What is excellence, and how does it thrive? Who plants? How does it grow and which seed? Who tilled the soil and prepared the ground? How much obsession and how much laughter? How much is excellence the meeting of time and space with people and need? How much good fortune and serendipity? Is inspired hard work enough?
Turning 40 gives one pause for reflection and a weekend away, without the children, permits that river of thought to flow reasonably unimpeded into a blog post by the sea.
The original notion of a birthday weekend in Melbourne came from seeing a program about the celebrity chef, Shannon Bennett and his French restaurant, Vue de Monde, while travelling through Western Australia earlier this year. The degustation menu – spellchecker just insisted on ‘de gestation’ – looked exquisite and the attention to the detail of the fine dining experience something special, something excellent.
We were not disappointed on Saturday night with our fine dining experience, it was truly superb and made us desire, strangely enough and I am sure you will understand, to have more experience at living in the style one is unaccustomed.
Bryan Lloyd, the manager of Vue de Monde, is clearly excellent at his job and skilled with people in a way that warrants discussion by Educators, especially those interested in how a business harnesses the individual to the success of the endeavour.
Towards the end of our 3&1/2 hour meal we told Bryan of our feelings of nervous anticipation about the night. ‘We were nervous too’ was his response, ‘when someone books several months ahead’ the pressure to deliver excellence is extraordinary. We talked about how comfortable we felt at the restaurant and how Vue de Monde operates successfully with such excellence.
The staff are fundamental to this success and under great pressure to perform. Bryan employs people who have ‘the right attitude’ and says the whole thing can come undone by choosing someone who is not right for the team. Also, it is important, he says, to provide for staff what they need and I assume there is flexibility in employment. Can one travel for six months and return or have time off to study? All the staff had a twinkle and were good at responding with humour and wit – they seemed to be having fun. Everyone was working hard and attention to detail evident. The expense of an evening would permit nothing less than a champagne experience. It reminds me, that we who work in educating the young endeavour to provide a champagne education but are on a beer budget.
Earlier in the day we enjoyed the Art Deco Exhibition (1910-1939) at the National Gallery of Victoria before revelling in the splendour of the Wicked set at the Regent Theatre.
The ubiquitous iPod was the medium the art gallery employed as an audio guide and the woman staffing the counter was relieved she didn’t have to explain how to use one for the ‘ten thousandth time’. The curating of the exhibition is excellent and I particularly enjoyed how film interspersed the artwork. The minute or so of Josephine Baker dancing and hamming it up for the camera was a delight.
Superb food and wine accompanying quality art and performance, could only add to the joy of time spent with one’s Significant Other. Kate had a great time too and hardly mentioned Lucy and Sarah…well, less than expected. We didn’t talk much about her 40th birthday celebrations…but that’s years and years – well three away.
Finally, I took the opportunity to have a local street artist sketch me, she took about 15 minutes and you see (the rather flattering) result as well as the photo of the sitting in the gallery above.