Every now and then, you see a piece of art that for some unknown reason, speaks to you. Once in a while, you meet a person that you just know will become a lifelong friend. And once in a blue moon, you have a meal that is unforgettable and a culinary experience that is so exceptional, you know you’ll be back.
Tom and I had that experience last month while visiting Chicago. Jimmy Bannos, Jr.’s restaurant, The Purple Pig, was recommended by a friend who had only heard about it but had not yet dined there. She warned us that she’d heard the restaurant was hard to get in so I went online ahead of time to make a reservation. Turns out they don’t even take them. You just have to wait your turn. But in doing my research, I watch a video interview with Jimmy about his restaurant and his food (link at bottom of this email)… and I was hooked like a fish.
The Purple Pig is a small place, with an unassuming entrance tucked down a weird little alley off the Magnificent Mile, with a bar overlooking the kitchen and communal tables. It was frigidly cold that evening with a bitter Chicago wind blowing off Lake Michigan. When we arrived, before we could even grasp the door handle, it was opened for us by a charming gentleman with a warm, friendly smile who welcomed us in. We were instantly assaulted by bone-warming heat, the collegiate sound of friendly conversation, and the delicious smells of roasting meats, stewing tomatoes and basil, and baking bread.
Our meal was literally mouth-watering. Our service was fabulous. The atmosphere was casual and friendly (a little tight quarters but when you put that JLT in your mouth (watch for it at the end of the video)… all is forgiven.)
And, most fun of all was watching Jimmy work his magic with food and people behind the bar and in and around the kitchen. This, I confess, wasn’t hard to do since he was voted one of the sexiest celebrity chefs by People Magazine (all in the name of good Stretch material, right?). I was even able to grab a moment of his time to thank him personally for the exceptional experience and chat with him about how he did it consistently night after night after night. “One word,” he said, “Love. I love what I do. And, you don’t do something you love halfway.”
There’s much from Jimmy that all of us in business today can learn about creating the extraordinary. Here’s what I took away from his video interview:
- This is my passion, my driver, and sometimes my pain. This is what I was meant to do.
- There were some doubters, but I love it when you tell me I can’t do it. That negativity… I channel it and put it into a positive flow.
- Your energy is important. You can’t be feeling down.
- We want to be the best we can possibly be so we have to keep evolving.
- There is no “I can’t” in the vocabulary of The Purple Pig.
- If you’re not a team player, you won’t even make it a month as line cook.
- If you wouldn’t serve that to your mother or your grandmother and you don’t love it… you lose.
- I’m very driven, sometimes obsessive. Some people say I’m crazy.
- But, I’m having a lot of fun right now.
- And, I hope it all works out.
Jimmy’s pretty clear: Passion. High Standards. Energy. Fun.
Seems like a perfect game plan for my business and yours.
Cheers to 2018!