The Ottumwa Courier

Ottumwa

July 13, 2013

Dinner in Europe

(Continued)

They want to take advantage of these resources and become part of a growing economy.

"They say, 'Chef, I want to get into the American market. But New York, Chicago, they're too tough to break into."

Barajas said there are things we could learn from the Europeans: Taking our time when interacting with each other is one of the cultural differences, including sitting down to a meal with friends to relax, to eat and to share. Much of their productive conversations in Spain took place around the dinner table.

"You know what you don't see? People [hunched over] their cell phones like this, [texting] when they're with each other. They look you in the eye, really connect with you. It's a sense of being here, now," Barajas said.

Rader said Spain has all sorts of camps for cooks, including student chefs. Why couldn't Wapello County have a summer cooking course for students from overseas?

"They desperately want to learn English," Rader said.

They come here, learn some cooking techniques, maybe take a trip out to where the food is grown, maybe watch how a professional kitchen in America works and polish their English skills.

But why would they come invest their time or money in Ottumwa?

What Barajas saw, he said, was that the people of Spain's former capital, Valladolid, were impressed with Chef Rader.

"They don't just give their trust to anybody," Barajas said. "It takes time."

Rader has spent that time showing his Spanish colleagues how serious he is about food and teaching the next generation of chefs. Barajas' insight tells him they notice that the chef is motivated to help his students and his community more than he is motivated to do things for himself. They know his word is good and that he looks for opportunities where everyone involved benefits.

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