I was Truly Welcomed!

Southwest Minnesota State University

A long and thoughtful drive back to the Twin Cities

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I am an Engineer by education, a Chef by profession, and a New Orleanian by birth; how does one put into writing an experience as what I witnessed?

I woke up at 4:30am, it took over an hour to shower, dress, and pack. I guess, I just didn't want this to end.  I checked out of the hotel, and did the obligatory scraping of the windshield and windows of the nightly frost and snow.  I planned an extra 10 minutes for this, I have adapted, just like a local.

Then started to slowly head east into the early morning.  The sky was dark, but leading me East was the glow and the impending dawn.  It was cold and lonely.  The road, frost and ever present corn field glistened under the headlights. The sun would not rise for at least an hour, it was very quiet, it was time to think.

It seems like years ago since David asked me if I would want to come up to SMSU to cook for his university, but in reality, only about 6 months ago.  The planning went quickly, time flew. I found myself on a plane, then a car, and in a blink of an eye I was checking out the University.

In the morning, Michael gave me a tour of the disjointed Culinology kitchens and seemingly labyrinth of halls, classrooms, coolers, and offices.  I was lost.  It was time to meet the staff.  I thought I would lead the first staff meeting with strength, direction and professionalism; that didn't happen.  I was a mess.  It was time for my first lecture, I was surprised as to how little the students knew about MY Louisiana.  At that point I felt like a crawfish out of his hole,  I wanted to crawl back. 

But, I was drawn in by the warmth and friendliness of the students and staff.  They truly wanted to learn.  EVERY, I mean EVERY person I met was warm, eager and friendly.  They were confident, everyone wanted to help, everyone wanted to partake; it was infectious, and so I became. 

We cooked, worked, played, drank, ate, taught, laughed and learned.

I would like to say thanks again to everyone, the students and staff, without their help and support nothing would have been accomplished.  And the greatest appreciation goes to Cecelia and David Danahar, without their love and friendship this never would have happened.

Dawn broke, quite slowly, giving way to the ever present corn field. 

Friday night, Wanda left me a beautiful Thank You note. She reminded me that I had mentioned to her I would be leaving on Tuesday morning, heading East and driving through her town of Gaylord,  would she like to meet for coffee.  She accepted.   So, I called, about 7am, YIKES!  We met, had breakfast.  She gave me a packet about her job.  She is a Food Technician with Michael Foods.  SOOOOO, that is why she measures EVERYTHING!!  She had printed out two pictures of me with her daughter, Amanda  and herself.  She touched me more deeply then what I could imagine when she asked for my autograph.   We said goodbye, I drove away.  I know now why that meeting has become some important to me.  It allowed me to say goodbye to everyone at SMSU and to say thanks once more. 

Back into the BEAUTIFUL corn field.......Not so lonely any more!......,










  After breakfast, I left Wanda, turned on the radio and picked up the local station, KFAN dedicated to Sports. The last 90 minutes of my trip was spent listening the sports commentators talking about the Vikings and comparing them to (as THEY said it) the best team in the NFL, my Saints.  I was back home.


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Chef Emile L. Stieffel, Aurora Catering, Inc. email address: ChefEmile@CustomCatering.net
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