1-4 TOQUES Image

1-4 TOQUES

This story is primarily about sailing along the coast of the French Rivera by a Dad and Son.  However, a portion of the cruise involves only the Dad and the wife who joins him in Villefranche-sur-Mer for several weeks. Each individual episode addresses a particular port-of-call along the Rivera's coast following this initial episode that creates the itinerary for the cruise. Two major land excursions are included in the itinerary for the benefit of supporting Son's future.

 

PLANNING THE CRUISE

Dad had retired early at the age of 49 in New Orleans. He had started and sold 2 very successful consulting firms by that time. It was for his 50th birthday celebration that Wife threw a party for all of their major friends at Galatoire's in the French Quarter that set his course for next several decades. Dad had made a flipchart presentation at the party where he laid out his activity desires for the next 30 years. (He had been trained to use flipcharts at IBM following B-School. PowerPoint didn't give him the freedom to be dynamic in making his points.) The top priority was to follow a dream of bareboating along the coast of the French Rivera where he would charter and crew a sailboat. The The list also included 1 month of skiing in Utah/Colorado each year, as well doing wine tasting at all of the wineries In Sonoma, CA. He and Wife had already completed Napa and Carneros.

Dad had been sailing since he was 20 beginning with a 17ft Barneget sloop common to the NE. After selling his first consultancy at the age of 35, he made the substantial upgrade to a 40ft Caliber sloop on Lake Pontchartrain North of NOLA. 

 He named the boat 'Sweet Sale' as play on words having sold his first consultancy. With his retirement, It was now time to go to the next level of charting a sailboat in the Mediterranean bare of paid crew and supplies. Although Sweet Sale is a cruiser capable of a Transatlantic crossing, he decided that challenge would follow the success of the Med cruise. However, for this cruise there was one major issue he had to address. He needed a crewmember. While Wife was a very capable first mate, her thriving law firm in NOLA could not do without her for the expected 4-month duration in the Med. He had considered several of his peers at the NOLA Yacht Club, but he was not comfortable with the availability of the other retired members that were at least 20 years older than him. Wife and he discussed various possible crew members, but they only came up with one possibility. It was their 22 y/o son that had applied 2 months earlier to Stanford's MBA program.

Starting when Son was 6, the two continued building a strong relationship via the many things they did together including sailing, snow skiing, cooking, and even building furniture. However now, Son was on his own driven pursuit to obtain his MBA as soon as possible. He was very determined to be the entrepreneur that his Dad was. It was clear to him that he would need an MBA just as his Dad had achieved at the beginning of his career. Son's drive was well understood and encouraged by his parents. But, the timing of this cruise would mean a 1-year delay for Son to enter Stanford. Wife and Dad discussed how to approach him. It was decided that Wife would introduce the cruise to Son as a point of ongoing 'companionship' and a rare opportunity that would most likely not come again once Son began his professional career. Dad saw this as a weak argument. "After all, I won't even be 60 when Son is well on his way and able to take the time for such an excursion".  The wife responded, "Really? You want to wait until then with the possibility that Son could be well into a family of his own? No!, the case needs to be made for NOW!"  Dad accepted her argument, and Wife planned to approach Son the next Sunday over drinks before dinner at the NOLA yacht club.   However, on that Saturday the strategy changed. Son received a letter from Stanford stating that he would have to demonstrate his ability in the working world for at least 1 year before being accepted. This was a point that Stanford used in qualifying the thousands of applicants having just received their undergraduate degree and with no meaningful work experience. Son was distraught when he read the temporary-rejection letter to his parents that evening. Being quite agitated he said;, "Really? Stanford responds with a Catch 22. I need to have an applicable work experience to be accepted in the MBA program. BUT! I need the MBA to get that experience."  Dad paused and then responded, "I do understand your point. But that is Stanford's approach." He paused again, "Actually, Mom and I have an idea that we were going to speak with you about over drinks at the Club tomorrow. And now, given Stanford's position, we can make your and our plans work beautifully for all of us." "Sure Dad, you always have a plan.", he said somewhat sarcastically. Son often used that tone when he was not happy with a situation. Wife quickly cut in, "Really Son, you are going to love our plan. I promise you.", as she followed with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Softening his tone, "Ok, so what is this plan that is SO good for all 3?" Dad paused again as a point of emphasis, and then spoke, "We will first go to the club for drinks and dinner tomorrow and discuss it there. Given the letter, I want to do put together some additional structure. You have to wait until then. You may not recognize it now Son, but I think your temporary rejection is going to work well for you both in the short and long term."  "Whatever Dad", as Son turned and went up the stairs to his room. Dad looked at wife, winked and said "This is working out perfectly Love." She nodded her agreement.

