As I learned of the death of George Lang, I remembered a young man named Paul in my food writing class. The students were asked to write a restaurant review. Paul’s was outstanding. Not only had he described the food at Cafe des Artistes with professional skill, but he had simultaneously evoked the romantic atmosphere of this lovely place. He also included colorful reproductions of the Howard Chandler Christy’s frolicking semi-naked nymph murals along with a copy of the restaurant’s menu and the wine list.
I was dazzled and delighted.
Purely by chance that evening I ran into George and Jenifer Lang and told them about the review I had just received from my clever student.
George asked to see the material and I told him I would ask Paul’s permission. Then George, generous as always, invited Paul to have lunch with him at the Cafe
Paul was thrilled…dancing round the classroom…(showing off!)
I brought Paul a copy of George’s memoir, Nobody Knows the Truffles I’ve Seen, and instructed him, firmly, to read every page. Paul peeked inside the cover and discovered George was Hungarian. “My family is Hungarian,” he remarked. “Do you speak the language,” I inquired.
At the next class I was eager to learn about the lunch.
“Oh, I didn’t go,” said Paul.
“Did you let George know you weren’t coming,” I asked.
It turns out George was looking for a smart culinary student to assist him as he was restoring the Gundel, a famed restaurant in Budapest.
Had Paul showed up for the lunch, speaking Hungarian, and with considerable culinary knowledge, George would likely have offered him a job as his personal assistant. Paul would have been able to rub shoulders with all George’s associates: the bright shining stars of the restaurant world. He could have driven five minutes to Paris, five minutes to London, five minutes to Madrid, five minutes to all of Europe and beyond. Instead, he accepted his fiancees father’s offer of a job in the insurance business in Iowa. It came with a car.
A few months later he called to ask if there was a chance the job with George was still available.
The answer was a resounding: “NO!”
I mention this, just to say, you never know and if you don’t present yourself in person, but instead, send a resume and even a super cover letter, it will probably be tossed out.
Mark Twain said, “Showing up is half the battle for success.”
If you send out a thousand resumes, you may think you are doing something useful, but you are being afraid.
Take your courage in both hands!
If you risk everything by picking up your phone and making an appointment with the company you love, the answer may be “Yes.”
You never know!
If at first the answer from the Human Relations department is “No” you will be no worse off than if you hadn’t called.
Be politely persistent. Hold onto your hope.
An interviewer is far more likely to remember you if you have shown up in person. Later on they may they come looking for you to fill a role you may never have anticipated.
While thinking about all these things, may I suggest you read William Grimes obituary in today’s New York Times. Admire the quality of his research and his dazzling writing.
And admire George Lang and the risks he took.
His was a life well-lived.