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.
I too have had the pleasure of eating at Vue De Monde and love your reminder of wonderful food and surrounds.
My son was very impressed with your blog. He said dad, “Why don’t you have a background like this”. I told him it was a background used by ‘older’ people.
Yours in Blogging
…and that, Young Man, was the absolutely appropriate response! Thanks Andrew.
BTW Dear Readers, if you’d like to see a great blog, being used with PDHPE classes by an inspiring ‘young’ teacher, visit Andrew’s blog:
Wow. That sounds incredible! And I have ALWAYS wanted to get one of those sidewalk portraits done 🙂
Now I am hungry for fine dining…
I am rather inspired! Whether the inspiration pertains to eating, teaching or returning to the fabulous world of hospitality I am unsure! Sounds like a great weekend away. 🙂
I’ve got 3 years to outdo that for a 40th weekend. Very nice. What’d you think of ‘Wicked’? I thought it was technically incredible but the story was insipid! Like hearing opera in English and realise they’re singing a 10 minute song about combing your hair…loving the vids you’re putting up Darcy btw.
Paul, yeah, Wicked was brilliantly staged and the set a delight but I kinda didn’t like or find the songs memorable. Glinda was amusing too.
BTW – here’s the degustation menu (emailed to me from the manager):
Pea and jamon soup with a jamon tartare served with a confit quail yolk on a lettuce raft
SALADE DE JICAMA ET ORMEAUX
Jicama, braised abalone and crab salad with yuzu noodle and Osetra caviar
2006 Doisy Daene Bordeaux Sec Bordeaux, France
RISOTTO AUX TRUFFES
Classically inspired Manjimup truffle risotto
NV Barbeito Sercial 10 years old Madeira Madeira Island, Portugal
BOUILLABAISSE ‘EN CINQ MINUTES’ ET TARTARE DE KINGFISH
5 minute bouillabaisse, tartare of kingfish, buffalo milk skin, finished with aromatic herbs,
and a touch of theatre
2007 Milton Chenin Blanc Te Arai Vineyard Gisborne, New Zealand
TERRINE DE LANGUE DE BOEUF
Terrine of ox tongue, foie gras and Puy lentils with a jelly of Pedro Ximenez sherry and eight spice powder
2005 Matassa Blanc Côtes Catalanes, France
CREVETTE WITH KINGFISH
Drunken prawns with XO sauce, kingfish and rice purée finished with lemonade fruit jelly
2006 Robert Weil Riesling Spatlese Kiedrich Granfenberg Reinghau, Germany
JUS AU VERJUS
Liquid frozen verjus
CANARD À LA CANNELLE
Roast of duck breast and confit leg with cinnamon and baby turnips
2004 Jean-Luc Colombo Cornas Les Terres Brûlée Rhône Valley, France
RÔTI DE PORC
Roast Kurobuta pork belly with pork rillette pancake and panada stuffed baby apple
2004 Jean-Luc Colombo Cornas Les Terres Brûlée Rhône Valley, France
Goats curd served with sugared rose petal and rose jelly topped with goats curd ice cream
2000 Dom Pérignon Champagne Épernay, France
SALADE DE FRUITS
‘CHEESECAKE’ AUX FRUITS DE LA PASSION
Passionfruit cream with frangipane sand and passionfruit soufflé
2006 Cookoothama Botrytis Semillon Riverina, Australia
CIGARE AU CHOCOLAT
Valrhona chocolate roll filled with smoked chocolate and rolled in puff pastry ‘cigar’ leaves
NV Chambers Grand Muscat Rutherglen, Victoria
NOTRE SÉLECTION DE CAFÉS, THÉS, INFUSIONS ET PETITS-FOURS
A selection of coffee, teas, infusions and petits-fours
CHOCOLATS POUR SAVOURER A LA MAISON
Handmade chocolates to take home
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Darcy, your comments about teams and excellence brought to mind a remark I think was made by Wayne Bennett (or maybe Jack Gibson….when you are 46 time starts to conflate), speaking of coaching success: “you are as only as good as your cattle”. Sure the bovine reference is reductive and demeaning, but the point is relevant – how does the leader of any organisation best work to create the conditions in which people are as good as they cans be?
Yes, a good point well made, Mark.
My answer would be to encourage, to make feel people feel valued and good about themselves, wherever possible. I also agree the ‘high expectations’ rhetoric is useful. If all else fails one can use quotes attributed to Henry Ford: 😉
“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”