Do you attack yourself with questions? I do.
I have a million questions that run through my head every day that mostly pertain to my career. Why am I doing this? Is this the best job for me? Is this it? What’s next? Did they like the party? Do they like me? What age does one start getting Botox? Was the chicken cooked properly?
And one random ongoing one that I’ve pondered for years “Do you think Mrs. Garret really loved those girls?”
This is my head and the dizziness of questions that plague it.
Years ago, my Dad asked me after an average performance in a school play why I was crying and not enjoying the cast party? My response? “Cause I think I’m only allowed to take one of you to the Academy Awards and it will be very hard to choose between you and Mom.”
As we have already established in my earlier Blogs, my full name should be Mary Delusion Giuliani .
My Dad urged me to find happiness in the now, to stop thinking about or questioning what was next. “Cross that bridge when we get to it, Mary.”
But, I’ve always had a hard time with that one particularly when it came to my career choices.
However, yesterday I realized that there have been moments in my career where I have allowed myself to stop, not question what’s next, be in the moment and take it in. To be “in my zone” as I learned recently at a retreat at www.Kripalu.org means to be doing what you love.
Well, I have one very handsome Gentleman from South Africa to thank for putting me in my zone for the first time. Here is my story.
Early in my career, while working for the amazingly talented Daniel Mattrocce (Chef and Owner of DM Cuisine), we received a call from Colin Cowie’s office that we were to cater an event for Elizabeth Taylor with InStyle at Christie’s.
Well if Liz’s color was violet mine was GREEN, cause that is what I was. It was only three months since I had answered an ad in the New York Times reading (Upscale Catering Company seeks Temporarory Event Planner to work with Art, Fashion & Entertainment Clients) and the ONLY reason I answered the add was that it contained two words I loved: TEMPORARY and ENTERTAINMENT.
And, while I grew up in a family whose lives revolved around food and hospitality, when I started at DM, I knew very little about catering, table settings and samovars (yeah look that one up). At the time we received the call from THE Arbiter of Style Colin Cowie’s office, my kitchen cabinet at home contained a fondue pot, 6 unmatched dinner plates, a glass frog and my Mom’s MOM mug.
My career highlights up until this point had included three jobs that involved me wearing headgear and four firings. Two for getting caught napping under my desk, one for getting caught submitting my headshot for the role of Meadow Soprano instead of the actress I was supposed to submit and lastly one from Nobu which earned me not only the firing but the distinguished honor of being named their most ”inconsistent, unreliable employee they had EVER had!”
Nonetheless, a moment became available to me with that phone call and it was up to me and me alone to figure out what to do with it. Armed with a notepad and my Mom’s Joan River’s earrings (Yes, my mother buys me cloths and jewelry from QVC) off to the meeting of a lifetime I went.
When I opened the Boardroom doors at Christie’s I could not believe what I was walking into. The room was filled with top level Christie’s Executives, the whole Executive team from InStyle Magazine including the wonderful Cyd Wilson, a team of Elizabeth Talylor’s most trusted handlers and ME!?
We were all awaiting the arrival of Colin Cowie. And as if a Hollywood Director yelled out ACTION within moments the boardroom doors flew open and there he was.
He did not walk, he sauntered. He entered the room with his team all dressed perfectly and lintlessly in black. When he began speaking he commanded everyone in the rooms presence, his accent was foreign to me but the most beautiful one I had ever heard. He made words like “over budget” and “over time” sound like sexual position you wanted him to put you in.
This man was like James Bond. I was convinced (and still am) that he could fix you a martini dusted with gold in one hand while disarming a bomb with his other…..but of course ONLY if the lighting plan was perfect.
I looked around the room and just observed, my heart was racing with nerves.
When carpets, crystals, elephants, Nehru jackets for the men responsible for picking up the elephants poop, lighting, sound, press and VIP guests were done being discussed Colin looked at me and introduced himself.
“Colin Cowie” he spoke as he shook my trembling hand.
“And you are?”
“Mary Giuliani. I’m the caterer.”
“Mary Giuliani” he repeated. My name never sounded prettier.
He then began with what I call WHAT COLIN COWIE HAS TAUGHT ME #1
“Food is like theater, and what happens in the first five minutes will set the tone for the rest of the evening. As important as what’s being served, is how it looks. We dine with our eyes first, Darling”.
With a small wink he quickly began a stream of perfectly connected and free flowing thoughts.
“The trays are to covered with moss, the pea soup must be topped with chervil, the caviar must be from Petrossian” (I made a mental not to look up where or what Petrossian was!?).
When someone in the room suggested we serve pigs in a blanket (Elizabeth Taylor’s favorite) he quickly retorted “I’m only serving pigs in a blanket Darlings, if they are presented in mounds of caviar”
WHAT!? This Man was amazing! If the Beatles had the Maharishi I now had Colin Cowie.
I think he could see the fear in my eyes or smell the green in my feet, cause he paused, walked over to me and said quietly, “I have total confidence you and your team can pull this off”.
That was all I needed to hear. Colin Cowie the Man who threw Oprah’s 50th Birthday party, the man that could transform a tennis court to look like the inside of a royal palace had confidence in ME!? The girl who faked a learning disability to get out of taking Spanish.
Well Mr. Bond, I mean Cowie I said to myself, I accept your mission.
I worked extra hard to make sure everything was perfect for that event. I spent late hours with Daniel learning all the proper words for things and even tried caviar for the first time (still don’t really love it). If this was the movie of my life, this would be the part when the cheesy song starts plays while image of my growth appear on screen. I start off with flour on my face and a flat soufflé and by the end of the song, I have a new haircut, a great outfit and am placing a perfectly cooked chicken on the table (the song So Far So Good from About Last Night comes to mind).
When the event day arrived, I did all I could to make sure that we did the best job we could and even when Ms. Talyor arrived two hours late cause she had inadvertently locked herself inside her hotel bathroom, we had enough food and drinks that the guests remained happy.
I observed Colin throughout the entire project, his attention to detail, how he presented himself, the pride he took in what he did, he was an artist and each event space was his canvas. It was less about serving others and more about making others transform, experience and travel.
And in observing him, I realized for the first time I wasn’t thinking about what was next, I was doing something that I loved and that was it! No more going back to jobs that required me to wear headgear.
Watching Colin made me feel like Steve Martin in the Jerk when he tells the Gas Station owner “If this is out there…….think what else is out there!!”
When the party was done and the last piece of moss removed from the trays, Colin came over to me, thanked me and then said “Mary, we will do great things together in this business.” Wait did he just say “WE??” and with that my Maharishi sauntered off into the night.
Two years later…….I started my Own Catering Company.
Since then Colin and I have collaborated on many great events together but this Tuesday, nine years since I walked into that Christie’s Boardroom, Colin and I are teaming up to work on a an event as magical as our first
This Valentine’s Day, to celebrate the launch of www.ColinCowieWeddings.com, Colin will transform the top of the Empire State Building into four dreamlike wedding ceremonies for four lucky couples and he has asked me (the girl with The MOM Mug that didn’t know what a samovar was) to be his Catering partner.
And while my fear of heights will be in full effect that day a top the Empire State Building. I know that I will be doing what I love, being in my zone and working with my Maharishi and that makes me feel happy.
This Valentine’s Day if you feel like it, ask yourself what do you love to do and do it! And if you can ask yourself that question in a pair of Joan Rivers earrings while eating a pig in a blanket (with or without caviar) even better.
Happy Valentine’s Day!