Chow Town

When things don’t turn out as planned, search for an alternate happy ending

Banh Mi pizza
Banh Mi pizza Special to The Star

It's funny how life just seems to have a way of working things out. Or at least I like to think so.

Earlier this year, my wife, Gay, and I were supposed to perform a pizza demonstration at large event in Union Station. All week long we prepped ingredients and made several batches of dough that needed days to cold ferment.

But when we got to the event, there was a bit of a hiccup: Wires got crossed and a health department permit didn't get obtained for us, so we couldn’t do the demo.

Most people would get mad. But, that's just not really my style. I believe that you have a choice if you want to be happy, sad or upset. And after all, we were just making pizza here. Food should be fun.

As we packed up our gear and started to head home, I was trying to figure out what we could do with all this pizza dough. Then it hit me: Who would appreciate it if we cooked for them right now? How about people who spend 16-plus hours a day prepping and cooking food for us, and the rest of the public? I turned to Gay and said, “Let’s go over to The Rieger and cook family meal for them.”

We drove the few blocks north on Main from Union Station to the restaurant. I checked with management about the impromptu family meal idea. They were all in.

We set up in a corner of the already bustling kitchen and started stretching and topping doughs. One by one as the staff came by and saw us, you could hear and feel the excitement mounting.

"Oh man, pizza!" "Yeah!" "We love you guys!" were a few of the comments that we heard as we were prepping. There's something very sweet and endearing about hearing a bunch of 20-somethings sounding like they are 11 years old again. They, of course, loved and devoured the pizzas.

The bottom line was that that day’s “bungled event” gave us the chance to give back to the folks that are usually cooking their hearts out and serving us. I've cooked for a lot of people before, but never a crowd that that was this appreciative for such a simple meal. Gay and I are very lucky to not only know this crew but consider them part of our family.

I know most people in our situation would have just gone home, grumbling. But I’m glad that we took the opportunity to cook for these hard working young adults. I can tell you that the joy and happiness that we experienced will live in our hearts for years to come. It really feels good to do something for someone else, especially when they are not expecting it.

And that’s why I tell you this story. We all have situations that don’t work out as expected. But instead of dwelling on the negative, figure out a way to enhance another person’s experience. Cooking for someone else is just one example, but it could be any number of things. Even a simple act that focuses on someone else can make you feel better, too. And before you know it, the negative situation has passed, transformed. Try it sometime. You have the power. Live, love, enjoy.

Craig Jones is a live-fire cooking expert, the Grill Mayor for Food Network (2012), and owner of Savory Addictions Gourmet Nuts. He’s also a certified KCBS BBQ judge, a student of pizza crafting and an enthusiastic supporter of the greater Kansas City food scene.