When I was at Chef Fest Hualalai I met some very cool and like-minded people, people whose sole purpose is to visit the Four Seasons for this event. Finding kindred spirits and enjoying the beauty of food was worth all the cost and effort for this unique event.
Unfortunately, during this trip, I’ve also had to endure unparalleled levels of douche baggery … levels that recall red rubber bags hung in showers, where yeast infections of the mouth—oral chia pets as it were—exist. Words vomited, Exorcist-like, straight at me, leaving my mouth agape and asking myself, “did that motherfucker actually just say that?”
Staying at a Four Seasons, you’re insulated for the most part from engaging with people. You deal with yourself unless you decide to engage or be engaged. The staff exists solely to pamper you and take care of your every need, and yet, being in interactive classes, sit-down dinners, and various events, you basically have no choice but to meet and converse with people. Imagine a high-end, very long bus ride without a bathroom, or maybe a five-star Ferris wheel, where getting off mid-spin isn’t an option.
Last night we sat with a couple who’d entered a realm of insecure, one-upping, entitled, douche-bag banter that I’d never even imagined existed. We’ll just call them “Mr. and Mrs. Dickhead.” The conversation started off harmlessly and respectfully enough, with names and locational information and various pleasantries exchanged. Before the wine was served, however, I already knew how many homes the Dickheads had, their income level, their investment projects, and of course their deep and completely disconnected opinions about the chefs.
I sat grinning as I was asked what my favorite resort was, best golf course I’d played, best restaurant and meal I had, best travel destination, and so on. Sounds innocuous enough, right? Well, imagine for a second if you can, responding to these questions by our fellow guests as though we were playing ping pong with someone whose side of the table was one inch deep, and as you hit the ball back over the net, it’s slammed back with their head tilted back, gazing mightily skyward, not even looking at the result. The table was entitled to them, the advantage obvious, and lobbing questions was a way of teeing up a childish masturbatory game of “Ha! I win!!”
As we sat there at Chef Fest involved in a Slam Fest, I felt myself moving gradually from enjoying the Mr. and Mrs. Dickhead’s insecurity to irritation and, yes, even anger. A tug of war began between my own confidence and the possibility of intelligently threatening someone with bodily harm.
“Have any trips set up?” said Mr. Dickhead.
”Yes, New York during the holidays,” I responded.
“Not to one up you, Jim, but we have six trips before the end of the year. Right, honey?” Mr. D. answered. “Argentina is next week after we leave Hawaii.” As Mr. Dickhead’s response hit us, Lauren’s hand dug into my leg, and as I looked at her, her eyes registered utter disbelief.
“Do you like wine, Jim?”
“Yes I do. Owned a winery for seven years. Tough business—did it for the passion.”
“Oh, that’s not our experience at all. We’re a 10 percent owner in a group out of Sebastopol. Know where that is?”
I responded in the affirmative, love Sebastopol, great Pinot, blah blah blah.
“Yes, we sell to Merry Edwards and Martinelli. Heard of them?”
“Yes, of course, awesome, love both those wineries.”
“My God, it’s been very lucrative for us, something I guess you didn’t experience.” Again, Lauren dug into my thigh and I said to myself, Did this douche bag actually say that?
After the third course arrived and a plethora of slam fest games had been played, the fatal, final question arrived: “Jim, have you played any golf overseas?
“Why, yes, I just got back from a 10-day trip to Ireland a couple months ago.” I regaled Mr. D. with stories of the brutal conditions and how I walked off after nine holes at the number-one ranked golf course in the world, “County Down.” With the utmost humility, I reported that, after playing for seven jet-lagged days, drinking, and walking 18 holes in horrible conditions, I was just cooked.
Within a second the ping pong ball came back with brutal force: “I’d never give up; it would never happen. Seems like you’re a quitter, eh?”
In that moment I snapped, mentally floating toward the dark side and returned the ping ball with a direct and targeted slam, “You don’t give up? You’ll give up when I choke your ass out, dickhead!”
Lauren’s grip went deep into my thigh, and I mentally wandered for a minute, reflecting on whether I actually spoke that thought. I panned from Lauren to the mouths-agape look on the Dickheads faces. Confirmation, I said it!
I was just getting warmed up. I leaned over the table and said, “It’s obvious that you’ve never worked a day in your life. Wait, let me rephrase that. You do work; you work sucking your daddy’s dick, am I right? Of course I am! I can see the fucking tailpipe residue all over your lips.” And with that, my date and I stood up, I dropped the mic, and we waltzed off to finish our dinner at the Beach Tree Bar.
