Those who know me will understand that perhaps my least favorite show on the Food Network is Cutthroat Kitchen. That said, the fifth agreement in Toltec wisdom reminds me that lessons can be hidden in places that we might overlook if we did not listen with a maybe. So, I decided to watch the show last week because it was the first of a five-week series with “superstar” chefs competing for charity. The last two chefs standing were Michael Psilakis and Aartie Sequiera. The dish they were required to make was French toast. French toast is one of those iconic breakfast dishes. While there are a few variations in terms of bread used and whether they are stuffed or not, there are some things you expect to experience and taste when you eat this, regardless of the day or time.
Michael Psilakis’ version of French toast looked amazing and the chef judge, Antonia Lofaso seemed to agree as she spoke highly of his dish. Then it was her turn to eat Aartie’s garam masala French toast. To most of us the idea of an Indian flavor infused French toast sounds different, even Aartie was a little concerned she had stepped too far out of the box. What was interesting was watching the difference in the way Antonia ate the two dishes. She ate Michael’s as if she was having a conversation with an old friend. It was thoughtful, but comfortable, as if it reminded her of the best French toast dishes she had ever had. When she ate Aartie’s, there was a slowness, a deep thoughtfulness with each bite. It lacked the familiarity she had expressed when eating Michael’s. Then she talked about how the curry gave her some of the same feelings as cloves, which are sometimes used to season French toast. Ultimately, she said it was a dish she would never forget, Aarti won, and moves on to the final round to win money for her charity – Postpartum Support International.
Listening to Chef Antonia talk about this dish reminded me of the response one of my seminary professors, Dr Gail Ricciuti, had while I was delivering a sermon during one of her classes. We had been assigned a series of scriptures from which to choose and I had chosen to preach on the transfiguration. I remember the initial look in her eyes before I began. The story about the transfiguration is kind of iconic, like French toast. For those who are Christian, you would expect to hear certain things in a sermon on the transfiguration, just as you would expect a certain flavor profile with French toast.
Then I began my sermon. Like Aartie, I knew my approach to preaching this sermon had pushed me slightly outside the box, so to speak. While there was clearly some familiarity to my sermon, there were also some unique elements and I was not sure how it would be received. What happened afterwards is what surprised me. Dr Ricciuti did not follow her normal evaluation protocol of asking the class for feedback, she just began by telling me her own relationship and history with this scripture and how my interpretation of this scripture made this, like Aartie’s garam masala French toast, a sermon she would never forget. It has been more than a decade later and she still remembers that and a few of my other sermons.
For me, there were two lessons I gleaned from this experience. One was the reminder to be skeptical, but learn to listen as the fifth agreement of Toltec Wisdom teaches or I never would have watched this show. Second, is to follow your inspiration even if it takes you down a path others have not been down. It does not matter what we are doing in our lives, what we are creating, remember to bring your own unique style and personality to what you do. There is not, never has been, never will be anyone exactly like you, so focusing on being a person others will never forget because you are that amazing.