The country where work stinks

I found this topic discussed by Lucian Mândruță in Ziarul Financiar, about some entrepreneur’s drama that he wants to work, but he has nobody to work with. It’s the same drama every services or production entrepreneur has, and I think  it’s only partly because the social security provided by the State encourages idleness or encourages the ‘I’ll take this from the state and make that on the black market and everything will be fine’ type of thinking. I realize in my own entrepreneurial shoes that work isn’t what it used to be. Somehow, my mother’s generation, who is exhausted after 40 years of work, is capable to work for minimum wage, without protesting, but also lacking the efficiency from 20 years ago (please excuse my lack of sensitivity, but let’s face it, the body has its limitations). At the same time, the 20-30 year-old generations seem to not find any motivation in the salary, or in the work environment, or professional evolution. I already encountered that dozens of times. I bitterly concluded that the person asking ‘how much does it pay?’ before even sending in the resume will not stick with you until the end of the season. I bitterly concluded that when dealing with employees, doing good will get you in trouble, or worse, I came to believe that the way my bosses treated me from 17 to 30, when I was an employee, was the right way to go. All those years, nobody wanted my opinion, nobody explained to me HOW to do, but WHAT to do, the salary was fixed and sometimes it didn’t come, taxes were paid in a similar way in many cases, and lack of performance was punished by being taken out. The phrase ‘there’s 10 like you waiting at the door’ was as common as ‘good morning’. I feel frustrated because although I told myself for the past 10 years that I would not treat my employees the way my employers or direct bosses treated me, I came around to missing them. Today, I feel that the odds of starting a business that I can share with my employees are close to nil.

Mobility which immobilizes

The taxi driver keeps texting while driving. The waiter can’t see you because he’s on Facebook and you are better off friend requesting him and writing your order in a private message than relying on the fact that he may notice you from 15 feet away. The chef has his eye and mind set on sports bets, he really isn’t too interested in your food. Perhaps it would be better that people involved in the service industry (and I’m not talking about information services) will not have access to their own phones during working hours. Or at least not have internet access. Or I don’t know what, but this phenomenon that keeps expanding is surely not in the client’s favor. Of course it’s normal to have access to the technology of the times you live in, but it’s as normal to do your job while at work. Or perhaps I can’t understand the world I’m living in and I have unjust expectations.


It’s a trend probably coming from the north, from Redzepi’s Noma, respectively turning the chef into a chef-gatherer. I understand why that happens in Nordic countries, where nothing grows for six months a year. Meaning, I understand where the impulse stems from. However, I don’t think it’s appropriate for us chefs to get out from between our pots and pans to start gathering mushrooms, berries, apples, pears, tomatoes which we’d then overcharge for, just because we spent some time hand-picking them. True, in a country such as Romania, where cheating people is still a national sport and the honest vegetable farmer is still hard to find, it can often be wiser to make the effort of choosing yourself the things you want for your restaurant, but even so, I think our efforts as kitchen or restaurant chefs should focus on educating suppliers (we can do that easily) rather than digging and weeding. If we carefully observe the TV stars that started this trend, we will see they are gardeners, gatherers, butchers, even though in some cases the farms belong to them. What we put in food is our responsibility, but at least until it enters the kitchen, we can share that responsibility with other links of the chain. Problem is, we may start enjoying gathering more than cooking, and there’s already too little of us in the kitchen.

On self esteem

Books, entire libraries were written on how to increase and maintain self esteem. `Self esteem` is nothing but a slightly pretentious name for EGO, a construct of the mind, which serves us only temporarily, including from life’s practical perspective. However, self esteem proves to be a volatile investment, seeing the countless factors contributing to its increase or decrease in value. Not to mention that between having a good opinion and having a bad opinion on oneself makes no difference from the Truth’s point of view, both consuming time and energy taken from other activities, some really important for the life we have been given. The thoughts which are fed constantly do that, and our opinion about ourselves is not a fact, it’s a thought we try hard to feed with arguments. The lack of self esteem provides freedom. You can be yourself in any situation, effortlessly, without the effort of being whoever your self esteem says you should be in that situation. If you have no investments to protect, your blood pressure won’t rise every time the stock market has good or bad days.

Transylvania through the grapevine

I hereby launch the #transylvaniathroughthegrapevine hashtag, that can be used by whoever, if they had any type of experience with Transylvanian wine or grapevine. Because it seems to me that Transylvania is resurrecting the genie in the bottle, the ancient and slumbering spirit of noble wine. Small and large press houses start rising up and are getting ready to pour rivers of gold and green or blood red. I am fond of what is happening to the grapevine and wine in Transylvania, so i would really like to share #transylvaniathroughthegrapevine with you. Starting this fall, on the pages you already know.

