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Presentation Matters

August 24, 2012 at 9:00 AM

My husband Frank and I have a favorite luncheon spot in Seattle. Chinooks is a large, popular, family-style, seafood restaurant that overlooks Fisherman’s Bay with a great panorama of the water and working fishing boats.  We’ve been frequenting the place for many years and have never been disappointed. We know some of the servers who have worked there for a long time, and we enjoy conversing with them. We usually sit on stools at the salad bar counter where we have a close-up view of the preparation of all salads and desserts for the restaurant. Our most recent visit in mid-summer got me thinking about how important a thoughtful, and beautiful presentation is for enhancing enjoyment, satisfaction, and worth in whatever we do and for whomever we do it—even in a large organization.

Every salad at Chinooks is individually crafted. That is, even if there are multiple orders for the same salad, the chef on duty carefully makes and mixes them one at a time. All ingredients and resources are first rate. Every lettuce leaf and avocado slice is perfect—in freshness, crispness, and appearance. The amount of dressing applied is just right—never too little or too much. And you can have your salad any way you want it.  Lots of choice within structure here. Without hassle or fuss, you can add or subtract any item that’s usually included—or not—and make any changes that suit your whim. And, always, service is with a smile. 

As for the desserts, we always indulge, because the desserts look gorgeous and taste out-of-this-world. Every dessert is made on the premises using the freshest, seasonal berries and fruits from local farms. Nothing canned here. Only real whipped cream and fruits in season are allowed. If it’s May, rhubarb desserts are featured. In June, it’s strawberries, and In July and August it’s all kinds of berries—raspberries, blueberries, marionberries, blackberries. Raspberries were featured the day we were there, and we personalized the kitchen’s key lime pie with luscious raspberry sauce, topped by assorted fresh berries added to the usual preparation of pie with whipped cream. We watched as the cook carefully cut a slice of pie and made it look beautiful with all the toppings, a sprig of mint, and a curled zest of lime on the side, and then appraised the creation and wiped any excess from the plate’s rim. We’ve eaten at a lot of restaurants over the years, and I’m a tough critic when it comes to fruit pies, tarts, and shortcakes. This is a large chain restaurant, and yet their desserts are the best we’ve had anywhere. 

As I watched the cooks carefully preparing and crafting the salads and desserts, I thought a lot about how individualized presentation impacts how we perceive quality and satisfaction. I thought about school starting soon and how important it is to present ourselves and our classrooms to students and their families in a welcoming and flexible manner. Even though the schools and districts we work in may be large organizations, like the restaurant, we can design our offerings in an intimate, personal way-- one school, one classroom, and one student at a time. For example, we can have attractive and well-organized welcoming messages and brochures to greet visitors to our schools and classrooms. We can structure our schools and classrooms physically and emotionally in a way that makes students, families, and teachers feel cared for and valued. We can set up the initial framework but allow and encourage choices and participation within that structure—with seating, bulletin boards, classroom libraries, routines, and how the classroom and school functions on a daily basis. Most important, within our realm, we can personalize learning so students willingly return year after year, knowing they will be served up the best we have to offer—every day, to each and every one of them.

Category: My Thinking

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