So last night I watched this Chinese movie, Cook Up A Storm, and while I am not exactly recommending it as amazing, it did make me think. It is a classic story of a street chef cooking classic Chinese soul food squaring off against a Michelin-starred chef reinventing Chinese dishes through molecular gastronomy. After all the plot twists, the street chef wins, in the same way that Remi in Ratatouie wins, by cooking simple food that appeals to our heart and our memories, that evokes our past. More to the point, in winning, the street chef saves his family's restaurant in a historic neighborhood that is threatened by gentrification. The restaurant is a landmark in the neighborhood, providing excellent, affordable food. It is a hub of the community.
Okay, so this silly, cliche movie (in all fairness, I love silly, cliche movies) made me realize that I want to be like this neighborhood restaurant with my spoons. I guess I already am with my Christmas tree farm (sixty years, family traditions, low prices), but I want to be that way with my spoons, and it is more complicated because the spoons are an online phenomenon. What does it mean to serve your community in that context? What does providing excellent, affordable craftsmanship look like? What does this look like after five years? Ten? Thirty?
One thing is clear to me. I don't want to keep raising my prices to drive down demand. I want to find a way to meet demand, and for awhile at least, I should be able to do that by using a waiting list and increasing the hours I devote to this and becoming more efficient. But sooner or later there will come a time when I max out the practicality of these measures, and the temptation will be to turn into the molecular gastronomy. And I don't want to become that. I am the bowl of noodles. I am the fried rice.
So it may be that in the future I hire someone. Maybe I take on an apprentice. Maybe I diversify into teaching or writing more. Probably all of these things and more will be true. I see this business, more and more, as a service, bringing beauty and utility and functionality into people's lives. People need to cook. I help with that. That is and always will be the bottom line.
My blog has evolved into a series of short essays on the nature of entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, and their overlap. If either of these topics is something you think about, you will probably like this.