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Just say yes to life, bacon mac ‘n cheese

Between work, travel, logistics and the excitement of extra-curricular competitions, it’s more than my old bones can bear. I can still work a 15-hour day, but it definitely takes its toll on me and my spirit, as evidenced by the difficulty with which I wake up this morning.
My aching bones, rusty joints and creaking back remind me that I am no longer a spring chicken. In fact, I have not been a spring chicken for a very, very long time. As I constantly try to convince myself that I still am as I once was, tokens pop up that instill in me the need to slow down a tad and to walk a little slower. Mayhap that is the joy of growing up; working smarter and not harder, or becoming more productive in the work day.
When I was studying modern management techniques for my MBA, I was pleased to learn that servant leadership is a term that is used readily and proudly. In this style of management, we come to understand that our employees are more important than are we in the business model. If we take good care of them, they in turn will take good care of us. Ultimately this translates into the working smarter part of the aforementioned idiom, making our jobs more enjoyable and survivable.
Having started this journey 33 years ago, I remember a time when management was as simple as “do as I say.” But I also remember the relationship that employees had with their managers, and the myriad ways in which employees would rebel against management in passive-aggressive behaviors to make it through the day.
Ultimately, our job is to emulate the great leaders in business that do so much more than run profitable companies. We need to find the business leaders who have done, so while improving the lives of those who work for them, such as Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Kelleher is renowned for taking the airline company that he founded in the early 70’s and continue to run it as a stalwart example of servant leadership. In a day and age where pilots and specifically captains were in a higher social strata, Kelleher rattled the industry by promising 20-minute turnarounds at the gate. What this translated into was airline pilots running the vacuum, picking up trash and emptying barf bags.
While this may not have been the romanticized ideal that many pilots had envisioned in flight school, it nevertheless earned Southwest the ranking of first in its class in customer satisfaction. Along with other bells and whistles offered by the airline, and of course their lower fares, they were bound to stay at the top of the heap. In fact, they are still one of the most successful airline companies in history.
Kelleher believed that the most important person in the business equation is the employee; make them happy, and the customer would naturally be pampered by the workforce. And it worked. When I was researching the company, I emailed an old friend of mine who is a supervisor for Southwest in Atlanta.
His response was long and energetic, and it kept growing as he remembered things that he wanted to say, but forgot to in his excitement. When all was said and done, it was a simple project to present in that the energy and enthusiasm were evident in this supervisor, and it corresponded with the research that our group had gathered at the time. And at the end of the day, Kelleher’s job became easier at the hands of a work force that loved what they are doing.
While I write this, I still know that it’s going to be a long day. I’ll catch up on sleep tonight and when I get home, I think it will be time for some comfort food. While I know this is not as healthy for me as a salad, I promise that I will start with one if that makes you feel better. But Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese? That’s the way to go sometimes to get the old joints moving.
Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese
Serves 4
1 pound Elbow macaroni
6 ounces Thick cut bacon
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 Medium Spanish onion, finely minced
a pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup White wine
2 Tbsp. AP flour
2 cups Heavy cream
1 1/2 cups Extra sharp Cheddar cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste
Italian parsley, for garnish

1. Cook pasta in salted water until it is al dente
2. Strain and shock to stop the cooking process
3. Set aside until ready to finish the mac ‘n cheese
4. Cut bacon into lardons, that fancy word I used last week when describing the pancetta “sticks”
5. Heat bacon in a sauce pan on medium until the fat renders out and the bacon fries in its own oil
6. When bacon is crispy, add the garlic and onion and cook for a few minutes, stirring thoroughly
7. Add nutmeg and the wine, cooking to deglaze the pan and reducing the wine to about two tablespoons
8. Sprinkle in the flour and mix to get rid of lumps
9. Add cream and cook until creamy and thick
10. Slowly add grated cheese until it is melted and uniform
11. Add the macaroni and heat through, serving with parsley as a garnish