As we wake on the morning of A level results day, a melting pot of emotions for students, parents and teachers alike, I thought I would swim against the stream and blog about something completely irrelevant to those of you who have anxiously lost sleep over key stage five grades. Apologies if you were looking for solace in my post, however, I do hope it will come as some light relief to a day of monotonous headlines. I have decided that my blog today will be about food; that’s correct, food, not a scrap to do with results. More specifically, how the art of oratory made a meal into an unforgettable experience! Before you think that you’ve happened upon Nigella’s blog by mistake and decide to click on the next cat meme going on in the background of your Facebook page in the other window, don’t give up heart, read on.
On Tuesday, I was extremely fortunate enough to visit Simon Rogan’s brainchild, l’Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria. The reputation of the food in this establishment is one of mythical proportions and is not gained lightly. L’Enclume boasts some of the best and most skilled chefs in the country; the produce they use is local and fresh; the menus are creative and unique, and, as a result of this, no two dining adventures are the same. Every mouthful from start to finish was a truly overwhelming experience (the final “surprise” birthday course actually brought me to tears) but the food is not the reason why I write today.
What was most impressive about the whole culinary journey that we undertook with the team, was the ability of the staff to work synergically with each other and the guests to create something beyond that of fine dining and the fact that all of the front of house ambassadors were accomplished orators, despite an average age among them of about 25 years old. My dining partner and I observed how Sam, James and Charlie skilfully used the three musketeers of oratory pathos, logos and ethos to make the patrons feel at ease in the unassuming surroundings as well as to convince the punters that they were going to have the best meal of their lives. Most notable in the rhetoric that these young men used, who exuded good character, was their ability to persuade. I watched them glide from table to table encouraging discerning diners to try dishes that they would not normally have felt confident in venturing to do, to sample wines which were against their uneducated experience and to change the pace in which their food was delivered to suit both the chefs and the patrons themselves. Their passion for the food and drink they were serving; their love of their work and utter dedication to providing the best service possible made the meal an experience, akin to one of a theatrical performance that evoked a spectrum of emotions in the people who were on the receiving end of their efforts.
At no point did I want to know about the A level results, degree classification or institution in which these accomplished orators had studied. However, what was starkly evident was that the education they had experienced had given them the skills to talk to people. Their schooling had given them the confidence to develop pathos, logos and ethos with their audience using beautifully persuasive lines such as; “Yes, you are right. goats’ cheese is disgusting, horrible stuff, I too used to detest it myself until this beauty changed my mind. I urge you to challenge yourself not to be converted by it” and “I agree you shouldn’t eat cute animals but do you know how ugly and unkind ginuea fowl is? It bullies all of the other animals. Tasty, but a very nasty bird. You’ll be doing the others a favour trying it!” What had also happened somewhere along the line is that their education had encouraged them to be lifelong learners and to become experts in something they loved, something that GCSE and A level examinations tend to discourage in young people. There is no GCSE in the knowledge of world teas or in the art of wine tasting (and I wouldn’t encourage it at such a young age) but these young adventurers were equipped to learn beyond school; they gave the appearance of good character and showed respect for everyone in the room which had to be rooted from somewhere. Their training at l’enclume will have polished their performances, but the foundations had clearly been laid years before and is that not what we long for in the children we teach? Their emotional intelligence went beyond the scope of any paper qualification and equipped them to quickly gain the trust of the patrons, develop instant rapport across a wide audience from a variety of backgrounds and their attention to detail, wit and charm made them instantly likeable; which are attributes that are arguably much more useful in life after formal education. On a very personal level, the staff at l’Enclume made my experience unforgettable, their oratory made magnificent food into a spectacular culinary adventure, but on a professional level, their use of rhetoric was a delight and reminded me just how important the life lessons, softer skills and knowledge that we impart onto our students are than the grades that they get along the way. So today people, I urge you not to get hung up on results whatever your part to play in the whole scary process and look at the long term. Have you experienced/delivered a rounded education that has opened doors or one that has ticked all the boxes but not nurtured the soul? Either way, bread and circuses can offer a welcome distraction from the roller coaster of emotions you may be experiencing, so make sure you set time aside to treat yourself and see that there’s more to life.