The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2012

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FROM THE EDITOR Lessons from the Pacific Rim E very time I go the Tokyo, I come back more and more infatuated with this miraculous city. What could I possibly find appealing about the world's largest megacity? More than 34,000,000 people are in the general area, and clearly the city has a long way to go to match the beauty and charm of Paris. But Tokyo is cleaner and there's more good food (there are fewer than 100 Michelin stars in Paris, but more than 300 in Tokyo). This sprawling metropolis is also the safest city in the world. But what sets Tokyo apart is something else entirely. It's the people and how they relate to one other, and to you. There is a purity and a disarming honesty about the way people deal with others. I interviewed the General Manager of one of the top hotels in town (for an article that will be appearing in THE TASTING PANEL later this year). He had previously been the manager of a large luxury hotel in Chicago. "The difference is dramatic," he told me. "In Chicago I was constantly deal- ing with people who were cutting corners, doing the bare minimum. Their philosophy was 'What's in it for me? How can I get more and do less.' Everyone had his or her hand out. Here in Japan, it's all about doing more than your share. There's a pride in doing the best you can. Service is an honorable profession." It's particularly difficult for a first-time Western visitor to get used to the idea that there is no tipping in Japan. Some friends and I were at dinner in a modest teppanyaki restaurant in Ginza, and the check for three of us came to a bit less than $50. After we paid, there was a few hundred yen in change. Since the server had been very charming and helpful, we left the change—about $3—on the table. As we left the restaurant the server rushed up to us at the door and gave us our change back. She seemed embarrassed by the whole experience. I'm not saying that tipping should be stopped or diminished in the United States. Waitstaff in many restaurants survive on tips. Our system is different, but the tip should not become the ultimate goal. In Japan, giving good service is an end in itself. Wouldn't it be refreshing if people in America cared as much about the quality of service they gave? If they did, the good tips would follow naturally. And customers wouldn't have to suspect that they are being hustled. CONTRIBUTORS After working in fine dining ten years, Michelle Ball co-founded Bottle Branding, a visual media company created to assist wineries in branding and marketing. A native of the Central Coast, her appreciation for food and wine fuels her passion to write. She is often seen eating and drinking her way through California. Lee Cherry has been in the enter- tainment industry for over 20 years and has worked with some of the most talented performers and creatives in the world. He is involved in dance, photography, directing and film, stage and record producing. He lives in Hollywood with his beautiful wife and son, Scarlett and Riff. Visit www.cherrymulti- ment. His book Fair Culture was a finalist for book of the year in 2011 by Foreword Reviews. Harold Lee Miller is a fine art and advertising photographer who lives in Indianapo- lis and travels the country on assign- Allyson Siwajian was first intro- duced to wine with a spoonful of Merlot. Now this writer from Las Vegas, Nevada, is developing her palate and dis- covering the city's beverage industry giants, one glass at a time. In addition to this work, she has covered stories about the bridal industry, interior design and social injustice. She is pictured here with blogger Perez Hilton. 4 / the tasting panel / september 2012 PHOTO: CATHY TWIGG-BLUMEL PHOTO: DEACON TYLER

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