An Igniteful Question

My rabbi of almost 30 years, a genuine talmid chacham began a lesson saying, ‘Answers are easy, it is the questions that are hard.’  This speaks to the idea that questions are more elemental and full of potential, and in practice, ignite the imagination and inspire us to challenge our limitations.

For example, I like to reward myself after what I think has been a successful day of triaging an enterprise’s expert team. The work is intellectually intoxicating and fulfilling. The quip, ‘I can’t believe someone pays me to do this!’, attributed to the legendary novelist  John MacDonald, fits my feelings.  My at-a-boy is a nice steak at a recommended steak house. (I do not expense anything above my published per diem rate, to be sure).

So the first question is easy enough; “Where is a great steak house?”  The answer typically offers a choice of two or three.  But once seated and menued, the next question is prescient.  It is ignitful — meaning it may ignite and explosion of superb customer service that sets a seriously succulent steak on your table.  Like this bone-in Porterhouse filet at the Silver Fox in Richardson, Texas this week.  (That is NOT Photoshopped!)


Silver Fox Porterhouse Filet


I asked my server, “What is the steak your chef would most like to serve tonight?”

She blinked, clearly not knowing. So I commanded her (yes, commanded) to go find out.

A few moments later she returned with a spring in her step and answered, ‘Sir, it’s off the menu. It’s a bone-in Porterhouse filet. How would you like it prepared?”

“Medium, thank you, with a side of grilled (brussel) sprouts.”  (It comes with snap peas and mashed potatoes.)

She marched off to the kitchen, having bagged the elephant, so very, very pleased with herself.

She returned much faster than I expected, and placed the beautifully plated work-of-art before me. The fork leaned over to it in anticipation!

And Wow! — was it delicious. Howl-at-the-moon delicious.

So,  I was a few savory fork-fulls from finishing it off, cleansing my palate between bites with a nice Pinot Noir to re-live the blossom of that first bite, when the chef walked up to my table and — grinning ear to ear, asked, “How do you like your steak?  It’s hard to get this cut in the quality we require, so I thought I’d check.”

“It is wonderful!, I replied, mouth half-full.”  Then we small talked for a moment as he was clearly pleased with the effort.

Afterwards, when the server returned with a concluding cup of coffee, she was beside herself that the chef had visited her table.  And he was so pleased.

So I asked her one more question.

“What IF you asked your chef what he or she wanted to create and serve most during your shift, that would want them to go check with a guest — and then suggest it if it seemed fitting?  What would your relationship with this chef grow into? What would your guests think of your service?”

She offered a very cute fist bump, fittingly returned.


What are your questions that ignite the best from others?