John the Saute Guy

Our company, like many large corporate offices not located in a downtown metro area, has a cafeteria.  It is one of the perks of working in “the Towers” as the building is known.

There are the standard options: salad bar, grab-n-go sandwiches, a few hot entrees, even a ‘wrap’ station.  The best by far is the Saute.  Each day there is just one choice – today it was spicy shrimp with Jasmine rice.

What I could experience

Quietly standing in line while the cook makes my serving, identical to the recipe and everyone else’s, measuring each ingredient, plates it, and hands it over so I can get in another line to pay for my meal.  Quick, efficient, cost-effective.  Boring, unconnected, not remarkable.

What I actually experience

The saute guy has four burners going at once.  The dish he makes each day has at least six different ingredients: various vegetables, garlic, chicken, etc.  While people queue up in line, they ask for ‘no carrots’ or ‘half portion’ or ‘no garlic’ or ‘light on the oil’. You get the idea.  Personal requests for a custom meal.  Every single one.

Each request is greeted with ”I’ll take care of you.” or “No problem.” And he never misses…with four meals going at once.  And when he hands over the completed dish, you get, “Have a great day” – and he looks you in the eye to make sure you heard him. (the emphasis on ‘great’ is his, not mine).

Fun, engaging, remarkable.  Taking the time to make a simple transaction into a wonderful break in the day.

The saute guy is part of the ‘great people’ focus we have here at Carlson.  His name is John.

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