SON's BACKGROUND

In addition to the Son pursuing his professional career, the parents had noted his passion for cooking. NOLA offered the perfect environment for that, but primarily limited to the Creole and Cajun recipes so richly presented there. Dad and Son would take on both new and traditional recipes often inviting friends to join them in their spacious kitchen (gas only, no electric)  The absolute favorite recipe cookbook of the many that they possessed was the "New Orleans Cookbook' by the Collins husband and wife team. They owned the coveted first edition.  

Unintentionally, cooking with his parents planted the seed for Son's future. Beginning in his middle teens, Son became increasingly involved with the preparation of dinner. Dad and Wife took turns with the entrees, with Son's responsibility being that of assembling/creating the salads. By the time he graduated from high school, he was sharing in the making of the entree as well. At first, Son would be responsible for the set up of the ingredients for the entrees. Then as Dad and Wife performed the steps of making the entree, they would instruct Son with the intent of having him do the cooking in the future. During the summer preceding his entering Louisiana State University (LSU), Son was the Chef at least 2 nights a week. Often Dad noticed that Son's entrees were often quite different in taste than his own. When Son was asked about the differences in his preparation. he explained that he was practicing what he had seen on the Web in various cooking videos. Simply, he was testing the use of various spices and other ingredients to create unique favors.  Although not always successful, Dad took note of Son's serious interest in the culinary arts and made a mental note as to what he would provide Son at some time in the near future.. Now, the Med cruise being planned provided an ideal opportunity for professional training in a particular village on the French Rivera of which Dad was aware. Dad believed that Son needed to be on his own once he knew the basics, which he now had.  Dad understood that parental point from his father who dealt with him in the same way.  His father was willing to let him experience his own failures, but in a safe fashion.  

Dad recognized Son's competitive spirit when skiing together. Since Son was 16, it had always been a challenge between the two on the most difficult ♦♦ slopes. It was not until Son was 19 with Vöiki Mantra, All Mountain skis and Technica Cochise boots that he was superior in cutting through the glades. Dad had graciously accepted Son's advancement, and no longer were there bets as to who would pay for drinks during après ski; Dad always bought the dinners. Contrarily, it was not the same when sailing Sweet Sale. That was always a team effort with the two alternating as to who took the helm and who handled the sheets (the lines) for the sails. In both skiing and sailing, each had developed full respect for the other's skills.

 

THE PLAN, almost

The Sunday dinner at the club was nearly a weekly tradition for them for the last 15 years since the purchase of Sweet Sale. Each Sunday the club offered its Prime Rib special that was generous in its portions and a great occasion for meeting with the other club members. The Club's special included both Yorkshire pudding as well as Gratin Dauphinois. The deserts varied each Sunday, but were usually a mixture of Cajun dishes given the series of Sous Chefs over the years. During the months of April through June, soft shell crab would be alternately substituted for the prime rib as the special. In these cases the Gratin Dauphinois was replaced with a dish including the 'trinity' of vegetable (green bell pepper, onion, and celery) that are diced and cook in fat similar to mirepoix used in traditional French cuisine.

At 6, the 3 arrived at the Club and sat at their normal table next to the bar overlooking the docks. The server approached, "The usual Sir?" Dad responded, "Actually we will start with a bottle of Cristal Champagne. We are celebrating tonight. Also, bring an extra flute." "Yes Sir!" responded the waiter with a broad smile. He knew that Dad always tipped handsomely and that $250 bottle of Champagne alone would result in at least $40 in his pocket. The Son smiled and started with, "Well, this must be a really good plan you two have." Dad was quick to respond, "It is Son. But first we will toast, and then I will provide the details. The plan takes full advantage of your 1 year delay in entering Stanford by building an ever greater CV for their consideration of your enrolliment at that time."

The server returned shortly with the Crystal, 4 lead-crystal flutes etched with the club's insigne, and a bowl of mixed nuts. He removed the cork's retaining wire the required 5 twists and gently edged the cork out with only the slightest pop. He then carefully filled 3 of the flutes that he held tilted to not 'startle' the Champagne. While the Crystal was being served Dad motioned to pour some Crystal in the 4th flute. "Young man, please join us in this toast with this most amazing Champagne." "Yes Sir!" With all served, Dad started: "Cheers and best wishes to our loved and loving Son. May his future match his kind and very talented mind." With cheers and clicking of flutes around, the server finished his half-flute and departed knowing not to return until motioned to by Dad.

