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The Chef & The Barista

Some friends just opened a coffee shop not far from my house, so I’ve been trying to support/loiter as much as possible in recent days. The place looks spectacular, the coffee tastes wonderful and I can still get a considerable level of work done in such a friendly (both for my social life and laptop) environment. But there’s something at work today that’s inspiring on an entirely different level.

One thing to know about the coffee shop is that they pride themselves to the highest degree on the quality. I don’t mean using good coffee, because that’s a given. I mean, it’s making sure to pour latte art with every drink. They constantly test the quality of their own product through cupping and use chemic sets and other coffee nerdery to make this an exact science. From content to execution, it’s watching true masters at work and the awards speak for themselves, as a few of the baristas have finished in the Top 10 nationally a few times.

So back to my inspiring day. A culinary school is next door to the coffee shop, and today a mustachioed man is standing in front of me talking to the head barista here. They’re trading “shop talk” if you will about their craft. The man’s barbecue was apparently the substance of lunch, and everyone’s buzzing about the recipe. He’s been telling his secrets for the last four or five minutes, describing the smoker, the sauce, the timing. Then the chef wants to know about the coffee, so the barista fires back – the exact temperature, the acidity, the timing.

I realize I’m watching two artists describe their work. It’s like overhearing a conversation in an art gallery or at a music festival. Here, these men are taking such pride in the work of their hands and it’s to the point where others can notice, others can tell a difference between what others around them offer and what happens when they are at the helm. And sitting here trying to write, it’s a reminder to me that my deepest desire is not to churn out yet another article, but to somehow inhabit it at a level that others take notice.


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