by Amy Chiou
Excellent [ek-suh-luhnt] adjective: possessing outstanding quality or superior merit; remarkably good.
Last Friday night, I drove to a little restaurant in Fort Mill, located behind a Bojangles in a building that, rumor has it, used to be a brothel. The food was, simply put, excellent. There was calamari, homemade ravioli, stuffed zucchini blossoms, pork chops and gag grouper. Each dish was skillfully executed and made with care and respect for each of the ingredients. It was the perfect way to end a long week, mentally unwinding and slowly getting lost in the flavors.
I came across this restaurant, aptly named Passion8 Bistro, when I met Jessica, one of the owners, at a networking event. Somewhere in the banality of business card exchanges and 30-second elevator speeches, she said to me something I will never forget: "I can’t change the whole world, but I can make my part of the world better. I believe the best way for me to do that is to wake up every day and do what I love to do the best that I can. And that’s what we do at the restaurant – we deliver an excellent dining experience." With a heartfelt sales pitch like that, of course I had to visit. When she talks about the restaurant, her face lights up, and consequently, so does the rest of the room. There is a certain unavoidable ignition that occurs when people connect something they love with their livelihood.
After the meal, Chef Luca, her husband, stopped by the table to see how we enjoyed our food. He shared with us the story of the restaurant. The chef and his sous chef shop every day for the best available meat and produce and craft a menu around their selections. The menu changes daily, reflecting the season and variety of the harvest. They know the farmers and their stories personally. The fish of the day, gag grouper, was caught off the North Carolina coast by a local fisherman who used to be an engineer. He was a talented engineer, but his passion was fishing, and he was quite good at it. So one day, he quit his “traditional” job to do what he loves. Now, he goes out twice a week and brings his catch to a few restaurants, including Passion8 Bistro.
What I love about this experience is how several individual choices, executed with conviction come together to generate so much good. The local farmer, the fisherman and the chef each wake up every day pursing something that they love – and so they do it with excellence, heart and integrity. The result is exactly as promised: an excellent dining experience. But beyond the immediate good (my dinner), they contribute so much more. All three are local family businesses and what they produce and provide strengthens our economy. They are also our neighbors. Because they know that what they grow, catch and prepare nourishes our families, they do so with utmost care. These may be simple acts of everyday excellence, but they create substantial impact.
I think too often we reserve excellence for the BIG! things, like year-end reports, marketing presentations, and wedding planning. Or worse, we confine expectations of excellence to lofty pursuits like leadership, governance, and corporate America. I believe that small acts of everyday excellence are equally important. There is a sense of personal satisfaction that comes with doing something well. It builds confidence and pride, and establishes a sense of self. The current economic and political climate is so rife with feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction, that we could use some more personal satisfaction and few more happy people. I’m not advocating that people quit their jobs in search of their passions, but I am suggesting that we take the time to do a few simple things really well. In the process, someone might discover a new calling or find momentary peace in a job well done. I think it is possible that the collective impact of everyday excellence is the fuel that we need to turn everything around. The world has always run on the labor of everyday people, so let’s deliver an excellent living experience.