Sunday, March 29, 2015

What’s your speaking style more like: Teppanyaki, Flambé, or Flying Greens?

My last post, Sizzle or Steak? Both!, got me thinking about restaurants and how having a unique speaking style (perhaps involving props) can add to your presentations. At one extreme is teppanyaki, the Japanese steakhouse typified in the U.S. by the Benihana restaurant chain. The chef puts on a big show of grilling the meal in front of his waiting customers. (On Saturday Night Live John Belushi parodied it in a comedy skit called Samurai Hit Man). It takes a lot of equipment to manage this. The speech equivalent would be a motivational speaker doing a multimedia spectacular in a large venue.

Less equipment is required for flambé, a table side flaming style involving igniting liqueur like for the Crêpe Suzzette dessert shown above. (The Greek restaurant cheese version is flaming saganaki). Both still are fancy productions involving added equipment and fire risks.

The most minimal but ingenious style is a Thai stir-fry dish called Flying Greens. It was described back in 1989 in a book called Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery. Reportedly a young chef in an open-air restaurant up in Phitsanulok had been preparing swamp cabbage (pak bung) with garlic and oyster sauce. He tried tossing the greens up in the air from his wok before serving them. Soon he was throwing them for 20 feet. Finally he began throwing them across the street, where his partner adroitly caught them on a serving platter, and grandly presented them to waiting customers. There’s no extra equipment here at all, just teamwork. 

During his lectures MIT physics professor Walter Lewin did something different by sometimes pushing rather than pulling the chalk in his hand. The fourth most commonly viewed post on this blog is about How can you easily draw dotted chalk lines on a blackboard?

Images of Benihana, Crêpe Suzette, and a wok all came from Wikimedia Commons.

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