Charlie Rose was an interesting choice as the Keynote speaker for the National Restaurant Association show. But, when you think about it, it makes sense. After all, who else has questioned so many chefs on national TV? Rose has made it a frequent segment on his show ever since he first grouped a handful of well-known chefs in a room. . .and made them better known.
He held the room for more than an hour, weaving in his own experiences with food and with chefs as part of the story. His presentation stream, though, was all about being in the â€˜question business.â€™
And, he said, he has learned over the years that â€˜chefs like to talk.â€™ He equated the work of a chef to a conductor: â€˜It’s like being the leader of the team. You make the symphony happen.â€™
And, he talked about going to restaurants, saying, â€˜The experience is the food, but it’s other thingsâ€”it’s more than good food.â€™ For example, he recalled one guest who told him, â€˜When I walk into a restaurant, I tell them, Ã¢â‚¬ËœI’m here to have a good time.’â€™
Rose went on to remind operators, in the nicest possible way, not to take their customers for granted, and that â€˜simplicity is the hardest thing to execute.â€™
In a surprise moveâ€”although he’d been leading up to it ever since the beginning of his speech, when he talked about Chef Rick Bayless cooking for the State Dinner when the Mexican delegation visited the White Houseâ€”Rose brought Bayless out on stage and conducted a mini-interview.
He asked some not-so-delicate questions, too, such as why was Mexican food served at the White House? Bayless responded, â€˜American cuisine isn’t just something that’s been inspired by European influences.â€™ He added, â€˜We expressed the spirit of Mexican foods with some great American products.â€™
Rose asked Bayless one of his thought-provoking questions: â€˜What would you choose for your last meal?â€™
Bayless responded, â€˜I love meals that are great celebrations. That said, I’d probably choose lamb that was marinated and put into a pit in my backyard, with some fresh tortillas and a good salsa.â€™
After Bayless left the stage, Rose went on to talk about the power of the interview. â€˜Curiosity has led people to places they never knew they could go until they tried and experimented,â€™ he said. â€˜Make curiosity your closest friend.â€™
He talked about â€˜access to informationâ€™ in the technology age, and cautioned, â€˜Information becomes entertainment rather than a tool to go further to see the connectionsâ€”to become empowered.â€™
With a significant number of video clips accompanying him, the session was a delightful journey through the interviews of Charlie Rose. As he said, â€˜See what happens at our table?â€™
And the challenge for all in the room was implicit: What is happening at yours?