In my twenties, I went to a concert to hear Andrés Segovia play the guitar. According to the program notes, Segovia – who was 85 years old – had picked up the guitar at 15 and had been obsessed by the guitar ever since. I was looking for my guitar.
I practiced law, I taught, I traveled. I really couldn’t find that thing that obsessed me. I had always been interested in food, but I couldn’t figure out how to exploit that interest. And then I decided to open a food museum. Once I decided to do it, I became obsessed. I had found my guitar in my fifties.
It began some time in 2003 – the planning stage – to creating a nonprofit organization, recruiting supporters, figuring out how to open and then opening in 2008 (with a hiatus for Hurricane Katrina) at the Riverwalk Marketplace in New Orleans. Every single day I was obsessed. For the first time in my life, I was loving what I did. And that has been the case until this day. I am one of the most fortunate of people, to have found my obsession.
I also know that this whole project could not have happened, if I were to do it alone. People have embraced this project and become part of it. I love and am grateful to them all. Before we opened and then after we opened, we have – together – created an institution that has taken on a life of its own. And I want it to continue to make it better and better.
I am well aware of Founder Syndrome: not allowing your organization to grow beyond you. I do not want to kill this organization by strangling it. By not letting go. I do not want to stay at the helm so long that I do not see my own shortcomings. So I asked the Board of Directors to let me transition from President & CEO to Founder. And having the best interests of the organization at heart, the Board selected my successor and allowed me to become the Founder. That means that I can continue to be happily obsessed by this institution, working on its behalf to make it better.
I feel confident that the new President & CEO, Brent Rosen, will bring new contacts, new ideas and imagination, and great leadership to the National Food & Beverage Foundation and its various divisions, including the Southern Food & Beverage Museum, the Boyd Library, the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie de l’Absinthe, the Pacific Food & Beverage Museum, the National Culinary Heritage Register, and everything else.
Please join us as we plunge into our second decade. We are all going to discover where the institution will go, how it will blossom, and what influence it will have. Thanks to all of you for your support, your confidence, your trust, and your ideas. Help us go forward to create an ever more important institution. I will continue to play my guitar.