Arriving at the bar, all was well with the world. I could hear the birds singing, and I laughed while shaking my head at the audacity of the Dickheads. It was quiet—no vomit about—and I quickly fell back into the flow of the islands.
Morning came, and I’d completely forgotten about the prior night. I was excited about our next cooking class with Andy Ricker. As we arrived, we met a blonde, blue-eyed woman from Tulsa named Shannon. Within minutes we were friends and found out she traveled extensively, cooked, and wrote a blog – Beads and Basil – give it a follow!
I had to grin, knowing I was safely with my kind, not more douche bag dickheads. Shannon wore beautiful jewelry and you could tell she was well traveled. She had a solid southern attitude, firm handshake, and was engaging and witty. Lauren and I liked her right away.
Then, as we sat down and the chef’s introduction was made, a strange character arrived: a woman, six feet-plus tall, waddling with a limp, wearing a one-piece dress, and with distorted body parts and large reflective aviators. Let’s call her Fiona. There was an open seat next to Lauren, and she asked if she could sit. We both chimed in with “Sure!”
Wine was served and the class began. Within minutes, Fiona started taking over the class with the most insane, irrelevant, off-base statements and questions I’ve ever heard. She was intelligent enough, but seemed to be in a one-on-one discussion with herself and the chef and seemed determined to drive the class off the road.
Fiona: “Chef, I was thinking of opening a restaurant called ‘Seoul Food,’ ‘Seoul,’ not ‘Soul,’ get it?”
Chef nods, “nice!”
Fiona: “I’ve traveled throughout Asia. You know I’m independently wealthy. My husband and I really have the life (snort)!” My jaw started dropping from the sheer gravity of what I was hearing.
Fiona: “Chef, what do you think about avocado oil?”
Chef looks up. “What? Avocado oil? Never used it; don’t have an opinion.”
Fiona then looks over to Lauren through her aviators and asks, “Hey, can I have a drink of your cocktail?”
Lauren’s head tilts, and she says, “I guess, actually, you can have it.”
As my mouth slowly starts parting like the Red Sea, my mind drifts, utterly baffled by this person. She definitely had some sort of mental defect, but it was twisted, douchey, self absorbed … a mental carnival. It occurred to me as I looked at this anomaly that she resembled Chris Farley cross-dressing on SNL, screaming, “I’m starving!”
As the class progressed, Fiona’s dialogue kept flowing. Chef Fest had become another Slam Fest and now had moved on to anything but a carnival. The Chef, Andy Ricker, was the most patient person I’ve ever seen, but if you could have seen the faces of the other people in the class, they all looked like they wanted to strangle this bitch. Every comment she made forced you to breathe deeply while your eyes rolled back in your head.
Halfway through the class, everyone took a break and l walked out of our closed-in tent to cool off. When I returned, Lauren’s eyes were full of excitement. “What’s up?” I said. She glanced down, and I followed her eyes to a small, folded piece of paper under her finger. I grabbed the paper, and as I read the words, I looked up and found Shannon’s eyes and a smile bigger than I’d seen from her all weekend. I shook my head in appreciation of the parallel thoughts and feelings. She walked over to us and said, “I’ve been trying to get people to hand you this note during class, and they wouldn’t do it.” In that moment, the witty comment and connection made this situation bearable. I reverted back to days of note-passing in school and its familiarity, giggling over how wacky Fiona was and this situation.
Class resumed, and Fiona didn’t lose a beat, continuing with her insane comments and questions until the Chef just stopped responding to her. Fiona eventually left before the class was over, and we all had a quick laugh over her wackiness.
That night, at the gala dinner, we ran into another couple who’d attended Andy’s class with us and had also attended the following class with Neal Fraser, which we had not. They told us that Fiona was there and was even worse than she’d been in the previous one. Apparently, she was so batshit crazy that a man in the class actually told her to shut up. She responded with an insult, the class went silent, security was called, and the class was finished with guards standing watch.
As we stood there with our glasses of champagne, laughing at the events of the day with Lauren’s hand in mine, it occurred to me that, no matter where you go or where you stay, there’s always a Five Star to Dive Bar demographic to deal with. Fortunately, good people and little notes can lighten the most difficult experiences. Aloha, Fiona and the Dickheads
If you enjoyed that story maybe you’ll enjoy taking a stroll through the oldest street market in Phnom Penh, The Old Market.