The Recipe: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Ingredients of Greatness

the recipe john david mann

Most of you are familiar with John David Mann’s writing, both as Editor in Chief of Networking Times and as coauthor of the beloved classic The Go-Giver.

This fall John is back with another parable, this one a collaboration with an award-winning chef—John describes it as “the intersection of personal growth and leadership with great food and great cooking.”

The Recipe follows the story of Owen, a young boy who’s recently lost his dad, who goes to work for a crusty old retired chef. In chapter 10, he is visiting the Chef’s home for the first time, where he has just discovered boxes full of presidential commendations and Culinary Olympic gold medals.

Realizing how famous his teacher is, he can’t understand why the Chef doesn’t display his medals prominently. The Chef thinks for a moment before answering—and what he says about fame, achievement, and team-building seemed to us to have a special relevance to network marketing professionals! — Dr. Josephine Gross

Olympic Gold, an except from the forthcoming culinary parable by Chef Charles Carroll and John David Mann

“At the restaurant,” he began (and Owen knew immediately that he was talking about the famous place he used to run in New York City) “there were times—many times—when I was asked to come out of the kitchen and into the dining room to take a bow. To come talk to the guests about one particular dish or another, or even wow them with a quick demonstration of something impressive.

“I almost always declined. Because that evening was not about the chef or his achievements, it was about the people and the event they were celebrating—the wedding party, the anniversary, the business meeting, or whatever it was.

“Don’t get me wrong, Owen. When I help create an amazing meal, I’m proud of what we do. But it isn’t about me.

“This is a mistake I’ve seen so many chefs make, even some of the biggest. Thinking that their successes were about them, about their own skill and achievements. And it never is. It’s about the experience of making great food, and even more, about who your people become in the process. Forget about grabbing the limelight—it’s about pushing them forward, building their brand, helping them hone their skills, shining the light on them.

“In the Olympic teams they always said, ‘There is no greater high than the honor and privilege of representing your country.’ But there is: helping someone else discover their own greatness. Bringing out the true flavors of a person, you could say. Helping them serve themselves to the world.

“No,” he said, “there’s no better feeling than that.”

He paused for a moment, looking at Owen. It seemed to Owen that he was thinking hard about something, something important, though Owen had no idea what.

“This thing we do, Owen, as chefs? There’s a reason they call it ‘the hospitality business,’ and not ‘the food business.’ Because it’s not really about the food. Hospitality means ‘hosting.’ Serving. When you host someone, that means you put them first. That’s why you’re there: for them.

“Fame is a tricky thing, Owen. Not a bad thing. But tricky. There are two paths to fame. You can get to the top by climbing over other people. It works, but it’s ugly, and sooner or later you’ll fall back down. Or, you can focus on building other people up—and they’ll carry you to the top.

“And that, Owen, that’s Rule Five. Build your people. Build your team.

Build your people. Build your team. Click To Tweet

“You can be the most brilliant kitchen technician in the world. But a chef who can’t build people has no career in front of him. People are what it’s about.”

He turned his chair to look at the wall behind him. Owen followed his gaze to the frame that hung directly over the Chef’s desk. It looked like a handwritten letter.

Owen stared first at the letter, then at the Chef. “Don’t tell me. Is that a handwritten letter from the president?”

The Chef turned and glanced at the letter. “Better than that.”

Better than a letter from the president?

Owen stepped closer and read the name signed at the bottom: Julie Landreaux. He looked back at the Chef. “Who is Julie Landreaux?”

“This was, oh, nearly thirty years ago,” the Chef began. “Big flood, a bad one, out in the Midwest. A lot of houses were destroyed. Some people died. A whole lot more survived but lost everything they had.

“I got the call at three in the morning. Could I come out there and feed the rescue workers? Maybe help feed some of the people they were rescuing?

“I left a skeleton crew to run the restaurant, took my core staff with me, and we hopped on a plane to head out there and help with the disaster relief. We were there for five days. Don’t think I slept the whole time. Set up at the big shelter there, cooked for a few hundred survivors and their families.”

He nodded at the letter. “Julie was one of them.”

He nodded back in the direction of his kitchen. “That consommé I just showed you? That’s one of the neatest stunts in a chef’s bag of tricks you’ll ever see. But the soup we made for those people?” He gazed at the letter. “Now that was a life-changing cooking experience.”

The Chef swiveled his gaze back to Owen. “I wanted you to know the truth about what it means to be a chef.

“Being a chef is hard. It’s one of the toughest occupations to break even or make back your investment. Restaurants are always going out of business. And running a restaurant means brutal hours. It can be …” he paused, went silent for a long moment, then looked at Owen again. “It can be tough on a family. Okay?

“But this isn’t just a profession. It’s a calling. We change lives.

“Maybe your neighbor is an electrician, or a plumber, or a math teacher. All good and noble professions, but you never go, ‘Hey, Frank, why don’t you come over on Saturday, and we’ll change some light sockets, or unplug a drain, or do some equations.’

“But chefs? Our work is different. Our work is like communion, breaking bread together, sharing life together. A chef’s life is about bringing people joy. You’re feeding people, nourishing their cells, and that’s as primal as it gets. Only you’re not just feeding their bodies. You feed them beauty, too. You feed them … something elevated, something that touches greatness.”

He nodded at the letter. Go ahead, read it.

Owen read it out loud.

Dear Chef Kellaway — I want to thank you for what you and your staff did for my family. We lost everything. I don’t think most people know what that’s like. But you and your team showed us that we hadn’t lost everything, after all.

My daughter asked me why I cried when I started writing this letter. “Mom, it was just soup,” she said. But it wasn’t just soup to us. It was hope. It said someone cared about us, that we mattered. It was love.

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you again for the kindness you all showed. God bless you and your family, and everyone on your team. Sincerely, Julie Landreaux

When he got to the end, Owen had a hard time finishing because of the lump in his throat.

It wasn’t just soup to us. It was love.

For one timeless moment he was no longer in the Chef’s home office … he was back in his kitchen at home, a boy of seven or eight, watching his father make The Recipe.

The secret ingredient isn’t anything in the pancakes, Owen. The secret ingredient is who you’re making them for.

The Chef’s voice brought him back to where he was, standing at the little desk, looking at the framed letter on the wall.

This is what I wanted to show you,” said the Chef. “I treasure this note more than all the medals and awards, the fame and the photos.

This, Owen. This is my Olympic Gold.”

* * *


The Recipe: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Ingredients of Greatness, by Chef Charles Carroll and John David Mann, will be released on Oct 17. You can find the authors’ preorder bonus offer at

John David Mann is Editor in Chief Emeritus of Networking Times.



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