Living Life with Love and Excellence

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image“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” — Howard Thurman

Every now and then I meet somebody who lives their life with courage and zest.

They live life on their terms, they live their values, and they light up the world around them.

Meet Lisa Dahl.

It was always Lisa’s dream to have a restaurant.   She made her dream come true.

Lisa the Chef, the Author, and the Entrepreneur

Lisa is a serial entrepreneur, chef, author, and owner of 4 amazing restaurants in Sedona, Arizona.  She owns Cucina Rustica, Dahl & Di Luca Ristorante Italiano, Pisa Lisa, and her brand new one, Mariposa – Latin Inspired Grill.

Lisa’s book is The Elixir of Life: Finding Love and Joy in the Passionate Pursuit of Food.   It’s no ordinary cook book.  It’s the story of Lisa’s journey to the work she loves, and it combines two of her passions – travel and food.  She wrote her book to help more people seek their own love and joy in the passionate pursuit of food.

Best of all, Lisa lives her life fully —  with love and excellence.

Creating World-Class Customer Experiences with Love and Excellence

To rewind a little bit, here’s how I found out about Lisa.

I was visiting Sedona so I asked the locals where was the best place to eat?  The answer, hands down, was Dahl & Di Luca Ristorante Italiano.  I was told it would be an experience.

And it was.

From the ambiance, to the people, to the exquisite food, the restaurant had a certain je ne sais quoi.

As I tried to put my finger on it, all I kept thinking was that everything here, the entire experience, was created with love and excellence.

But where did such inspiration come from?

Her Little Angel is With Her, Always

It turns out, Lisa had lost her son, Justin, her “golden boy”.  He encountered a robbery in progress, acted as a good Samaritan, and lost his life.

Justin is her inspiration, her guide, and her strength when she needs it most.

Via The Elixir of Life Cookbook:

“My beloved son, Justin, is my inspiration.  Justin is no longer living on the physical plane but he is alive in another realm.  I know this, because when I need him, I feel his all knowing presence.  He was, when he was alive, an earth angel.”

Food is Her Art (and Her Elixir for Life)

Creating food is Lisa’s artistic expression and it allows her to give back. With her food and her restaurants and the experience she creates, this is how Lisa found a way to do more art.

Via The Elixir of Life Cookbook:

“To do what we love most for a living is the ultimate gift because each day it gives us a better understanding of the world and ourselves.  For me, one of the elixirs of life is cooking.”

A Taste of Lisa’s Art

Here’s a quick taste of Lisa’s art so you can appreciate her style.  Effectively, she focuses on simplicity, combined with quality ingredients, and getting the combinations right.

The art part is putting it all together in a way that creates a savory experience.

Via The Elixir of Life Cookbook:

“In my cooking style, less is more.  My approach is simple.  I enjoy the vibrancy of hand-chosen ingredients that make a simple dish come alive in your mouth.  It’s the quality of ingredients and the combinations that determine the end results.  The flavor is what it’s all about.”

Love is the Solution

According to Lisa, Justin’s mantra was:
“Love is the solution.  We reap what we sow.”

It’s worked well for Lisa.

Whatever the problem is, love seems to be the answer that always works, and works better than anything else.  Ideas born out of love have a very different essence than idea that don’t.

Lisa’s Recipe for Success in Life

Lisa’s recipe for success is simple.  She loves the work she does.  It’s that simple.

Via The Elixir of Life Cookbook:

“I am not a fancy writer, nor am I a fancy chef, but because I love the work I do so much–I consider myself a success. Bravo!”

The Ultimate Gift

Doing what you love is the ultimate gift.

Via The Elixir of Life Cookbook:

“To do what we love most for a living is the ultimate gift because each day it gives us a better understanding of the world and ourselves.  For me, one of the elixirs of life is cooking.”

You Can Create Beauty and Pleasure

Lisa believes that we all have gifts that we can use to create more beauty and pleasure, if we just get out of our own way.

Via The Elixir of Life Cookbook:

“I believe that all people have a natural ability to create beauty and pleasure, and that if we simply get out of our own way and follow our divine guidance, we will encounter our inner creativity as chefs, artists, musicians, or in whatever medium excites us.”

Every Day is a Chance to Re-Invent Yourself

Lisa uses each day as a chance to explore and re-imagine what’s possible, for herself, for her food, and for her art.

Via The Elixir of Life Cookbook:

“Each and every day we have the ability to create and re-create as well as invent and re-invent ourselves.  We are blessed to have such good food to eat.  I truly revere each and every morsel of food as I feel fortunate to celebrate the pleasure of food with grace and extreme fortitude.”

The Restaurant is Her Stage

As the owner of a restaurant, it’s more than just a passion.  It’s a performance.  For Lisa, every night is another chance for an act of excellence.

Via The Elixir of Life Cookbook:

“Owners of restaurants share a common pride.  Attention to details can be an obsession and is never-ending.  So is setting the stage, feeling that magic, and then standing back and asking ourselves, ‘Will they come? Will they love it? I do that each and every night.”

Surround Yourself with Amazing People

Lisa says, “We are only as creative as those with whom we surround ourselves.”

And it’s true.

Lisa has great people working for her.  It’s part of the overall experience and it helps bring Lisa’s art to life.  After all, you can’t have a great restaurant without great staff.

And her people have personality.

Brian Walker is a teacher, an artist, a waiter at Dahl & Di Luca’s, and a manager at Pisa Lisa.  He loves what he does and it shows.  He shows up with the same passion for excellence that Lisa shows across her restaurants.

He’s worked for Lisa for years.  I asked him, “Why Lisa?”  And, without hesitation, he said, “Vision.”  Lisa has vision that inspires people to create a better future, and enjoy the journey.

I also met Jacqueline.  Aside from a waitress who is on top of her game, she is also a motor-cross racer and TV celebrity.  She lives life fully and brings that energy with her wherever she goes.

Again, it’s the people that you surround yourself with that add real color and depth to life.

Food Worth Moving Here For

When I met Lisa, she lived up to her reputation.  She cares about everything she does, the people that work for her, and the customers she dishes things up for.

I told her that across her restaurants, I noticed that there is a deep theme of love and excellence that keeps showing up.  It’s obvious that she lives her values and that she loves what she does.

I also told her that the best way I could describe the experience is that it’s “Food worth moving her for.”  (Sedona, Arizona in this case.)

Lisa is a giver in so many ways.  It’s worth nothing that Lisa donates a percentage of the profits from her book to feed hungry children each year.

It’s what her son, Justin would have wanted.

Wish Lisa lots of luck with her new restaurant, Mariposa, and be sure to swing by, the next time you are in Sedona, Arizona – where there is “food worth moving here for.”

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