J. Charles Grieco, Chairman of the Ontario Hostelry Institute, was made an Honourary Doctor of Laws by the University of Guelph at its convocation ceremony on June 10. GFR readers will be familiar to his contributions to the development of the hospitality industry in Ontario, as both the proprietor of the legendary La Scala restaurant, and as a leader in the development of hospitality eduction at the OHI and at large. One of Charles Grieco’s more recent projects has been the founding of the Pineapple Brigade, a system of honours for the industry that recognizes leaders of the hospitality business who have themselves been recognized by broader society. The Pineapple Brigade will meet for the fifth annual time this Monday, June 23 at The Chef’s House to honour George Brown College president Anne Sado and food writer and editor extrodinaire Elizabeth Baird on the occasion of their appointment to Membership of the Order of Canada, restaurant magnate and Stephen Leacock Foundation founder Peter Oliver who received a Docotrate of Laws this May from Ryerson University and, well J. Charles Grieco for the same as per above, and Steven P. Foster for an honourary Bachelor of Applied Business Degree, Hospitality Operations Management from George Brown College.
In anticipation of the Pinapple Brigade dinner, I sat down with Charles Grieco to find out a little more about what happened at Guelph and the idea about the Pineapple Brigade. First off, since he gave the commencement speech at the convocation, I asked him what he spoke about. He answered succinctly, “Hospitality: our own people need to be constantly reminded that the business we’re in is called hospitality.”
Grieco explained the part of his speech he hoped the graduates of Guelph’s School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management would remember and that he had repeated for emphasis came from an unlikely source: the recently late American poet Maya Angelou. He said, “I always have CNN on in the background, and they were covering her death when they played a clip of one of her quotes and I thought, aha this is it!” The Angelou quote was:
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
For Grieco the poet has summed up the theory that propels successful restaurant operators: “Experience is what it’s all about.”
As for his degree and honours, Grieco insists that he accepted it on behalf of the entire hospitality industry, which he says is only now being recognized. He explained it wasn’t very long ago that the work of chefs, restaurateurs, food writers or anyone in the industry was acknowledged. Hence the Pineapple Brigade, “When the world began recognizing us a few years ago, when Jamie Kennedy and Anita Stewart received the Order of Canada, I thought it would be nice if we acknowledged leadership amongst ourselves.”