That’s a lot of woks

I read TV Guide obsessively when I was a kid. On any given day, at any given time, I wanted to know exactly what was on TV. I especially loved reading episode descriptions.

9:00 p.m.
Three’s Company
Jack goes to an ATM machine and the machine goes haywire and spits out all of the money on Jack. He tries to get it back to the bank, but the bank is closed. Janet suggests that he hide it in the couch, which, incidentally, gets takes away by Furley who wants to put in a new couch!

I still do this, but now I just push the “INFO” button on my digital cable remote control. I prefer to channel surf through program summaries, rather than flipping through channels.

The other night the Sundance Channel was showing something called “The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World” (hereafter referred to as BCRITW). The title alone got me. I didn’t even have to read the description. I started watching halfway into part three of the program, and I had no idea what it was all about, but it was compelling. A Chinese woman was talking about how she put off her own dreams of studying and went to work at the BCRITW so she could pay for her younger sister to go to school. In contrast, the daughter of the owner of the BCRITW discussed her pampered lifestyle with a surprising degree of self awareness.

Later on, I found out that the BCRITW is located in Changsha, China and named West Lake. It has five kitchens, 300 chefs, features live entertainment and can seat 5,000 people. Whoa!

West Lake is run by Mrs. Qin, and I really wanted to know how she came to be in charge, and if she was the one who had the grand vision for the restaurant.

The BCRITW is no small feat to manage, and the program shows that HR issues are universal. Much of episode four deals with managers talking about attracting and retaining good employees. It sounds boring, but it was interesting to see this aspect of the restaurant biz and in a different cultural setting no less.

Another part that stayed with me was when some of the young restaurant workers were asked about their dreams and aspirations. Several of them said, “To make enough money to support my parents.” What would a group of young Americans say? I have to admit that parental support is not what first comes to mind when I think about personal goals.

I was hoping that the BCRITW was a reality program that I could watch on a regular basis, but it turns out that it was a four-part BBC documentary. Too bad. I hope the Sundance Channel will air it again.

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