Magical Moldova

Since 2007, I keep coming back to Chisinau, on some business. I observe the transformations the city is going through and I rejoice. Certainly, if we think that in Romania, progress travels by horse and carriage on the national highway, in Moldova, it seems to be walking. Somehow, I don’t see that as a bad thing. I don’t pretend to understand the social and economic particularities of the Republic, I don’t understand those in Romania either, but I can’t ignore the growth potential. Then, I can’t ignore the huge difference between hospitality services here and those in Romania. Moldova is a few levels above. They don’t beat us at wines, but they compete neck to neck with the Romanian ones (well, it’s possible they beat us on the bubbly range), but things are different when it comes to food. Simple, clean food is what it should be. Local cuisine provides variety and is similar to Romania only up to the point that Romanians in the countryside decided it is enough to live on ‘homemade’ neck of pork and fries. I’m not gonna keep from you that this latest visit brought to me the temptation of opening a restaurant here. I’m seriously considering, but I am still doing some research.

I enjoy flying

Today I flew twice. Once, according to reality, from Bucharest to Chisinau, where I am busy looking after myself until I go back home. The second time, I got kicked off and flew from ProTV, on grounds of lack of discipline, according to Libertatea, who writes that I got fired for not abiding by my contract. Of course, tabloids don’t owe me anything, no to me, not to the truth, but they could have at least called in advance. Or at least call ProTV for an official stance. It is true that Libertatea does not employ Tolontan or CTP, actually, it may not employ any former journalists, so perhaps I shouldn’t have any expectations. There are no unsettled debts between ProTV and myself, after my taking part in Masterchef, show which I think came to my life at the right time and which I believe will leave me exactly when it is needed. I have no other announcements or comments to make, not here or elsewhere. Maybe it’s because for the past two months I’ve kept hearing I’d quit Masterchef, either because I’m less popular than my colleagues, or because there’s allegedly no chemistry between us, or because, there, I’m a rebel (which would actually be cool, but I’m not). I wish you all well, and for Libertatea #24centimeters

The attack in Nice

Neither Allah, nor Christ, or anything which brings light on Humanity does not bear responsibility for what happened the other night in Nice. The same ignorance, blind faith in the illusion that we are all so different that there’s no room under the sun for us all. Sometimes, the alarm clock is not enough to get us up from a deep sleep, sometimes we need some shaking. It may seem brutal when it happens, but the result is waking up. We wonder when the reign of terror will end, but we also enjoy feeding the nightmare. We buy principles and concepts, we give freedom in return. We feed our minds with horror images, but we want to be happy. We love by comparison and we hate everything which seems foreign, without ever thinking that ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ are in the same place, we can’t love one without the other, you can’t harm one without harming the other. If you want to better understand what I just said, look at the way you love, then think about the way you got angry the last time. What is it like?

On consultancy

I worked as a consultant chef a lot, in charge of creating menus and training chefs. I still do it today, well, a bit less, partly because I have less time, partly because life taught me to be more selective about my work. I only do the work that brings me maximum joy, mainly because life is really short. How do I select my clients? Easy. firstly, i don’t go looking for them. I don’t scout the market, i don’t send out offers. I have no reason to. The work performed for the client today must persuade tomorrow’s client to look me up. Of those looking for me, very few can become my clients. It’s a pretentious area, each client has particular and unique needs, and requires a lot of attention, a lot of time. If they show sincerity and seriosity, we have the first step. Then, I make the financial offer according to the requested service pack. This is where things sort themselves out the quickest, because I can’t work cheap. Fees are calculated according to the client’s true needs and expectations. This way of negotiating helps me only take on clients who need my skill first and my name second (I really prefer that not to be part of the conversation), clients that understand that I do not sell recipes (the world is full of recipes and recipes salesmen, i prefer not to waste anyone’s time, especially mine), but ways of thinking, perspectives, approaches, and fresh and efficient ways to operate. Besides, I am selling something difficult to quantify because it cannot be put in a spreadsheet: a state of mind that is transmitted to the owner and to the personnel. I started getting good at it only after I realized anybody can pass on a spreadsheet, well, that’s not me. I can’t stand spreadsheets anyway.

Uber is not for me

If you don’t have anything nice to say about something, better keep quiet. On the other hand, if an idea haunts you for a few days in a row, it may be because it wants to be expressed. So here we go: my wife uses Uber every day. Sometimes she takes me along, other times I have no choice but to use this means of transportation. I already had enough experiences to make a short review. I did and it came out negative. The big con was that all my back-and-forths lose any trace of privacy. My going about town leave traces saved in a data base. Of course, the same goes for my mobile phone, but I really don’t feel like giving out my coming and going to anybody. Besides that, I noticed too many similarities between some of the Uber drivers and, let’s say, the Pelican drivers. Meaning, toothpicks in the corner of the mouth, peevishness on the subject of the location, `hey there, how’s the kitchen going’, etc. The human factor tends to level out the different business philosophies behind the various transport services. It’s very possible that the future belongs to car sharing services such as Pony (you take the car from point A, leave it at point B, for a reasonable cost and with no interaction with a car rental service), which doesn’t seem so bad, besides the fact that you moving around is as visible. We are witnessing the dawn of a new age of control and we find it entertaining, that is if we see it. I think I used way too many words before I got to this, but I still don’t like Uber.