Going viral is just the icing on the cake

I've mentioned Coffee within Social Media, so now it's time for cake because this picture has just gone absolutely ballistic on the Twittesphere. 

Chris Holmes resigned from his job with the Border Force so that he could concentrate on his cake making business. The thing is, he wrote the letter ON A CAKE. 

Naturally, he posted a picture of it on his personal Facebook account - who wouldn't? Next thing he knows, it's become an internet sensation. I retweeted his brother-in-law's reaction earlier this morning, but since then it has been picked up by the national press and news sites around the world.

For me, it's a fantastic piece of creativity, but I think the real reason it went viral is because it's such an inspiring story. The idea makes you daydream about jacking in that nine-to-five to chase your dreams. And even if you don't, you still want to root for him because he did in a spectacularly clever and engaging way. 

One thing is for sure, I can't think of a better way to get your cake business off to such a flying start. We wish you every success Mr. Cake. (Oops, looks like that link is down - possibly due to the intense interest it's generated including over 1 million views on Reddit as I post.)

Here's Chris's latest reaction to that err, problem...

This calls for cake, I say!

A shot of St. Patrick's day humour...

I'm about the head out into the rain and drive across from Oxford to Potton on the Bedford/Cambridgeshire border to my Dad's pub The Red Lion in Potton to help out on this St. Patrick's eve. (Hey, could that be a new Clinton Card idea?) He's got a bit of music on and he might dish up a few sausage and chips later if a few quid is spent at the bar. 

Anyone who has met my Dad, tells me he is one of the funniest pub landlords they have met. Personally, I'm kind of immune to a lot of his musings since I've grown up with the stress, hangovers, late nights, early starts, social sacrifices, rows, financial woes and general pointlessness of chatting to that lone regular in an otherwise empty pub as he sups pints all afternoon while talking sh!te until finally his hunger, his wife or his wallet interjects and gives him reason to go home. My Dad's favourite kind of customer as it happens.

Still, in the spirit of our Irish weekend, here are three classics from Tom Kilroy's 'funny moment' repertoire:

*Anouncement from the Bar...*
"A roll of money wrapped in an elastic band has been handed in at the bar.
*Pub goes quiet*
"I repeat, a roll of money wrapped in an elastic band has been handed in at the bar."
 *People looking at each other wondering who lost a roll of money*
"Anyone who has lost a roll of money wrapped in an elastic band, please make your way to the bar where you can collect your elastic band."

When a fight broke out in the Gloucester Irish Club where Dad was the Steward back in the 80's, one of the committee members ran up the stairs and asked him to sort it out. The story goes that he jumped behind the curtain to hide, only to peak out with the immortal words

"Sort it? Jaysus, I come from a long line of cowards you know!"

When I was about 8 years old and standing behind the bar one afternoon while Dad had his dinner (we call it lunch in today's parlance) during the annual budget announcement on TV at the time. As soon as a customer came in (that same bloody regular!), I called up the stairs and Dad came down to serve him. Pouring the pint of Guinness, 
Dad broke the silence with the opening gambit of:
"Were you watching the budget? Ah now, it's gettin' outta hand. I see they're putting the price of food up by 10p a pint..."

Happy St. Patrick's Day to you all!

Let me leave you with this very funny video made by Neil and the lads at the Hop Inn Pub in Athenry. It coincided with the visit by President Obama to Ireland to celebrate his Irish roots... I love the queue of cars down the street patiently waiting for the filming to finish. How they think of them..

A Leader who knows his Onions

A colleague of mine recently had to give a short presentation which involved describing a leader that inspired her, but using food as the analogy to describe that leadership inspiration. Her challenge caught my imagination and we had an interesting discussion about it. As we are in the catering sector, the humble onion is one ingredient that gets overlooked in our business and yet underpins so much of what we produce from our kitchen. With that in mind, here is a leadership analogy that might just work for you.

An onion packs lots of character despite its size. 
And like a true leader, this appearance belies an unflinching willpower that’s fueled by passion. (Be careful of the smaller ones, they tend to have more bite!)

If you cut an onion open during a meeting, it’s aroma will definitely stand out.
… and this ability to ‘stand out from the crowd’  and leaving that memorable impression is what turns a good leader into a great one. 

However, the same onion has a harmonizing effect when cut within a kitchen.
Skilled leaders create harmony and team spirit by motivating the people around them.

Sometimes the humble onion leads from the front - just look at French Onion Soup. 
- true leaders don’t shy away from situations that others might find very challenging.

And in other recipes the onion leads from behind by bringing out the best in other flavours.
Through empathy, influence and skillful maneuvering, a smart leader can energise the team to raise their game. 
Onions add bite & texture when thrown in a salad, but cooked down in a sauce they add sweetness. 
Different challenges have diverse paths to a solution requiring the canny leader to think outside the box and encourage the team to explore those paths.

Cutting across an onion reveals a number of rings - symbols of both strength and continuity. 
Like great leadership, these represent new experiences or challenges, with one bigger than the last.

And as any search on leadership will tell you, an onion - just like our proverbial leader - is made up of many layers. 
For me, each layer represents a chapter in our experience that moulds us into the type of leader we are today.
As for stripping them away, you might think there will be nothing left. But paradoxically, I believe we are left with ‘everything else’. Put simpIy, the leaders who shaped our early behaviours, continue to influence our decisions today. So it is vital to seek out - and offer - great leadership!
If nurtured under the right conditions, an onion can be cultivated to produce a future crop. 
This can also be said of true leadership skill. Be that manager, mentor or coach.

One final point about the humble onion: 
like any great leader, they also have the potential to move you to tears.

Long Time No See

During a very difficult service on a cold January evening years ago, we found ourselves very short of dining tables in the warmth and cosiness of our Dining Room. The next morning I set about rearranging the tables to create more space. Through trial and error, we managed to accommodate 72 covers where only 56 could sit previously. As I stood back to admire the row of romantic looking tables-for-two along the window (overlooking the waterfall), I recounted to the waiters a situation I was reminded of during a Lunch at The Savoy Hotel’s iconic River Room...

.... On arrival, my host shook hands with the Manager on reception and passed him a rather substantial tip while politely requesting a table by one of the main windows. Gracefully accepting the generous incentive, the Manager glanced at his diary and loudly announced as if to an old friend “Aahh Mr. Cooper; long time no see.” This was quite amusing as he had never been before.  Swiftly we were lead into the famous dining room where the ritual was repeated with our Head Waiter. Graciously he promptly offered a chair at one of the highly-coveted window tables and proclaimed; “Mr. Cooper... your usual table!”
Later that evening as I stood surveying our readiness for service, I watched two very tall Australian tourists who had obviously wandered in for the first time out of curiosity and couldn’t decide whether to stay or move on. Immediately they were greeted enthusiastically by one of my smallest waiters; “Namaste Gentlemen... Long time no see!”
Humoured by his remark they browsed the menu and ventured in further to have a look around. With seating for 300 covers available, the wily waiter urged them to just enjoy a beer at any table of their choosing... in the garden... in the bar... in the dining room.... or perhaps on the terrace. Eventually they relented and chose - quite randomly - a table outside on the terrace.
“Aahh,” he said pulling out a chair for them, “your usual table.”
(And over the next three nights of their vacation, it was.)