Master Chef, or Master of the Toast?

By TM Jervis Pereira

Has anyone ever asked you if Toastmasters was all about food and drink? And have you replied with a big, emphatic “No? I beg to differ. Being a Master of the Toast is akin to being a Master Chef.

Let me explain.

It was the year 2010. It all began like a tantalizing aperitif. She beckoned me to come in, politely shook my hand, made me comfortable and sat me down. I was settling in for a good time. But pretty soon it was all over. I was stunned. It was everything that I hoped it would be, and more. And more was what I wanted. So I came back. Later I found out that it wasn’t my charm that allured her, she was just the TMOD. But I was already Micky D’ing. And Loving it.

At our next meeting, Mario, the Table Topics Master, made it look like a breeze. The tiny slip of paper between his fingers morphed into a crispy wafer with soy sauce like markings on one side. As he cocked his head to one side, out came the words, each second drawing me closer and closer to his concept, his ideas and his talk. Clearly Mario was savouring his favourite snack. It wasn’t just what he said, it was how it said it. And like a packet of Lays, I couldn’t have just one.

“Encore! Encore!” I yelled, clapping in ecstatic applause. But the stern looking bouncer, I think he’s called the Sergeant-At-Arms, shushed me.

Pretty soon, I found myself handling that little thing that drives clubbers crazythe timing device. Everything has to be fried, er timed, just right. Like when cooking an uttapam, too soon and it’s undercooked, too much and it becomes an oversized papad.

“Nay, it has to be done just right,” That’s what my mentor told me to explain the timing roll, er role. She also related that being an Ah Counter was like making sure the moong filling was just right for your golgappa. So watch out for the grainy bits in speeches; undercooked and it gets too grainy. Unenjoyable.   

Around this time I was ready to dig into the main coursegive my first speech. I had the plan, my ingredients were laid out, and although I had made this dish many times, I didn’t quite know how to make it for others. Would they like it? Would they find it too spicy? Or worse, what if they found a hair in the dish?  That’s the reason I shaved myself bald.

The club President helped me with this dish. “Create fillets, slice each layer lightly, douse them in the sauce. Now, turn up the heat. Neither too high nor too low, you learnt that while making uttapams. Let each layer release its juice. Watch as they infuse the dish with their own special flavour. Now flip it and let it cook all the way through. But you are not done yet. Presentation is everything. Sprinkle the garnish and allow the aroma to sink in. That’s what makes a dish truly enjoyable.”

That day, I didn’t give a speech. Rather, I served a meal. In return, I earned a sandwich during my Evaluation.

Toastmasters isn’t just a speaking club, it’s the street side fast food that you crave, it’s the café where you hang out with your friends, and sometimes, it’s the delectable gourmet dish that you serve with a dash of cilantro.

Master Chef or Master of the Toasts, it is how you serve the dish that matters.

This article was first published on District 98’s bi-monthly newsletter ‘Communicate 98’. To read other articles, click here

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