On a recent trip to London, I got an email from my daughter, Garnie. She’d just met with a corporate consultant who wanted to bring a CEO of a high-level Atlanta company and his five executive vice presidents to Serenbe. They’d spent seven months planning a company reorganization and wanted to culminate the experience with a retreat before putting their plan into action.
It sounded interesting, but the timing didn’t work on my end, so I regretfully declined. I immediately received an email back from Garnie, written in big, shouty caps:
MOM. YOU HAVE TO DO THIS.
My daughter can be very persistent. I have no idea where she gets that from.
When I returned, the consultant and I had lunch at chef Hugh Acheson’s fabulous Empire State South. We talked about the symbolism behind cooking and how a cooking class can be a metaphor for the way a company works. Each member of the staff is an ingredient: How do you stir them all together to create a healthy company?
There in my kitchen with all the food and utensils, the CEO and his staff weren’t the only ones feeling a bit outside their comfort zone. As I organized them into teams to create different parts of the meal, I thought about how this metaphor applied to my own life. What are the ingredients of Serenbe? What is it about our recipe that’s worked so well and how can we share our magical meal with the world?
As I’ve done many times, the company needed to take an old recipe and update it for today’s times. And the only way to do that is to think differently about your ingredients.
So we started with the salad. Does every salad have to have lettuce? No. I gave them a variety of vegetables and talked about the options. Should we roast them? Fry them? Have them raw?
We talked about not just the ingredients but the presentation—when the world is looking at your salad, what do you want it to see?
What kind of dressing complements the vegetables? I gave them a variety of oils, mustards and fruit and they played around with it until they found the right balance of bite and acidity that didn’t overpower the produce.
Later we did roasted quail over a fire in the backyard and talked about timing, temperature and the whole aspect of fire and creating energy.
Watching them work, think and cook their way through the process just confirmed what I’ve always known: Cooking is about leading and listening. About controlling things up to a point, then letting go. And the most important ingredient in any recipe for success—whether it’s roasted quail or a multimillion-dollar corporation—is intuition.
12 quail, halved
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Place quail in a ceramic dish. Pour olive oil over and sprinkle with fresh thyme sprigs. Generously salt and pepper. While dish is marinating, prepare grill.
If available, use hickory wood for grilling. Let wood come to high heat, then place quail on grill and cook 6-10 minutes, depending on level of heat.
Alternately, the quail can be baked in a 375-degree oven for 20-25 minutes.