Did I want to be in New York in the middle of August when my kids were home on holiday? No, I did not. Was I getting the work/life balance right? No, I was not. Was I feeling flipping annoyed at a week of work in the steaming city? Yes, I was. But then something lovely happened.
I had breakfast with the Barefoot Contessa.
I did slightly wonder what we would talk about, she was after all a powerhouse celebrity chef and I can barely boil an egg.
Ina choose the restaurant: Jean-Georges’ Nougatine. She ordered granola and yogurt (that was disappointing, I expected kippers or something adventurous). I ordered scrambled eggs and mozzarella (better).
She walked me through her career, it was fascinating not only what she had done but also what she had not done. She only ever wanted to be herself, and do it her way. When during one of her first pilots she talked to the camera with her mouth full, they said “Oh no Ina, you most certainly cannot do that on television.” Ina took no notice whatsoever. And talked with her mouth full.
I liked her. A lot.
She asked me about my career. I told her about my first shop, so tiny we christened it The Cupboard. I had not a clue about running a shop or stock or inventory levels or pricing. I had no idea at all how it all worked. I simply went to Peter Jones in London, bought a few things, flew them back to the Bahamas, put them in the tiny space, and sold them to our first unsuspecting customer. A few weeks later someone explained to me the concept of wholesale. What a nitwit I had been.
Ina spoke about the specialty food store she had owned in the Hamptons. Ina wanted people to feel good in there; the way vegetables smelt, the way the cheese looked, the special creaky noise the front door made when a customer came in, “I just wanted everyone to feel good,” she said. I thought about my company and our Get Togethers and about the music and the candles and the cold glass of wine and the friends shopping. That was it, that was what it should all be about, just making people feel good.
Thank you, Ina, for breakfast. And for much more.