“Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit.” - Henry S. Adams
Days here at the Winter Equestrian Festival are exhausting. The hours are long and the days start to blend together in a haze of sun, dust particles and loudspeaker echoes. Everyone involved at the horse show is out doing their jobs rain or shine, because, as they say, “the show must go on.” It would be so easy for those of us in this environment to succumb to malaise or resentment in this arduous work environment. A positive attitude is key to surviving the WEF circuit.
Our ZADEH pop-up shop is located directly opposite the flaming grills and open kitchen of the Tiki Hut where each day, hundreds of orders of burgers, steak wraps, fries and grilled mahi mahi are prepped for hungry equestrian enthusiasts. In contrast to the serene energy of our boutique space and the minimalist curation of our distinctive jewelry, the Tiki kitchen is frenetic, and bustling with chaos. It’s filled with the oppressive scent of fry oil and burger patties being flame broiled back to life from their frozen stupor. There’s a constant crackling from the grille while waves of smoke billow up from it’s surface (and often over to our tent, but that’s neither here nor there). Running this show, the conductors of this chaotic symphony, are a group of young men unlike any I’ve ever seen. No where at the show grounds will you find more positivity than in the kitchen of the Tiki Hut.
There are approximately five of them running the kitchen. They’re young, college-aged, and from varying backgrounds. Some are in between school ventures, others are doing this while they figure out their next steps.
From opening until closing orders are shouted, reverberating through the kitchen:
“Two teriyaki grilled chicken sandwiches!”
“Caesar salad, dressing on the side!”
“Six burgers one no lettuce three fries and a tuna wrap with tomato on the side and extra mayo!!”
I’m not exaggerating, some orders sound as complex as Einstein’s formula for special relativity.
The lunchtime rush begins around 11am, and dies down a few hours later. On days when there are nighttime Grand Prix classes, the guys will continue working until 10pm, sometimes later.
There is an unbelievable sense of camaraderie in that kitchen. They sing, they laugh, they dance to interminable music that pours out of an unseen (but very loud) speaker. they often communicate in a short-hand language all their own, increasing efficiency. peppering their work jargon are copious amounts of jokes - some appropriate, some not so much.
When we arrive in the morning, they’re always the first to greet us. In the middle of the day, they check in on us to see if we’ve had lunch. In the afternoons, they always say goodbye with the same genuine smiles that greeted us so many hours before. Always.
Even when the line at the window is 10 patrons deep, the guys never falter. Their work ethic is concrete. In the busiest parts of their day, when orders are shouted a little more forcefully or perhaps a load of chicken fingers is wasted after being left too long in the fryer, there is always light-hearted banter. If someone messes up, they get called out, they take responsibility and they move on, collectively. Together. They are a unit, within which there is both forgiveness and open communication.
No other group of employees at this horse show can match the productivity, the enthusiasm and the uniqueness of the Tiki Hut guys. They take their jobs seriously, but not themselves. They are masters of their craft. I raise my glass to these unsung heroes of WEF. We could all learn a thing or two from them!
By Siri Dupont-Hurley