Italian Red Sauce, Hiring Managers, and Philanthropy

I’ve promised many people I would write this article and I am finally sitting in my hotel room in Paris writing about the unlikely topic of charity work.  Yes, charity work or philanthropy.  Giving back.  I am writing this here because it is times like these when we feel our most grateful, or at least I do.  I am healthy, happy and have a few hours before I get on my Croisiere Dejeuner (Lunch cruise down the Siene river) and am thinking about  the first charity work I did with my daughters to benefit the homeless.

On the night in question, we served dinner to the homeless at a church in Orinda, California.   I am blessed to have a nice home, loving supportive people around me and the ability and abundance in my own life to help other people, but that is just what we see on the surface.  What lies beneath all of that is that helping others is the one thing in life that helps us the most.  It brings forth in our spirit all of the most important qualities.  If done with a pure heart it can transform us.  However, our intentions must be, well, more than good.  Not just coming from a place where we make ourselves feel good by doing good, but because we truly desire to share our gifts, our time, and our money to help other people.

Recently, I’ve read that employers are also looking for the philanthropic among us.  Which is a major philosophical realignment of years past.  Below is a quote from my neighbor, David Obrand, in an interview with CBS News, Money Watch which illustrates this point of view.

Money Watch: What do you look for when you’re hiring?

David Obrand: We have a set of competencies we look for depending on roles but here are four we look for regardless: raw intellectual horsepower, a passion for what we do, a passion for customer success and a humility and work ethic. And then the fifth one, is the philanthropic aspect in a candidate’s personal life. We feel that people who are philanthropic — the fact that you have this notion that the world is bigger than just you, and you have a role to give back to the broader community, is a motto that grounds us and keeps us humble.

For the entire interview click here,

And when you really think about it, if you are building a company and putting together teams, who really wants to work with someone who can only think of themselves and their own personal interests?  Yes, the world is bigger than just ourselves and witnessing the suffering of others and trying to help does ground us and keep us humble.

On this first night my daughters, then 6 and 8, helped the homeless with their homework, tended the smaller children and served dinner.  Up until this point they had no concept that anyone could be homeless.  My youngest daughter, came running to me in the church kitchen and said, “Mommy, they are sleeping on the floor!” her eyes wide as saucers, and then she ran away to play with a little girl her own age.  But, I could see her entire point of reference for the world had shifted in that moment.  The pandoras box had opened and she understood that there are people who sleep on floors in churches because they have literally no where else to go.

Since that night my daughters and I have done countless hours of charity work through our church and then later though our National Charity League chapter, where I am currently in my second year as the V.P. of Philanthropy.   We have made many, many new friends, had many amazing experiences, but what was so remarkable about that first night at the church was that a couple from Orinda had made the most gourmet of sauces for this group.  They had used fresh organic tomatoes, boiled and pealed them and then pureed them with other vegetables.  They used the lightest touch in the seasonings as they were afraid too much garlic would upset the stomaches of the younger children.  I have never before or since tasted tomato sauce this good.  Anywhere.  And as much as I love to cook, I have never boiled and peeled my tomatoes and certainly not for a group of 80 people!  The time and effort they put into this was remarkable. I lovingly heated up the sauce on the industrial stove and the couple cooked the pasta until it was perfectly al a dente.  After serving the speghetti all of the kitchen help (volunteers) went and sat with the homeless and ate our delicious meal together.  I talked to a woman who had a job and her daughter went to the local high school.  She didn’t make enough money to pay her rent and had lost her apartment.  She was living out of her car with her daughter and then when it got too cold she came to the shelter of the church.  It was with much humility that I ate with her and talked with her.

I remember thinking of the cognitive dissonance of having this amazing dinner here, served on a paper plate, siting on a folding chair among the homeless.  It was a gift to me to be there and to be able to instill in my children the precious lessons that night offered. If you are you up to the challenge of making this sauce the recipe below by Giada De Laurentiis will show you how it’s done.

Tomato Sauce

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laureates


1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes (or 4 cups boiled, peeled and pureed fresh tomatoes – my note)

4 to 6 basil leaves

2 dried bay leaves

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional


In a large casserole pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil, and bay leaves and simmer covered on low heat for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and check for seasoning. If sauce still tastes acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time to round out the flavors. Add half the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce. If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and pour 1 to 2 cup portions into freezer plastic bags. This will freeze up to 6 months.

