Frank Chen

Frank Chen

email newsletter #2

year in review, unreasonable hospitality, travel tech

year in review

I've been writing my 2022 year in review. It's taken a month and a bunch of edits to finally be in a place where I can start sharing it. I'm on a quest to improve my writing, so feel free to respond with any feedback. I hope folks can get some actionable takeaways from it.

unreasonable hospitality

Unreasonable Hospitality by Will Guidara. This book comes at a very opportune time after my stint at Birdsong SF. It tells the story of how Eleven Madison Park achieved 3 Michelin stars and became the best restaurant in the world after a decade of hard work. I'd say it's actually a broadly applicable book about leadership.

You might be wondering what that means. Here's a preview concept:

One night during service, Will [overhears] four guests crowing about the culinary adventures [they] had in New York: "We've been everywhere! Daniel, Per Se, Momofuku, now Eleven Madison Park. The only thing we didn't eat was a street hot dog."

If you'd been in the dining room that day, you'd have seen an animated bulb appear over my head, like in a cartoon. I dropped the dirty dishes off in the kitchen and ran out to buy a hot dog from Abraham, who manned the Sabrett's cart on our corner.

Then the hard part: I brought the hot dog back to the kitchen and asked Daniel to plate it. He looked at me like I'd gone crazy. I was always trying to push the boundaries, but serving what New Yorkers call a dirty-water dog at a four-star restaurant? I held my ground and told him to trust me - that it was important to me - and he finally agreed to cut the hot dog into four perfect pieces, adding a swoosh of mustard, a swoosh of ketchup, and perfect quenelles of sauerkraut and relish to each plate.

Before we brought out their final savory course, I admitted to the guests that I'd been eavesdropping: "We're thrilled you chose us for your last meal in New York, but we didn't want you to go home with any culinary regrets," I said, as the kitchen servers set the artistically plated hot dog sections down at each place.

They freaked out ... before they left, each person at the table told me it was the highlight not only of the meal, but of their trip to New York. They'd be telling the story for the rest of their lives.

I'll let you draw your own conclusions on how you might apply this in a broader leadership context, but for me, the takeaway was that being observant, going over the top, and creating experiences that garner unforgettable feelings can be a powerful tool.

chefs table

Not much actually. I'm currently finishing up the Chef's Table Pizza series. Most of it is videography of a bunch of chefs slinging pizzas in sexy slow motion shots as if they're having a snowball fight in the middle of winter.

travel tech

Flykitt by Fount. It looks like a pre-prepared kit that helps you avoid jet lag when traveling. It kind of looks like the app Timeshifter, except that Flykitt actually provides you some of the supplements to take at predetermined times. I'm thinking of trying this for my next trip.

random idea

Video-giphy checklist. I capture snippets of jiujitsu movements that I want to test out. I also set arbitrary goals every training session (e.g "hit this movement 3 times in this position"). Having a live-action checklist where the movement is playing over and over again next to the goal seems like a helpful training handicap.

quote of the week

"When we're talking, we hop from thought to thought. But writing asks us to freeze our thoughts, which is why it's such an effective way to improve our thinking. Writing is useful precisely because it's difficult." - David Perell