My obsessions are few, but sound. The newest one dates two years back and is aimed at the relationship between the service provider and the customer, with both ends active. I’m a service provider, but most often I’m a customer. In both roles I went through frustrations, more or less annoying, from which I learned a very important thing: the customer isn’t always right, but he’d like to be. This is a very costly attitude since, in reality, it’s far more important to fix your problem than to be right. As a provider, I went through a few situations where I felt like telling the customer that he’s an… that he’s wrong. I never did it for a clear reason: unsatisfied people are actually unhappy people, so unhappy that their dissatisfaction is as genuine as it gets, no matter how imaginary it may seem to those around. And unhappiness cannot be defeated by negativity, but to tell a man who wants to be right that he is not, this extends a conflict from which nobody has anything to gain. This doesn’t mean that you should bow your head when your customer has unreasonable requests or disproportionate reactions. It’s worth more being firm, clear-cut, even polite because sarcasm is not for everybody. And do not forget that people who give other people a hard time they themselves lead a hard life. Of course, you are responsible for it, but you don’t have to become it.
Once upon a time, there was a statue made of terracotta. It’s probably a replica of one of the warriors of the famous terracotta army unearthed in China. The statue I’m talking about has a stormy history, in the sense that it already changed three heads since it’s been placed in front of the Hufendorf house that it should be guarding. OK, but where do terracotta heads go when they go? Nobody knows. Thing is: people at Huf Haus often throw parties in their showroom houses, to reunite the clients who already bought a Huf Haus with potential clients, which is very intelligent. Well, after such a party, the statue wakes up in the morning with a terrible and incurable headache, since nobody seems to find its head to administer it an aspirin.
Some 45 years ago, the place was a petrol station where truck drivers stopped on their way to France which was less than 500 meters away on the road crossing what today is Léa Linster, Cuisiniere restaurant, in Frisange, Luxembourg. The restaurant earned a star in the Michelin guide in 1987, and two years later, Léa won the Bocuse d’Or award, being the first woman to win this contest, a big deal in an era where the Chef’s world despised women a bit (but just a bit) more than today.
Léa is 61 and has a heart as big as Luxembourg, leaving some room for the guests too. I dined in her restaurant two days ago, simple and delicious food, as pleasant as a hug you’ve been wanting for a long time. The menu underwent small and few changes in the past 20 years, really proving that sometimes it’s not the case. The treat from the restaurant continued the following day in her house between the vines, a Huf Haus built on a wooden frame, with huge windows and a dizzying-calming panorama.
Her house was built by Huf Haus 21 years ago on the site of an old cabin. It looks the same as in the year of its building, impeccable, seductive, warm. It is imbibed in Léa’s good karma, karma which we managed to share since one of the Huf Haus company managers has been friends with Léa for over 40 years.
My visit to the small village of Hufendorf of Hartenfels made up of Huf houses ended with the modesty, passion and love lesson this lady gave me. And with a cooking lesson, conveyed in such a simple, direct and strong way that I feel it changed me in a way that can only be positive to those who will be tasting my food henceforth. While talking to Léa about techniques and how you can help a lesser quality ingredient, she offered me this perspective: `if you have a carrot that’s not good enough, you’re better off cooking a tomato`.
It’s a simple and genius way of saying that a chef has no excuse, no reason to cook with a subpar ingredient, but he always has a different option, which is at the same time an obligation towards his own art: to always look for the best ingredient and allow himself to be guided by it. The same thing is valid for those building planes, houses, ovens, should they strive for excellence.