Jonathan, one of our instructors, visited London this summer. I put him in touch with Jack Beer, a Northwest graduate (from 10 years back, and before Jonathan’s time) who is now chef-owner of Artusi restaurant with a small artisan-driven menu on a chalkboard. In a short time, Artusi restaurant has received serious attention in London, and so has Jack. Jonathan was privy to very well-crafted food. I caught up with Jack up over lunch recently while he visited Vancouver and came by to see the Northwest.
We didn’t talk about food, the trendy dishes of London or Vancouver at the moment. We talked about our personal trajectory, where we are with our craft, and about the practices of our industry. So here’s what I want to share with anyone considering going into this field about Jack. Yes, he was young, very bright, and committed as a student. In fact, he was exceptional, but not in the sense of pure talent. What Jack did extremely well as a learner has obviously carried into his professional career. Like all our graduates who have achieved impressive goals, they didn’t stand out as the “superstars” of the class in terms of their culinary/pastry performances, but more so in terms of their learning commitments.
Almost without fail, they listened exceptionally well, they took very precise notes; they wielded a pen (and colouring pencil) as mighty as a knife; they were easy to partner with others; they read and researched out of pure curiosity; they adapted to different teaching styles; they have the courage to fail; they relish feedback and criticism; they network and stay connected with colleagues and mentors; they embrace entrepreneurship from day one; they go about their work hard, quietly, but not without resisting and questioning bad practices; they are true to themselves.
In our chat Jack came up with the raison d’être of Northwest: we produce sponges. I’d like to share with you a portion of the e-mail Jack wrote me soon after our lunch. It sums up why and how we exist:
Really good to catch up and see the school again. I’ve so many good memories from that building. You guys really instilled in us all a humility, a passion, and a self-belief that honestly has shaped the 10 years of my life since I left, and will go on to shape the next 10 too… Structural change is needed in our industry and I’ve tried to play my part in that. I hope you come see me in London sometime, and dinner is on me!
I will hold him to that…playing his part to change the industry and, of course, the free meal!