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Work-Life Recharge 18 – A Conversation with Chef Michael Noble

“If you feel like there’s something out there that you’re supposed to be doing, if you have a passion for it, then stop wishing and just do it.”

~ Wanda Sykes

This week I had the pleasure of talking with someone who is clearly passionate about their work, and it’s made a positive impact on the rest of his life. It got me thinking how important it is to do the things that inspire you. What do you do to feed your passion?

This week’s Work-Life Recharge video shares an inspiring conversation with Chef Michael Noble. Watch the video at the end of this blog, or if you prefer, you can read the whole interview right here.

Michael: I am chef proprietor of two restaurants here in Calgary, NOtaBLE – The Restaurant, where we are right now, and The Nash Restaurant & Off Cut Bar. I’ve been a chef since I was 18 years old and I’m now 55.

Michelle: What inspired you to get into the culinary world?

Michael: One thing I knew for sure is that I wasn’t going to go to university and be an academic. I had this problem staying awake in math. I could do math but I just didn’t like it. I was very athletic as a young person, and so I think I was naturally drawn to something competitive on my feet and like always challenging, because every night in a restaurant is a challenge. Every day is different. So that’s really what inspires me and fuels me.

Michelle: So what do you love about your work?

Michael: I love the people. It’s really a people business. We just happen to serve food and beverage. I love interacting with guests. I love to get to know people. I love having fun with my team. I love mentoring and inspiring the members of my kitchen, whether they’d be brand new or whether they’d be my executive chef. It’s really a dream job for me like there’s nothing I hate about it, actually.

Michelle: So you’ve mentored a lot of young chefs over the years. Why is mentorship so important to you?

Michael: Mentorship is so important to me because it’s really how I get to give back. A lot of chefs gave me a lot of experience and knowledge, and a lot of ideas and encouragement. Even when I wanted to give up, my mentor Bruno Marti said, “Don’t quit. We need more great chefs like you in the business.”

And so I want to give back because when I’m all done being a chef, I want to still see that being a chef is a great profession that a lot of amazing people are still doing it. And you know what? By then, I’ll have more time to dine out and I’ll be able to go to some excellent restaurants.

Michelle: What do you think has been the secret to your success?

Michael: The secret to my success is that I’ve never ever been bored in this business. Every time I felt like I plateaued, I either move on to a new place or I just challenge myself a little more. And to be constantly inspired and entertained and engaged in whatever we do, whether chefing or just being a parent, I think that’s really the key.

When I come back from my vacation, I’m as excited as the day before I leave on my vacation. And for me, that’s an amazing measure of, “Am I really doing what I should be in my life?”

Michelle: How important is your health in your quest for success and happiness?

Michael: The older I get, and the longer I’ve been in this industry, the more I realize how important health and balance and all of those things are to longevity in this business. There was a time that I actually sacrificed my own personal happiness in my quest for being a great chef.

Do I regret that? At some levels I do because I wish I had more time with my kids when they were younger. I wish I could have gone on more trips with my ex-wife when we were together. I wish that I could have taken time to do other things. And so I really preach balance to my people now. I don’t want them working 60 hours in a week. I want them working 45 to 52 because I want them to have that balance. So that when they come to work, they’re actually feeling fresh and inspired, and not burnt out, that they’re bringing all the energy that they can into the restaurant.

Michelle: So what do you do to recharge?

Michael: So for myself personally, I have a couple of disciplines actually. I learned that meditation is really an important part of everyday for me. If I can start my day in a very calm sort of focused place, I find that really extends out into my day.

The other thing for me is physical fitness. So again, I’ve given that up at certain points in my career and then noticed, “Wow, I have less energy. I have less good ideas. I’m kind of less inspired. I’m kind of cranky.” I think that physical fitness translates into mental fitness and that allows me to be on my game, lots of energy and that my staff, my team really sees me that way. I’m not making it up, I’m just that way.

Michelle: Why do you love your life?

Michael: I love my life because I have that great balance. I love my life because I’m doing something that is really aligned with my purpose. When I think about the question, “Why I’m here on Earth?” it’s not to be a restaurateur actually. My purpose is to spread more love into the world. I just happen to do it by replenishing someone with a delicious meal, by inspiring a young cook with a moment over the stove showing them how to make beautiful risotto. By sitting down and almost having a fatherly-like conversation with someone because I can see that that what’s holding them back… it has nothing to do with cooking. It might have something to do with the relationship with their father, with their partner, or even that they’re struggling being a father. So that’s the thing that I think is really important.

Michelle: What does the word “passion” mean to you?

Michael: Passion is an interesting word because at many levels nowadays, it’s that buzz word that’s almost beaten to death. But I know that I discovered passion at a very young age. I found something that I didn’t question. I get emotional when I think about it, but it gives me fuel. And the minute I get up in the day, I’m excited. And I get to take that and share that with other people. For me, that really is what defines passion.

Michelle: Anything else that you want to share?

Michael: The other thing that I want to share is that I really hope that more people can discover what their passion is, and I hope that more young people discover the culinary profession for everything that it can be. And also, that as a society,  it’s okay to take the time to learn how to master something in order to be really good at it. We are so fueled nowadays by instant gratification that we often overlook important gratification which is the thing that sometimes takes 10,000 hours to get.

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