On Valentine’s evening, my partner David and I dined at Atlas, a contemporary high-end restaurant in Wellington. I had booked several weeks earlier, and indicated I was vegan. The truth is, I’m ‘sort of vegan’. I do eat eggs, the occasional salmon or prawns to ensure I get enough protein particularly when I’m dining out. Why? Many chefs either don’t appear to understand the role of vegan protein if they consider substitutes. One example is olive oil is a great substitute for butter in vegans’ diet. Unlike butter, olive oil has no protein.
The service at Atlas is exemplary, friendly, professional, and knowledgeable. To my delight and relief there was a vegan tasting menu. Year old carrots with dill and chives served with pickled cucumber, a macaroon with beetroot relish. I began to notice David’s matching course was oysters with champagne, pepper and strawberry. I recognised protein, and none was on my plate.
I began thinking, “How responsible are chefs for a diners’ nutrition?”
I know chefs use salt, fat (butter and cream) to enhance flavour and texture. Meat eaters have at least 200g of protein a day, vegetarians enjoy protein laden cheeses, nuts and beans for protein. The courses continued.
My dishes were visual spectacles and completely delectable, and I began to miss protein. I realized I was having side dishes. I missed it in the fennel dish, (where was the lemon infused cashew nut savoury cream at the base) and my main dish (where were the pinenuts, or macadamias?) Without protein, I get headaches, and feel tired.
This was a fabulous meal, beautifully presented, yet without protein.
I can assure you that having a plate of vegetables is no substitute when your partner is having beautifully presented lamb saddle, with confit red pepper, and French sorrel, my dish was the confit red pepper and the French sorrel. Something is definitely missing. My solution was to go home and have a handful of macadamia nuts, but I was left with the feeling that Chefs either misunderstand vegan nutrition or lack imagination. With the explosion in molecular cuisine, the gap in the vegan market means there is more experimenting to do.
How does this relate to leaders?
Leaders are responsible for creating cultures in their teams and organisations. Their main levers are their relationships and how they function in groups. Do this well, and staff and customer relationships are purposeful, intelligent and helpful. Ignore this, and both staff and the organisation’s customers suffer. Leaders who rely on their technical expertise, or their abilities to drive results yet who are unable to get the best contribution from their staff, are only activating half their responsibilities. They get the job done, but those around them are bruised and unappreciated. Leaders who know how to draw out the best from their staff, and deliver exceptional results, ensure those around them flourish.