I dropped Janet off at the airport early this morning, as she is heading to Williamsburg to visit her Mom and Dad, and then I headed down to Byrd’s Cafeteria. I’ve spent quite a bit of time down there this week and while I am working with strategy, tactics, advertising and all the financial elements of the business, I really feel that I am at something of a disadvantage when it comes to the food service industry. While there are marked similarities to many other businesses, there are also idiosyncrasies unique to each business and so several days ago I decided to immerse myself in the business and see it from the ground up. I made a decision to spend some time in the kitchen and bakery, hoping to get a feel for life behind the scenes.
Now I have to stop here and let you know that I fancy myself something of a cook. No – I don’t cook often, but when I do, I really enjoy it and it always brings back memories of my own mother teaching me the finer points of great cooking. After all, she was a top notch wizard in the kitchen and she went to culinary school at Pope’s School of Cooking and several other world class institutions. Especially as we approach the holidays I can’t help but have fond memories of learning how to make Cranberry Nut Bread or Chicken a la King; or so many of the other great recipes that I was brought up on.
After all, when I was young there wasn’t much fast food – Mom cooked every night and we sat down to dinner promptly at 6:00 pm each evening. It was sacred time – no excuse for not being there. It was the same with Sundays, only we had dinner at my grandparents. We were done in time to see the Ed Sullivan Show or the Wonderful World of Disney or some other show we used to watch, such as Jack Benny. In the fall or winter months, Grandpa would light the fireplace after dinner and sometimes we would make popcorn over the logs. Great memories….
So imagine my excitement at getting back in the kitchen and lending a hand. I was pretty jazzed. As I pulled up to the cafeteria this morning, I was anticipating what things I could help with. I entered the bakery, announced my arrival and got ready to help. Mary, who has worked with the Byrd family 23 years, said we had to make several recipes in anticipation of the large number of people we were expecting today. In fact, this week-end is the 23rd anniversary of the cafeteria and we have been running ads with food specials for several weeks now.
I have really learned quite a bit about the way the operation works the past several months. But now, time to put the rubber to the road and jump in to actually help. It was a good day to start. Ray, who measures the ingredients for each recipe, is on vacation so Mary said that we had to start by measuring everything out and then mixing the ingredients. First item – filling for the Indiana Sugar Pies – one of Byrd’s signature desserts.
I learned about zeroing out the scales so you don’t count the weight of the containers in the measurement of the ingredients. And I learned where we keep the cream, sugar, spices and all the other things we needed to make the recipe. It went rather well, and Mary showed me how to mix everything together. Next up – making pie crusts for the rest of the different desserts we make. I thought this was rather important as I know that we will be making something like 800 pies for Thanksgiving and I plan to help.
Anyway, I decided to try this one after our success with the first recipe. Then I saw the recipe – it started with 36# of flour – I couldn’t believe it. We needed this HUGE mixing bowl – in fact, it was so big that I had to roll it around the kitchen on a cart with wheels so we could get it from one place to another. By the time everything was added in there is no way I could have lifted it off the ground. As we moved it to the mixers I noticed that the blades and whisks that are used in the kitchen are gigantic.
What’s more, the quality and quantity of food we serve is incredible and the people in the kitchen are even more amazing. Linda, Susie, Mary, Holly and more than 100 others – they work day after day, week after week, year after year, and have the most wonderful attitude you can imagine. That doesn’t even include the people on the line or in the office. But I have to tell you that after three hours on those hard floors; bending over and pushing barrels of ice, or working in the freezers bringing fish and other items to the cooks, or carrying things to the dish room where everything is washed, I was pretty tired – no kidding. Yet they do it for years with a smile on their faces. Some of them have been there since the day Byrd’s opened in 1988. I really learned a lesson today – we have great employees. Dedicated men and women who work for the Lord and have spent most of their adult lives working for the Byrd family.
In honor of them, the verse for this evening is from Col. 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Each part of the body of believers is necessary. That’s why we all have different gifts – and I was honored to witness and participate in the work that these servants of the Lord have dedicated their lives to. Really a special day.
My encouragement tonight is to remind you that your work, whatever it is, is also for the Lord. That’s an important assignment. My prayer is that you will be as diligent as the people I worked with today in fulfilling our obligation to the Lord as His servants on earth. We have a really important mission and all of us are necessary to complete it. Grace and Peace,