Image © Star Inn at Sparsholt
It was a chance encounter. I had been walking with a friend and we had decided to have a pub lunch together. Not knowing the area, we had searched for a suitable pub in our vicinity and using the satellite navigation in the car we were directed to a pub that was just half a mile away. We’d never have found it by chance, as it was hidden in a dead-end road.
What we found was a fabulous establishment with a menu that promised an extraordinary lunch. There were just five main course options and a similar number of starters. We both chose the sirloin steak, rare. It came with chips, mushroom duxelles and an onion ‘briquette’. Just this last item alone sounded intriguing. I perused the wine list and saw that there was a limited choice of good wines at fair prices. When the steaks arrived, they were perfectly cooked along with perhaps eight or nine triple-cooked short chips. The quality, not quantity, on the plate, heightened the anticipation of the experience of this fabulous food.
We were not disappointed. The steak was extraordinary flavoured and lovingly cooked to perfection. The small brick-shaped parcel of beautifully caramelised onions encased in a crispy shell was masterful, and the mushrooms provided a delicate counterpoint to the flavour of the meat. Our chosen wine was a perfect match, too.
Then we came to desserts. Recommended was a soufflé served with salted caramel ice cream and sticky toffee sauce. Too tempting to refuse. It too was terrific. It had obviously been freshly cooked to order. The soufflé was light and airy. The salted caramel ice cream was a perfect foil, and the sticky toffee sauce was to die for. Everything was a masterful piece of cookery. (If you want to find this great place it is The Star Inn in Sparsholt – http://www.thestarsparsholt.co.uk)
During lunch, we got to discuss the nature of their Mastery. For one thing, the menu did not pretend that the chefs could prepare hundreds of different meals in a multitude of different ways. There are, of course, plenty of good, honest restaurants that provide a wide range of choices. A few who have many chefs will delight even with a large menu, but generally a wide range of choices equates to acceptable, but somewhat ‘ordinary’. It’s practical, not masterful. By focusing on a few signature dishes, the chef at the Star has honed, developed and created something of his own. It’s remarkable, and the news will spread as a result.
That’s not just true in the restaurant profession. It is true in every market and can be true for every business. Are you focusing on what you can do extraordinarily well? Are you honing it? Making it your own? Being the Master of what you do?
Doing that is the core of what Intentional Mastery is, in a nutshell – or a soufflé dish!