You are not always going to be what you are today; tomorrow you will be a new creation.
The ChefGail Memoir contains 30 recipes but it also includes business insights drawn from ChefGails remarkable success in two different companies. Here is another one. You can read all of them in the book available at local bookstores and retailers.
INSIGHT #12 A cynic knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. – Oscar Wilde
Everyone in business is in sales. No matter what you do you have to sell your product, your service, or your idea. Setting the price is a tricky balance. If the price is too high you may not sell any product, if too low you may not achieve any profit.
In a manufacturing process you know the purchase price of each of the individual ingredients, you add the cost of labour and a profit margin, and consider the overhead costs of running the business; you have a price point. In a situation where you are selling services, you still have to cover expenses but the price may well be determined by the perceived value or how much the market can bear.
In her catering company Gail, generally estimated that ingredients, labour, and overhead were each about 30% of the total cost. The remaining 10% was profit or margin. In reality her margin was often just 2 to 5%. Food service is not a way to get cash rich. You have to harvest the riches of delighting customers. A competitor once confessed that he was having trouble making a profit. Gail’s response was that her pricing was carefully calculated and yielded a margin of just 4%. Her competitor’s practice was to take her price list and discount it 10%. He was losing money even before he started.
Later in her career, Gail was often invited to do a cooking demonstration, give a speech, or participate in an event. The price for her services was often negotiable although she had a base rate that increased throughout her career. In a negotiation, you should try to get the buyer to outline their budget. So, after getting an idea of what the client wanted to spend Gail would name a price. After a slight pause she would add “per day”, or “per hour”, or “plus expenses”. If the client was still interested she might ask for a travel or accommodation allowance as well. Of course taxes were always assumed and added on at the end in any case.
Sometimes the offer could not be immediately accepted and the client would have to go back to check budget or get approval for the expenditure. If the client had assumed a lower price, they had to consider the drawing power of Gail’s presentation and how it would affect event attendance and revenues. However, if Gail really wanted to make the presentation or was feeling generous about the cause or host, she might offer to take a smaller fee. You cannot ask for more but you can always ask for less.
Only you can determine what you are going to charge. But be bold, ensure you cover your direct and indirect costs, and don’t underestimate your perceived value.
Another friend has read Maps, Markets and Matzo Ball Soup. Thanks for your kind comments.
"Just a quick note to let you know that I just finished reading “Maps, Markets, and Matzo Ball Soup”. Thank you very much for electing to have her biography written – it truly shows how remarkable a person Gail was, in all aspects of her life. Your choice of Twyla Campbell to write the book was inspired.
"I also very much appreciated the “insights” throughout the book.
"I feel blessed knowing I had the privilege of being touched by Gail in my personal and professional life, and through her, getting to meet and know you as well.
"Again, well done and my heartfelt thanks.
Sincerely, Darrell Lindstrom
Still time to buy copies for all your friends this Christmas.
People have made many positive comments about the book Maps, Markets and Matzo Ball Soup. I am really pleased when readers get inspired to try the recipes. Here are a few recent comments:
Still reading and enjoying the book so much! I just read about the borsch and the recipe looks soooo good! I’ll definitely make that this winter with family!
She brought love and cheer to so many!!! 💖💖💖
Loving reading it Jon and Twyla.
Dinner tonight - Green Chile Stew a la ChefGail Hall with homemade sopapillas and Mexican beer. Yum!
I made Matzo Ball Soup for the first time ever tonight - legacy of Gail Hall! I have nothing to compare it to but I thought it turned out pretty well.
Many people think that Maps, Markets and Matzo Ball Soup is a recipe book. The memoir does contain recipes but it also includes business insights. ChefGail operated two very successful businesses and worked in retail and for the government. She was a highly regarded business person and served on community boards and committees. Some of her business practices are highlighted in the book. If your business club would like to book a speaker in the new year, Jon Hall would be delighted to review some of the business practices in the book. Here is one of them.
#1 Live life as if everything is tilted in your direction - Rumi, 13thcentury Persian poet
Very few people can recall Gail ever complaining. She got frustrated sometimes but immediately took a breath and moved on. She took daily missteps in stride and just got the job done. That level of commitment takes a lot of time and energy and Gail’s hands-on leadership style required her to be “on deck.” But as the company grew, Gail came to realize that she needed a vacation to “re-create”. However, like many entrepreneurs, Gail was plowing every dollar back into the company.
