I ate dinner last night at Woodfire Grill, run by Kevin Gillespie, a finalist on the TV show, Top Chef. Tonight, everyone will know whether Kevin is the winner of this season’s reality show about cooking. But here’s the thing: I’d have known nothing about this, were it not for my 7-year-old daughter, Violette, and further, I wouldn’t have met Kevin, were it not for the serendipity of Twitter, and the grace of friends who have great community-building skills.
We don’t have TV at home, and yet, somehow, my daughter discovered Top Chef on Apple’s iTunes store, decided she wanted to watch a show about cooking, and then fell immediately in love with the whole Top Chef experience: the challenges, the competition, the confidence that it takes. I got into it because of her, first watching over her shoulder, or asking her to fill me in while she watched an episode while I did chores, and then glued by her side for this current season, because the storytelling worked so well. So, when I found I was coming to Atlanta to speak at the IAEE Expo Expo event, I asked a few people if anyone knew where Kevin Gillespie’s restaurant was.
Twitter brought me one better. My friend, Laura Scholz, was able to arrange a dinner meeting with Kevin, so I was able to dine in his amazing restaurant, and then get to meet him. My daughter (with help from Kat) made Kevin a book/card, and so I was able to give that to him, too. For the record, Kevin is a really friendly, personable guy, who has an easy smile, a passion for delivering an amazing food experience, and a staff that knows they’re with the right guy. Meeting and speaking with him was a treat.
The Georgia Aquarium
And that wasn’t all Twitter, serendipity, and Atlanta had for me. My friend, Stephen Nold and others took me to the Georgia Aquarium, built by Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus. The facility was amazing, boasting over 8 million gallons of water, making it the biggest (I’m fairly sure) aquarium in the world. Big? They had four whale sharks in their exhibit. These are the largest fish in the world. They had four of them. The story behind how the whale sharks were acquired (saving them from being food) and shipped over via UPS was worth the tour alone, expertly given by Director of PR, Meghann Gibbons. (Hi also to Mallory Perkins.)
This exhibit had manta rays, which are also evidently really hard to transport and house in aquariums, the largest and best aquatic veterinary facilities anywhere, the largest viewing window in North America (second in the world), and tons more. I’ve never seen a place like this.
What was most cool to me about the whole Georgia Aquarium tour was the fact that the facility was built to help shape Atlanta into being a leisure destination as well as a convention destination. The land it sits on was donated by Coke, who moved their World of Coca-Cola exhibit down by the aquarium, so that they, too, could participate in building a more vacation-friendly scenario for Atlanta. So, between an aquarium that cost over $350 million to make and several other local businesses all participating in the donor process, it’s changing the economy of Atlanta.
The Serendipity Engine at Work
When Julien and I wrote Trust Agents, it was partly to talk about this idea of a “trust economy,” where currency wasn’t as valuable as relationships and trust. Twitter is one of the fastest movers of that currency that ever existed. I wouldn’t have met Kevin Gillespie had I not known Laura Scholz via Twitter and a subsequent conference visit. I wouldn’t have had the behind-the-scenes goodness of a trip to the Georgia Aquarium had I not known Stephen Nold and some of the other great folks I’ve met at IAEE, who felt more like they knew me via Twitter in between face-to-face meetings.
It’s hard to put that into simple words for people, the value of this all, and yet, I feel the effects of trust and serendipity every day. I couldn’t pay for the experiences I have most weeks, and it’s all thanks to the complex relationship and trust economy that I can visit via Twitter.
Maybe you’ve had experiences like that, too. What’s your take?
And good luck tonight, Kevin.