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July 16, 2013 - No Comments!

What I Learned In My First Month At Table XI

Mike GibsonTime goes fast when you're enjoying yourself, and I've been nothing but happy since I've joined the team here at Table XI. I can't believe it's already been a month. Quite a bit has changed in a very short amount of time, so I thought I'd take a breather and reflect back on what I've learned over the past 30 days.

 

A Well-Maintained Calendar Is a Beautiful Thing

Organization has always been a weak suit of mine. The only method that reliably worked was a combination of Post-it notes, chalkboards, and regular check-ins. That's manageable when your team is four people. But when you've got 30+ and a threefold increase in project count, that doesn't cut it anymore. After my first week I knew that I'd sink or swim on the accuracy of my calendar. I dove in and learned about all of the nifty tricks that Google Calendar has had for (probably) years: viewing your colleagues' calendars, multiple calendar organization, etc. The one tip that has made the biggest difference in my ability to keep a sane mind is to make sure I schedule myself time to work. It ensures I have nice blocks of time every day to hunker down and get done what needs to be done. Just this past week I've felt like I got things under control. Let's see how it feels a month from now.

Culture Isn't Created, It Develops over Time

"Company Culture" is a big deal in our industry. But it's not something that's forced on the people that work for you. It needs to be fostered over time. For all of your blog posts and meetings about creating the best culture in town, you're wasting your time if you don't have a group of friendly, empathetic, and interesting co-workers. That is where company culture thrives, and it's been wonderful to see that first-hand. I knew that working at Table XI would be a blast. It only took me a month to see to what degree.

The Best Way to Learn Is to Work with People Smarter than You

I've actually known this for a while, but it helps to remind yourself every now and then. If you're the smartest person in your office it may be time to find some new surroundings. We've got some of the smartest developers in the city put together in the same room and it's amazing the impact that it has. Not only do you learn tips, tricks, and techniques from them. That's a given. There's something bigger at work, though. It's only been 30 days, but I see myself working harder than I ever have before not to bring the curve down. That's what happens when you're surrounded by people that do such great work. You don't want to be the one to let them down.

Budgets Don't Matter, Problems Do

It's safe to assume that at Table XI we're working on projects that are larger in scope than those we tackled at Love Has No Logic. I was really interested to see what impact that had on the life cycle of the projects we were jumping into. You know what? Budget doesn't matter. Every client I've worked with, whether they had $500 or $500,000, came to us because they had a problem to solve and they're relying on our expertise to solve it. The budget just becomes another tool with which you can work to solve that problem. It's important to remember that lesson, especially as you start to see those 0's on the budget start to multiply. It's been up to me to get over the line-items and stay focused on the problem at hand.

Eat

I have a terrible habit. I get tunnel vision. If I'm working on something, I don't see anything else until it's complete. The real world impact of this is that for seven years I quite regularly forgot to eat lunch. That often led to me being extremely cranky in the afternoon and evening as my blood sugar dropped, and it probably impacted some of my business dealings over that time. At Table XI we've got a wonderful chef who comes in and cooks great food for us. When people from outside the company swing by for lunch, they talk about how great the food is. But the best part for me is that it breaks me out of my tunnel vision. Everyday when lunch is ready, Chef Aram walks out and lets us know. Someone at the office last week commented that they had forgotten how to feed themselves. We all laughed at the joke, but in my own mind I flipped it around and realized that in my first month here, I've remembered how to feed myself.

It's been a busy first month, and we've already done so much great work that I can't wait to share. I've learned quite a bit being here, and I'm excited to see what I continue to learn as time goes on. I plan to share more of my lessons in the future.

May 2, 2013 - No Comments!

CBS News Visits Table XI

CBS2 Chicago at Table XIEarlier this week, Vince Gerasole of CBS Chicago News stopped by our office bright and early for a morning tour of Table XI. We treated him to a walk on Josh's treadmill desk, a Nerf gun battle, and an omelete breakfast courtesy of Chef Aram Reed. We loved hosting Vince and his camera crew; take a look at the segments below, plus some behind-the-scenes photos.

April 16, 2013 - No Comments!

Table XI: “Silicon Valley Work Culture in Chicago”

Fox32GoodDayChicagoWord of our office inner workings is getting around. Earlier this month, Fox 32 Chicago featured Table XI in two segments for their evening and morning news. Tisha Lewis stopped by our office to tour our standing work stations, grab a bite of Chef Aram's low fat (but delicious) lunch, and witness Josh conducting a meeting from a moving treadmill. The next morning, Josh paid a visit to Corey McPherrin of Good Day Chicago and spoke about how our office is "...a comfortable and easy place to come to work. We've got standing desks for people who want to stand; if you want to sit, you can sit. [It's] very open, there are no barriers to collaboration."

When asked about the practicalities of our culture, Josh pointed out that, due to our lighter lunches and ability to work in a flexible environment, we don't fall victim as much to the dreaded "afternoon slump," and stay productive the whole day through.

Of course, our daily trips to Starbucks help, too.

Watch both videos below:

January 22, 2013 - 1 comment.

