Vive la Différence
17th Edition May 2012
It was in Paris at the Sorbonne almost 85 years ago A Grand Gentleman, Auguste Escoffier, became the Honorable President of a fledgling European society. This society was destined to grow and expand onto all continents and be known, as it is today, as The World Association of Cooks Societies.
Last weekend, the 35th WACS World Congress wrapped up in Daejeon, South Korea. Our colleagues, members of the Korea Cooks Association were splendid hosts to the many hundreds of delegates from far-flung countries. The podiums were overflowing with Key Note Speakers. The delegates were entertained, educated and surely inspired and motivated anew during these five days.
Subsequent to the 1928 congress at the Sorbonne there have been 15 biannual congresses held in Europe with a suspension of the gatherings due to the outbreak of WWII. In 1970, a gallant gang of Canadian chefs headed to Budapest to attend the 14th Word Congress. Their mission: "To hijack the 16th WACS World Congress from their European colleagues and bring it to Canada".
They had a devilish strategy. During their presentation they obviously extoled on the beauties and benefits of Canada as a desirable destination for the Congress. Then they played their master card; from the back of the auditorium up popped two Canadian chefs each carrying a dozen white Stetson cowboy hats. They moved through the audience and presented one to the leader of each national delegation. The Canadians then pronounced that each delegate and their spouse who attended the 16th Congress would receive a similar cowboy hat.
The rest was history. The 1974 WACS World Congress was held in Banff, Alberta. Close to 700 delegates and spouses attended. No longer was WACS a Eurocentric organization. It had truly become a Global Association.
I have attended three WACS World Congresses: 1984 Orlando, Florida; 1990 Singapore and 1994 Stavanger, Norway. In addition, I was also a participant in the 'First World Cooks Tour Against Hunger' in South Africa 1993; this seminal event was as impacting as any congress I have attended.
Many of us will have observed conventions and congresses where the participants have been guests at our hotels or resorts. I have been wondering what sets us chefs apart from other associations and groups, if anything indeed does. Would we, as an example, be at home in a gathering of NFL or NHL or similar sports groups? I am thinking that we may be intimidated because of our diminutive size. I am thinking that we would have an aversion to their daily diet of carbohydrates and the driving needs of their abundant testosterone. I think perhaps that we would be more at home with the company of international rugby teams. After all, like most good chefs, rugby players are known to enjoy a pint or two of beer in moderation!
How are we different? We can claim that when chefs gather there is an atmosphere of camaraderie and good will. Yes, but those attributes are not singular to chefs alone. How about our team spirit and sense of oneness? Again not an exclusive attribute of chefs alone. Okay as leaders, we know how to build rapport. Good, but building rapport is a primary aspect of group communications; we cannot patent that.
When 'us chefs' get together it feels special. God, please do not try to tell me that we are no different from gatherings of doctors or lawyers or stockbrokers. Relax pal and just look at the way that you dress. Now that is different. Right?
I am inclined to think that it is not important to be different. What is important is to know that you are valued.
Our Board of Directors has just dedicated themselves anew to our service. Coming out of the World Congress, we should be reminded of the convening strength of the WACS family friendship. It is relevant to recognize the great advances that have been made since that day at the Sorbonne in 1928.
As Robinson Caruso must have once said to his lone companion, 'we have come a long way Friday'.
N.B. Please follow the link below to the Champchefs Hall of Fame and meet the new WACS Champions.
Champchefs Hall of Fame