Like many companies in the food, beverage and hospitality industry, Seagram cocktail receptions and meals were somewhere between elaborate and over the top. A long list of third world countries could feed their people from the leftovers of a cocktail reception.
A good friend and former colleague had a wonderful way of putting it, “At Seagram, you didn’t become a millionaire but you sure lived like one.” Or, at least, ate like one.
Two stories come to mind.
Toward the end, a world-class global marketing person was hired to unify the disparate marketing and communications efforts around the world. A pretty decent guy with a long pedigree and great skills at managing upward. Above all, he was a top-notch eater. At company related events involving food, he always seemed to have a look on his face akin to orgasmic pleasure.
I wasn’t there at the time but at least a dozen marketing folks tell the story of a particular eating incident in London. The cocktail reception for customers was the usual elaborate affair with passed hor d’oeuvres and a buffet designed with both the gourmet and gourmand in mind. As the evening progressed, his brand management entourage reminded the gentleman in question, that they needed to move on to a business dinner. He was reluctant to leave; particularly as the grilled lamb chops were being offered. They pressed him and grudgingly he agreed to go but not before he grabbed three or four of the succulent gems from the tray.
The team was astonished. They reminded him that there was no time to eat them since the car was waiting. Undeterred, he proceeded to stuff the lamb chops into each of his front jacket pockets and headed for the car.
In the car, on the way to the business dinner, he happily chomped away at his prize as his colleagues stared at each other in total dismay.
I was there when the other story took place.
It was at a meeting in Canada at a Four Seasons hotel. We had been very busy touring the market and learning about the Canadian spirits industry. The plan was to meet in the lobby then head off for dinner with our Canadian hosts.
Adjacent to the lobby was a bar with a tray of delectable nibbles, including sushi, right out front. One of my colleagues, also known for his voracious appetite, spotted the tray, assumed they were munchies for the guests and, before anyone could say a word, grabbed some sushi. Obviously, he was famished. After all, it might have been two or three hours since we last ate.
Just as he was about to pop the sushi in his mouth, we heard a shriek and the beverage manager ran up to him shouting, “Don’t eat that…it’s a display and the food has been there all afternoon.”
Sheepishly, he tossed the errant sushi in the trash. But for a moment, he looked like he didn’t believe her and debated eating it anyhow. Twenty minutes is a long time to wait for dinner when you’re hungry.