Chef Aram: Reality STAR!

ChefAramTasteTable XI and Tinseltown are one degree closer. Our own Chef Aram Reed, who cooks us lunch everyday, will be appearing as one of the contestants on The Taste, ABC’s new cooking competition that premiers tonight at 8/7 pm Central. Though Aram can’t divulge too much about the show without risking the wrath of the ABC legal department, he did give us a little scoop about the wonders of reality television.

Give us a taste of The Taste. What’s this show all about?
The Taste is like a food version of The Voice, featuring four celebrity chef judges—Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, Ludo Lefebvre, and Brian Malarkey—who pick teams from the contestants based on blind taste tests of their dishes.

How’d you get discovered?
A good friend of mine works in the industry, and she wanted to try out for the show at a Chicago audition, but she didn’t want to do it alone, so she asked me to go with her. So we went, and I got picked and she didn’t, which was hilarious.

So you launched your television career screwing someone over right off the bat. You learn fast!
Yep, right off the bat. That’s how we do it in “The Biz.”

Speaking of which, did you go into filming with your reality TV persona all planned out? “Brooding chef with an edge,” perhaps?
I was going for the asshole, of course. No, really I’m just honest, I don’t blow smoke, and that sometimes makes me the asshole. Really, I have no idea how I’ll be portrayed. I could be the asshole, the sweetheart... how about the heartthrob? I could go for that one, too.

Will we get a soundbite of you voicing that reality show classic: “I’m here to cook, not to make friends”?
You know, I think I heard someone say that at the airport when we first got there.

What was it like getting your food judged by these renowned chefs?
[For one of the challenges] everyone did seafood, except for me. I did a very Chicago dish with pork, because that’s what we eat here, and I wanted to showcase who I was and who I cook for. Bourdain and Ludo both understood my dish, which was very gratifying. They were the two I most wanted to impress. Ludo was very complimentary on my sauce—he recognized that it was French technique and said he really enjoyed it. And then Bourdain knew it was pork with bourbon and that it was Midwestern—he was just calling it. And remember, this is blind tasting, so he didn’t know me or where I’m from. First they discuss the dish, then they open the door and see the person who made it. So Bourdain was really cool and got my dish and that it was from Chicago.

What about the other contestants?
There were some really amazing professional chefs from across the country, and a lot of chefs from Chicago. Ina Pinkney from Ina’s, she’s been the “Breakfast Queen of Chicago” for over 30 years. She was there with me. Chef Brian Jupiter, Executive Chef at Frontier, he was also there. One of the sous chefs from Nellcôte. Then there were nonprofessionals, food bloggers and home chefs. For me it was like a fantasy camp for chefs, an all-expense paid trip to LA, to go hang out with a bunch of industry people, so that was really cool for me.

Can you take us behind the reality TV curtain?
It was really interesting walking onto a TV set. When we watch shows at home, there’s music, there are all these lights, there are graphics. When you go onto a TV set, none of this exists. It’s all CGI’d after the fact. Our set was in a giant airplane hangar, five football fields long. It’s where they built the Spruce Goose, Howard Hughes’ plane. So in the middle of this gigantic hangar, which just goes on and on and on, there’s this little set with black curtains. And you walk in, and there are all these crappy robotics, and the kitchens weren’t developed properly because it’s the middle of the desert. People’s ovens would turn off randomly, equipment wasn’t set up properly. You could hear hammers banging in the background.

So, not too glamorous, then?
Ha, no, not glamorous at all. It wasn’t set up through the mind of a chef, it was set up through the mind of a TV producer. That to me was the most eye-opening, seeing how things were done, so I’m excited to see the finished product on television, once the magic has happened. And because it’s season 1, they were kind of working out the kinks, so I’m really interested to see what season 2 is going to look like down the road.

How are you going to capitalize on what will surely be household name status once this show airs? Celebrity fragrance? Your own reality show? Product placement in the TXI kitchen?
That’s all in the 5-year plan, definitely. My goal is to be on the CTA, and see someone reading the Red Eye with my picture on the back, you know, in the gossip section. And they’ll look at it, then at me, and recognize me. That’s how I’ll know I’ve made it.

That’s the big time, for sure. But until then, what’s next?
By the end of this year, I’m going to be opening a local grocery in Logan Square called The Tortoise and the Hare. It’s in the vein of Olivia’s or Goddess and the Grocer. We don’t have a place like this in Logan Square. We’ll offer prepared foods, maybe do some cooking demonstrations. And there’s Roam, which is a roaming underground dinner party that my friend Leslie Friebert and I put together. Every month we put on a dinner at a different location around Chicago. It’s for 30 people with five or six courses—the idea is to create an underground society of cool dining. We feature special guest chefs, craft cocktails, bands—it’s been a fun project. If people want to find out about the next Roam or get tickets, they should email roamsecretsociety@gmail.com.

Well, congrats on the show, Aram, and good luck with everything else. We can’t wait to see you in HD.

Thanks. The coolest thing has been hearing from people I haven’t talked to in years, who’ve seen The Taste trailer. Everyone's been very supportive.