Son spoke first, "Thanks Dad. I wish not to rush you .... BUT, I do. What is the plan?" Dad took another sip of the Champagne and sat back in his chair. "Son, do you recall my top priority desire that I presented during my 50th birthday party?" "Yes, of course. You desire to sail the coast of the French Rivera." "Correct!, However, I need a sailing mate since Mom cannot afford to be away from her law practice for 4 months. So now, with your one year delay before you can apply again to Stanford's MBA program, you are the best choice to join me on this amazing cruise." Dad paused and began again hearing no comment from Son. "I have developed the itinerary for the 4 months which I think you will greatly appreciate and desire. The itinerary provides for some extraordinary experiences that can provide you with an excellent CV to be presented to Stanford in a year for admission." "OK Dad. I am all ears." "To start with, the Ports of Call will be Monaco first, followed by Cap-d'Ail, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Antibes, Cannes, St. Tropez, Marseille, Cap d'Agde. Son then interrupted him, "But Dad, taking a cruise along the Rivera for 4 months would not be viewed very well on its own, I believe. I am struggling with what I can do professionally within a year that will mark be as good candidate yet alone only 8 months." "Dad restarted. "Let me finish, and then you can state your points, that is if you will have any after you hear what I have to say."

 

SELLING THE PLAN

"Mom and I understand your desire to start your own company once you have an MBA. Right?' Son nodded. "We also know your passion for the culinary arts. And, you have often mentioned that there is not an American equivalent to Michelin Star ratings across the U.S. Such restaurants only exist in LA, Chicago, San Francisco, and NYC. As you know, even NOLA does not have access to that rating system due to the lack of Michelin personnel to do the evaluations here." He paused for a moment, as he often does, to maintain the attention of his audience. "So what does the combination of the 3 points of

MBA, lack of an American rating system equivalent to Michelin Star, and your culinary passion suggest to you Son?" Dad waited for Son to take all of that into consideration. Suddenly, Son raised his flute in the air. " WOW!, what a great idea Dad. Give me a moment while I think of a name for this venture." Mom quickly spoke up, "I think that 'TOQUE' ('Chef's hat') suggests both charm and haute cuisine." Son smiled and said "Accepted Mom. Toque it will be."

NOTE: The Michelin Guide was first introduced in 1900 to encourage the purchases of automobiles, and hence tires. In 1926, a single Star rating was introduced. In 1936, the ratings were increased to include zero, 1,2, and 3 stars.

Son started.  "Really super idea Dad. So again, what does the 4-month cruise have to do with a Toque rating system?"  Dad smiled and sat up in his chair and finished the bottle by refilling the 3 flutes. "This is the brilliant part that Mom and I have agreed to doing. ... that is, subject to your agreement. There are 2 educational opportunities that we will pay for during the cruise that will serve you well in pursuing a Toque rating system, and then your application to Stanford." Son sat up in his chair taking a long sip of the Champagne. Dad continued, "The first is the French language school in Villefrance-sur-Mer, Institut de Français.This is a 4-week total-immersion program as to the language and French cuisine. Our itinerary is aligned with being in that village for you to go directly into the program." "WOW! Dad, but" "Permit me to proceed, and I will come back to your obvious question in a moment. The second program is a 4-week immersion, again, into the art of French cooking. That is Gastronomicom in Cap d'Agde that is at the end of our sailing. You and I will be taking that program together." "I mean WOW! Dad. Of course I want to do that. It will be fantastic part of my CV that sets up my opportunity to put together the Toque rating system." Dad continued. "Now, to answer your unspoken question, I first have something for your Mom." He then handed an envelope to Wife. "Darling, open the envelope please." She looked puzzled as she used her index finger to open the envelope. When she pulled out the contents, she was even more confused. It was a first class, round trip ticket on Delta to go to Villefrance-sur-Mer." She noted the dates of the travel and then stated, "But, I can't do this trip. I have my calendar completely booked for that period with very interesting new clients that I would never expected to engage the firm." Broadly smiling, Dad said. "No you don't Love. Those appointments are not real. Ellen, your personal secretary, and I falsely scheduled your calendar to keep you available to come to Villefrance-sur-Mer and sail with me while Son is in the school there" Like Son, she responded "WOW!, you Devil you" "So Son, you now the answer to your unspoken question as to what I will be doing during your 4 week experience in Villefrance sur Mer." All finished their Champagne with a click of the flutes. 

 

This story continues with the next episode being that of the arrival of Dad and Son in Monaco to board the sailboat.
 
 

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