Gail loved to travel. She had been to Europe and toured western Canada with friends. We drove our VW camper around western Canada and into the Yukon and NWT. So we sat down and discussed how to build vacations and travel into her job. The answer was culinary tours. As you know, that became the backbone of her career with 35 trips in just 20 years. Her clients signed up for tour after tour and reveled in the immersive experience.
Culinary tourism may not be a part of your enterprise but there are many ways to take advantage of work experiences that will enrich your life and help you “re-create”. Attend conferences relevant to your business and stay over for a day or two after the event to play tourist. While on family travel take a side trip to visit a supplier or competitor. Stretch your imagination with a visit to an art gallery or museum; they often have days or evenings when admission is free. Host a visiting expert by offering them a bed, a meal, or just a drink. You’ll grow from the conversation and extend your range of influence. You may not see it at first but with just a little extra effort you’ll find that the world seems to be tilted in your direction.
We enter December on a high. Twyla Campbell and I are delighted with the sales of her first book, Maps, Markets and Matzo Ball Soup: the inspiring life of ChefGail Hall. With over 1000 copies available in the marketplace at bookstores, retail stores and on-line, the book made the Edmonton best seller list for three weeks. Without the support of a big-budget promotional program this is a real achievement.
Many people have eagerly read the book and several book clubs have taken it on as their discussion choice. The comments are all positive with even guys admitting that they had tears as they read it. It is an inspiring look at a life well-lived.
Our hope is that in January every friend, client or follower of ChefGail has two copies of the book: one that they bought themselves and a second copy they received from a thoughtful friend. If you have ten or more friends who should receive this book for Christmas you can get a discount by buying them through the website www.Q32.ca. Orders will be delivered locally in a prompt manner. Requests from further afield will be mailed.
And cooks on your gift list will appreciate the accompanying recipe book. It contains all the recipes in the book (plus two extra) and is printed with a coil binding so it lays flat for use in the kitchen. Not available in stores you can order the recipe book at the on-line link.
If you enjoyed the recipes in ChefGail's memoir Maps, Markets and Matzo Ball Soup, you might be looking for more. Another of ChefGail's recipes is posted on the Q32.ca website every Monday morning.
You can also scroll through previous posts to find something interesting for dinner. This week the recipe is Phyllo Strudel with Chicken, Smoked Bacon, Pine Nuts and Goat’s Cheese with sun-dried tomato sauce. Click on this link to review it.
Here are some suggestions for discussion topics for your book club. We would be interested in your comments and suggestions coming out of the discussion. E-mail them to me at on@Q32.ca.
Maps, Markets and Matzo Ball Soup: The inspiring life of Chef Gail Hall
Book Club Discussion Topics
1. Twyla wrote: (page 21) “The more Gay (Spiegel) revealed of the Silverberg family history, the more I began to understand that Gail’s career in the food industry shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone.” In the same way that Gail’s early life foreshadows her career as a chef and entrepreneur, are there any clues to your future career contained in your childhood memories?
2. What is your earliest food memory? Do you have any fond memories of favourite foods or events featuring food?
3. Twyla identifies three facets of Gail’s life in Parts 5 (as mentor/mentee, page 71), 7 (as friend, page 105) and 9 (as crusader, page 171). Were any of the facets surprising to you? Why or why not? Can you identify multiple roles and/or identities in your life?
4. Gail is remembered fondly by so many people. What part of her legacy is most precious/unique/inspiring to you? What do you want your legacy to be?
5. Which of Jon’s business Insights resonated most deeply with you? How are Gail’s values and ideals reflected in her business practices?
6. Which of the culinary tours described in Part 9 (page 139) do you wish you could have gone on? Why? What appeals to you the most about that style of travel?
7. Gail’s story is shaped by the places she inhabited: growing up in Toronto, moving to Alberta, travelling to many countries. How did these places shape her life and career? How has “place” been significant in your life journey?
8. Gail’s cooking classes and entertaining style demonstrated her advocacy of good food served in the presence of good friends (page 225). Has good food, shared with good friends enriched your life? How?
9. Gail had many valued friends and colleagues but shared a special relationship with the KTG (Part 7 page 105). What role did those women play in her life? What did Gail do to nurture their devotion/support/loyalty? Who are the people in your life that might play this role?
10. Gail maintained that she “lived with cancer” and “scheduled cancer into her life” so as to minimize the disruption to her busy life. On page 196, Twyla expresses that “a relationship with cancer is a solitary and user-specific one.” How does this compare with the way that you, or people in your circle, have dealt with serious illness?
11. As her career evolved, Gail became more passionate about local, healthy and sustainable food. How has (or might) her philosophy influence your food choices? Where can you find information locally about the causes Gail advocated?