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Italian Food, Bagels and Barbecue and How It Speaks to Commitment

Originally published on LinkedIn


I am a former New Yorker, raised in The Bronx. I can’t say that I experience good food while growing up. My mother’s idea of cooking involved boiling frozen vegetables into submission but she made a mean matzoh ball and gefilte fish.

When I moved to Greenwich Village, I started to learn what good Italian food was; after all, it took effort for a restaurant there to screw it up. The local places made sauce from scratch and bought meat from a local butcher or the meat market on the Westside of the Village.

Pizza was spectacular. Famous Ray’s made a killing selling slices and brick oven pizza was available at John’s of Bleecker Street.

But barbecue was a disappointment no matter where I went in the city. People would rave over bad Texas barbecue slopped with canned sauce. The meat was flavorless and the red sauce did a bad job masking the mediocre meat. Even places that served what was called barbecue chicken served rotisserie chicken or chicken that was pre-cooked and then grilled to warmth on a grill surface that ws heated with gas. Ugh.


And when we moved to Asheville, NC I discovered great bbq and awful Italian food and bagels. There are gas stations with restaurants that serve better barbecue than anything in New York City.

Conversely, the worst and dirtiest hole in the wall in NYC makes better pizza than in Asheville. There is one place in town that has passable pizza.

Don’t get me wrong—Asheville is a great restaurant town and a great place to live but as a transplanted New Yorker it has been an adjustment to tolerate what passes for a bagel (We recently found a place 10 miles from us that makes a passable bagel). No such luck with Italian food.

My wife and I went to dinner at a well reviewed in restaurant, ordered dinner and were greeted with plates of food that we stared at. “What is this,” I asked my waiter.

“It’s what you ordered. “

“Yes, but what is this? I’ve never seen this dish served in a brown sauce.”

Why is it in two great food cities can they deliver great food of one sort and not in the others? What can we take away from this and apply in our own lives?

Blame it on the market

Both cities make a demand for excellence in their particular food items. With all the competition among Italian restaurants mediocre Italian restaurants don’t survive very long (except those that cater to tourists . . . that’s an article for a different time). People won’t put up with them, especially in this hyper connected world of Facebook, Twitter and Yelp. The same is true of barbecue in the South. Although there are different types of it served in town, almost all are terrific.

So as you look at your work, how long do you think your mediocre work will be ignored? Even if your current firm puts up with it, you know the difference and develop the bad habit of laziness that won’t help you in the future.

And, if your boss thinks it’s OK to do half-assed work, it’s time for you to join an organization committed to delivering excellence (not perfection). Getting used to being average will cause you to lose the drive and desire to be great.

One agency I worked for for many years, seemed to believe that it was more important that everyone get along with one another rather than foster an environment that encouraged people to excel. It made no sense to me and I made the mistake of putting up with it for too long, accepting the box of expectations and aspirations wanted. Now as I coach people to play their game BIG, I help them dissect their current circumstances, see what part they play in their lack of success and help them build a new environment for themselves.

What’s Your Part?

My boss doesn’t want me to do great work. S/he just wants “good enough” from me.


Worse than that is that you believe that. I believed it and decided I needed to cut the cord from the mediocrity I was being conditioned for.

Some of you work in competitive environments like I’ve worked in where the head of sales stole his people so he could always appear as the top producer. Nothing like tolerating being treated cruelly by people.

And using the example of restaurants, ownership/management can deliver a great product and educate its consumer. Both are tourist towns with people from all over the world flocking in for good food.

Why serve crap?

Why do crap work and/or deal with crap expectations? Strive for an environment that expects excellence!


I was visiting a friend in New York this weekend while my family remained on Long Island. My son sent me a text. “We bought ravioli and sauce for dinner. It isn’t that crap Southern stuff.

Why are you serving up crap and expecting great reviews?

Why are you accepting other peoples’ low expectations instead of setting a high bar for yourself?

Why does your work feel like a j-o-b instead an environment you delight in going to?


© The Big Game Hunter, Inc. Asheville, NC  2015



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