“People watch too much TV. They think I put squirrel and opossums and all that other type stuff in there.” Max Himmel
Some people write thank-you notes. Some people send flowers. When Max Himmel wants to recognize the people whose products he sells, he does it his own way.
And his way involves cooking gumbo. In person. Even if it’s in a factory parking lot hundreds of miles away. At 4 a.m.
For the second consecutive year, the owner of Himmel’s Architectural Doors and Hardware in Prairieville decided to thank some of the workers who make the products he sells. He loaded up his motor home and a trailer with cooking equipment and enough food and fixings to feed more than 2,000 people and took them to Idaho and Wisconsin, where he treated them to a taste of south Louisiana.
It made an impression.
“It was really well-appreciated,” said Darrell Johnson, human resources director at Marshfield DoorSystems in Marshfield, Wis. “We’ve never had a customer do such a thing.”
Because Marshfield operates around the clock, Himmel showed up three times over two days, pulling out the 60-gallon gumbo pot he made out of a propane tank and creating a culinary treat for people who had only heard of gumbo before he arrived.
“I can’t believe people don’t even know what tasso is, really don’t even know what gumbo is,” he said. “People watch too much TV. They think I put squirrel and opossums and all that other type stuff in there. What’s really funny is people saying, ‘I’m not eating that. That’s too spicy for me.’ Three bowls later their belly’s fat and full.”
That was one of several stops Himmel made on a 2,600-mile round trip.
Himmel, whose business is in its 30th year, decided last year to do something not only for company owners and executives, but for the workers who actually make the products. He traveled to six companies in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia and Connecticut and cooked jambalaya and chicken, sausage and andouille gumbo. It was a big hit.
“I had one lady say, ‘I’ve been working at Yale Locks for 46 years and I’ve never had a customer ever say, ‘Thank you.’ I’ve never seen anybody come up here and do anything for the workers. They always do it for the big shots, never for us,’” Himmel said. “It just makes you feel good when you do something like that.
“They don’t know what to expect till I get there. They see me pull up in this 45-foot motor coach with a cooking trailer and bring out these big pots. They stand out there and watch. They’ve never seen gumbo made before.”
Himmel bought all of the food here, and he and two employees cut up 750 chicken thighs, 200 pounds of onions, 75 bell peppers, 60 packages of green onions and the appropriate amount of sausage, vacuum sealed and froze the ingredients and loaded them in the freezers on his motor coach before heading north.
Word of these trips has spread. He plans to go out west next year.
“Now, I have manufacturers that I deal with all over the United States calling me saying, ‘Why aren’t you cooking for us?’ I have to line it up,” Himmel said.
“I love to cook and I love to make people happy. The best way to tell somebody thank you is to give them a full belly and cook them up a good pot of food. So far, it’s working.”