Once upon a time, there was a Happy Chef. He was happy because every day he got to do what he loved best in the world, which was cook for his customers. He was so good at cooking, that some say he was, in fact, born to cook. He had dedicated his life to it. He kept his kitchen stocked and fresh, and was prepared to satisfy the desires of every one of his diners. His stove may have been old, but it was hot. His knives may have been worn, but they were sharp. His recipes had not changed for years, but they were delicious. His serving plates were dull and round, but they seldom cracked.
Customers loved to be served by the Happy Chef. They enjoyed being able to come into his restaurant and be served exactly what they wanted by simply asking. They were content not knowing how to prepare Chicken a L’Orange or Beef Wellington or Waldorf Salad or Steak Tartar. After all, this was the Happy Chef’s job, this is what he was best at, and this was what he was born to do.
Then, one bright day, a new young diner entered the Happy Chef’s restaurant. He carried a large bag. People began to whisper, “What could be in this man’s bag? It must be something special for him to have to carry it inside the restaurant!” He did not wait for the maitre d’ to seat him. He chose his own table and immediately opened his bag.
The other diners watched as the man reached into his bag. They ooooo’d when he pulled out a microwave oven and plugged it into the Happy Chef’s wall. They ahhhhh’d as he pulled out a food processor and plugged it in as well. An then, ever so gently, he reached in and pulled out the most beautiful plates that anyone had ever laid eyes on. And the shape! They were square! The other diner’s plates seemed dull and round compared these.
When the waiter arrived, he greeted the new diner warmly and tried to offer him a menu. The new diner refused the menu and proceeded to make his own order. “I would like one head of lettuce, one tomato, an onion, olive oil, and vinegar.” The waiter, eager to serve, took the strange order back to the kitchen and gave it to the Happy Chef who, although perplexed, assembled the items onto a plate for the waiter.
When the waiter returned with the first order, the new diner made a second order. “Bring me cream, tomatoes, and fresh basil.” The waiter returned to the kitchen and gave the order to the Happy Chef. Although, the Happy Chef was just as perplexed as before, he dutifully assemble the ingredients on a plate for the waiter.
It took several trips to complete all the orders for the new diner who was busy the whole time operating his food processor and his microwave oven, and carefully arranging his concoctions onto his beautiful, square plates. The other diners watched in amazement. There was nothing that interesting to do at their tables. All they had to do was eat. And somehow their food did not seem quite as delicious as it did before.
After the new diner finished his meal and cleaned his own table, the Happy Chef delivered the bill himself. He said, “Why didn’t you let me cook for you? Don’t you think I recognize the dishes you are preparing? They are all on the menu. All you have to do is ask.”
The diner, weary from his efforts, replied “Good Chef, I am a very skilled diner, not like the other simple people who dine here. Your oven is old. Your knives are worn. I know exactly how to prepare the dishes that I want, but more importantly I know how to arrange food on my beautiful square plates. Do you know how to arrange food on square plates?”
“Perhaps not. I only serve on round plates.”
The diner’s face broadened into a smug smile.
Then the Chef asked, “If you will not let my Maitre ‘d seat you, if you will not make your order from the menu, if you will not let me cook for you, and you will not let my Bus Boy clean up after you, then, why, good sir, have you paid full-price to eat at my fine restaurant?”
The Picky Diner, having no answer, packed up his bag and left. The Maitre ‘d, the Waiter, the Chef, and the Bus Boy stood watching him leave while the other diners eyed them with dissatisfaction. And the Chef, who had once been very happy, was now very sad.