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Paris with Paris

Claus Outside

So many interesting themes to address in this post.  First of all, I am in Paris with my daughter Paris.  It is her sweet 16 and if your name is Paris where else would you be?  She has been a lovely travel companion.  Her spirit is light, she doesn’t get anxious if there are delays, she goes with the flow and amazingly she APPRECIATES it all.  On the first day, she kept hugging me and saying, thank you, thank you so much for taking me here.  I was very surprised.  Now, on day five she is more relaxed.  She is walking the streets like a Parisian.  She carries her book in her Channel knock off purse and sits and reads wherever she is, not unlike my own 20 year old self of many years ago.

I try to push her to do the normal tourist things, but we both resist and are seriously in danger of spending time in Paris doing nothing, but hanging out.  We have luxurious breakfasts, then nap all afternoon.  We leave our room at 10 p.m. for dinner.  We sleep whenever it suits us. Maybe this is a true vacation?  I’ve not been on vacation with just a 15, almost  16 year old girl before. We post pictures and then thrill at so many replies.  It has been, honestly nothing BUT fun.  Not such a bad way to travel.  And oddly, it has all worked out.  Like the universe has had our back.  We went to brunch at Claus, I did have the presence of mind to make THAT reservation, but then we took the first taxi to Notre Dame, and arrived just as the line was moving in for Palm Sunday mass, and we were able to experience the beauty of that.  Unbelievable.  We then found Shakespeare and Company magically just across the Seine.  So close.  A book store I have coveted since June when I tore an article out of a magazine and said to myself, I want to go there.  I tacked it to my bulletin board in my office in California and now I am here in Paris.  Magical.  Seriously.

Shakespeare and Company, Paris
Shakespeare and Company, Paris

I spent a good deal of time planning the trip. It has been in my mind for many years.  When should I take Paris to Paris?  I almost took her the summer she was 12, but just almost.  It would have been a family trip.  Hot and diluted of it’s purpose.  I looked at quick week-ends to Paris, but what can one learn in four days, really?

I had this idea in mind for a hotel for her.  I wanted a boutique hotel, but not too boutique.  When I was in Paris for the first time, we stayed on the Left Bank, my dear friend Lisa and I.  We had a room with a black cat that came in and slept with us.  A sagging mattress and a bath we shared in the hall with the other guests on our floor.  My daughter looked at me in HORROR when I told her the bath had a hole in the floor that you used as toilet and then had a shower above.  Honesty, it was very bad, but we met friends staying at the Hilton who were not using a room, although they had to pay for it to hold it, and they let Lisa and I stayed there.   We had a view of the Eiffel Tower and all of the hotel soaps were Lancome, Paris, my preferred soap of choice at the time, and still my favorite Mascara.  It was September and I remember sitting in the bath at the Hilton, Paris and soaking away the four months I had spent traveling that summer through Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Austria, Switzerland,  and France.

My friend, Lisa was fluent in French and had finished her degree in Art History.  So, needless to say, she was a fascinating person in France.  She knew everything there was to know about everything at Versaille and otherwise.  She was also, the sort of person who could have conversed for 3 days with Hemingway.  She was an astonishing conversationalist.  We remain friends to this day even thought she lives on the other coast now, in NYC.

Claus food

My daughter and I had the first reservation of the day at Claus at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday morning.  Because of this we were able to sit in the window seat on the first floor.  A spectacular table.  I ordered the omelette and bacon.  Now, in France things are very simple, but they are so delicious.  My omelette was cooked perfectly, had no cheese and was just dusted with herbs.  How they can make an egg taste this good with so little, I have no answer, but it was perfect.  The coffee perfect as well, the fresh squeezed orange juice, the croissants, the cinnamon bread, the french bread with butter…  All of it an amazement.  I  know no other place where bread, butter and jam are exquisite to the taste buds.  My theory is that 12 miles outside of Paris you will find nothing but farm land.  I have never seen an egg yolk in the U.S. be such a deep yellow.  The food here is not industrialized, but instead lovingly cultivated and prepared.

If in Paris do try to visit Claus.  It is an experience to to remembered.