As a part of the Alan Wong’s Team, we are blessed with a lot of different kinds of opportunities.  Yesterday, I had the chance to attend the Downtown Athletic Club of Honolulu’s luncheon featuring Manti Teo and Marcus Mariota.  I will be the first to admit that I am not a sports buff.  However, after hearing those two gifted young men speak, I know for sure that I am a Manti Teo and Marcus Mariota fan. 

The most poignant thoughts that I came away with were:

-  At what level do you play? 
-  Who and what do you represent?

Both Manti and Marcus continuously stressed the importance of preparation and practice.  They put in the time because they have the dream.  As Manti went from high school ball to college ball to the NFL, he learned that you need to get in your reps because the margin of error decreases as you go from one level to the next.  The more time you put in, the more your eyes begin to see the things at the increased speed of the game.  The game and the preparation needed is as much mental as it is physical.  When the going gets tough, your short-term memory gets better and you bounce back faster.  Both boys said that they've learned to love the grind, and they know now what it takes to be the best.

They both also have a strong pride in Hawaii.  Although they never played for UH, they understand that they are representations of our state.  Manti said that he was put on a platform to represent himself and the state.  It's a huge responsibility because he was showcasing who the state helped him become.  Someone asked Manti what it felt like to play for the Chargers and be compared to and put in the same box as Junior Seau.  He said that his focus is on being the best Manti that he can be.  Any pressure on him is what he makes for himself, not what others put on him.  He is thankful for the opportunity he's being given to pay respect to those that have paved the way for him, but he's going to play his own game and be his own player.  Manti's father told him, "Always remember who you are, where you came from, and who and what you represent."  Marcus echoed that when he said that they are representing something bigger than themselves, and they're finding strength in their teams.  Both realize that their ability to represent the state well will create opportunities for other local ball players wanting to play in college and the big leagues.  They have the ability to open or close doors for future generations, and that’s a huge responsibility that they know is on their shoulders.

We, as a restaurant, are in a very similar position as Manti and Marcus.  We have been placed on a platform and a pedestal where we are held to certain expectations by our guests and the public on local, national, and global scales.  Because of the awards we've garnered and the reputation we've built, we play at a different level.  Because of that, the grind is different.  The speed of the game is different, and the necessary reps are different.  We need to be the right coaches for this level of play in being able to teach our employees to see what we see and get up to the right speed.  It is extremely evident that both Manti and Marcus have strong relationships with their parents, coaches, and mentors.  They have people that speak into their lives and guide them not just on the field, but off the field.  That’s what keeps their heads in the game and focused on the right things.

What we as a restaurant represent is the entire state of Hawaii.  "With great power comes great responsibility", and we hold a position where the world looks at us as experts in Hawaii Regional Cuisine and fine dining in paradise.  Because of that, we need to be humble and respectful of that by doing the right thing and living up to that responsibility.  We are in a position to bring a spotlight to the farmers and products from Hawaii and the state as a culinary destination.  As Chef always says, we need to play our own game and strive to be the best that we can be on every plate and with each guest.  We can have a hallway full of awards, but we are only ever as good as our last plate and the last guest that leaves the restaurant.  As we are raising the next generation of culinarian in our kitchens, are we instilling in them the right skills, knowledge, and values to continue to solidify Hawaii’s standing as a culinary destination?

Today was  short (only 40 minutes) but enlightening.  I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to attend and learn from these talented and inspiring young men.  Every day at Alan Wong’s is different, and it’s always a thrill to see what new thing will open my eyes.

 ~ Nicole Ng, Marketing Manager