Good Customer Services Involve the Entire Staff.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Heading back from an art installation a few weekends past my wife and I had a craving for some favored Peruvian food. Being we were close to a great restaurant we decided it was a perfect opportunity to stop in.

Over the past year, our lifestyle has changed to where we’ve incorporated a vegan diet. We’ve found many places that have vegan offerings and so we make it a priority to frequent businesses willing to undertake the challenge of modifying their menus and training to accommodate our needs.

Our dietary choice is of the equal importance of empathy to animals, environmental concerns and lastly dietary requirements. Luckily we don’t have nut allergies, gluten intolerance or milk allergies.

Our prior experiences in this restaurant had been quite memorable as we had waitresses that were also vegan and that both had a firm understanding of the ingredients that needed to be excluded in our diet. Our food was amazing and afterward, the waitresses asked us to fill out a survey card expressing our appreciation for the vegan menu items to reassure the owner of the decision to keep the various dishes on the menu. Of course, we complied.

Walking into the restaurant that beautiful fall afternoon we sat down and read through the menu which contained clear and distinct (v) and (gf) next to many dishes.

Over the past year, we have learned that we need to be responsible patrons and specify our exclusions such as no cheese or no queso, no egg, etc. Often the menu doesn’t specify certain ingredients that’ll often wind up in the dish and we recognize we need to remind the staff.

That afternoon we were as extremely detailed to our waiter as we have been in the past again specific that we were both vegan and therefore no meat, no cheese. We each had a lovely Peruvian drink as we awaited our food, hungry from the days hiking.

Out came our painfully frustrating food. My wife’s salad was doused in cheese and a white cream sauce. My meal included a creamy shredded meat substance in two of the three pieces of my trio entree topped with a sliver of hard-boiled egg.

We don’t like to make a scene and felt sympathetic to waitstaff based on the low pay and reliance on tipping to survive. Both my wife and I scraped off the offensives pieces and ate what we could. We paid our full check and left a 20% tip never to patronize the establishment again.

Harsh? Possibly however the systemic failure is real. The efforts to create a specialized menu to cater to specific dietary needs completely ignored is unconscionable.

Upper management who possibly is the owner assumably decides on what dishes the restaurant will offer. The conscious decision to attempt to list knowledge of dietary restrictions on a menu and fail miserably at following through to getting that food onto a plate and served to the consumer is dangerous. With food allergies on the rise and mistakes by the inclusion of ingredients potentially life-threatening why should I risk returning to this restaurant.

Mentioning the scenario to a friend I learned that they also had the same experiences. This is disheartening that a service-based business refuses to get it right. Am I extreme? Not really I’m just cautious.

Van Halen and Brown M&M’s

Back in the 1980’s arena rock was huge with Rock and Roll acts filling arenas and stadiums on huge often sold-out tours. Bands like Van Halen headed up by David Lee Roth a spectacular showman know to preform karate like stunts and often fly over the crowd suspending from overhead cabling.

Van Halen was an experienced roadworthy band and Diamond Dave Roth’s uncle was the owner of the famous Greenwich Village club Cafe Wah? Enter the Van Halen tour rider weighing in at over 50 pages included the legendary request for backstage M&M’s with a caveat of no brown M&M’s in the dressing room.

Once the bands’ management arrived at a venue they would verify if the M&M’s had been included and excluded the forbidden brown M&M’s. Eccentric? Hardly. It was a test to verify the promoter had read and was detailed oriented enough to follow the riders requests. So what if there were brown M&M’s? The band and management would request a detailed safety inspection of the stage and rigging.

Photo by Michael Competielle

The fish is stinky from the head.

Good customer services involve the entire staff.

If you have a broken part in a machine, it probably won’t run. And Ecosystems with a competent out of balance could upset the sustainability of the environment.

So why is a failure of the waitstaff a systemic failure? What exactly is the job requirement? To take a customer’s order, whatever that might entail and ensure it’s prepared and served accordingly. That’s it.

Modern restaurants have bus staff, runners, computerized cash registers. The job requirement is relatively low. Know your product and follow your customers’ requests. That’s it. Simple.

So why the issues? Lack of proper training and desire to care.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. One link breaks and you have a catastrophic failure. If there’s cheese in my dish or brown M&M’s backstage what other corners are being cut?

Your Cow’s Shit is Polluting Our Oceans

Photo by Michael Competielle

On the average, a dairy cow produces 82 pounds of manure per day per 1000 pounds liveweight

Source: Illinois Livestock Trail

Dairy cattle each weigh on the average 1,500 pounds while fluctuating between 1,000–2,000 pounds. According to Compassion in World Farming, the dairy cattle population is 264 million dairy cows worldwide. That equals approximately 32,472,000,000 pounds of smelly dairy cow shit. That’s 32 billion pounds of fecal matter daily which the farming industry loves to call cow manure. Only issue is this over abundance of cow dung has many of the World’s Nations recognizing that this excess is actually a toxic waste. Yummy.

We are only talking the Dairy Cattle Industry for all of you Milk Does a Body Good believers. We are only talking about Dairy cows here as the world’s entire cattle population is 1.468 billion head of cattle. Beef cattle create a bit less at around 65lbs of cow patties per 1,000 pounds of cow daily. Feel free to do the math yourself however and recognize that’s a lot of zeros. And a lot of steamy shit.

So what to do with all the shit?

Let’s re-feed it to the animals. An actual nasty process is to feed animals the dried up cow shit. Sounds delicious doesn’t it.

While much of the shit is resold as manure to be spread in fields as fertilizers, much of a farms shit piles windup in our waterways from manure runoff from these farms.

With cow patties having high nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium levels this excess of nutrients from the manure runoff enters our waterways which create Dead Zones commonly called Hypoxia which is basically a reduction in the waters oxygen levels. The oxygen depleted waters kill off most life including fish and can increase algae levels.

The United States largest Hypoxic Zone is in the Gulf of Mexico and is the second largest hypoxic zone in the world. With nutrient rich cow shit entering into the Mississippi River that dumps into the Gulf, the hypoxic zone has grown in size depleting oxygen levels.

As the Dairy and Cattle industries continue to expand cutting down rainforests and other natural habitats, this has created an unsustainable imbalance. Many species of animals, bugs and flora are being wiped out for factory farming and specifically the Dairy Industry.

Beef cattle is already well documented on its inefficiency based on the incredible amounts of feed and water required to produce just one pound of beef, however there are large segments of the World’s population that feel that “dairy cows” are a healthy source of protein and nutrients while being sustainable. None of which in reality is true.

The factory farming “Dairy Cow” is a systemwide Envirnomental issue killing off large quantities of the world’s animal species. While the USDA has been fueling the Big White Lie for generations now.

With a large percentage of our population being Lactose intolerant, we have begun marketing Lactose free milks and cheeses that are still made from….Lactose.

If your Lactose intolerant here’s a novel idea….stop consuming Cow’s Breastmilk dumbass. With the increase in plant based milks on the rise try to substitute with somewhat more sustainable and absolutely more emotionally intelligent plant based milks.

In my best Bubba Gump voice….”we got Oat Milk, Hemp Milk, Soy Milk, Almond Milk, Cashew Milk, Macadamia Milk, Coconut Milk, Flaxseed Milk, Barley Milk”….. and the list goes on.

But for fucks sake stop drinking cows breastmilk and stop wrecking my favorite beaches.

Why I Became Vegan

My empathy for animals and issues with modern farmings environmental impact and sustainability.

Photo by Michael Competielle

One summer Saturday my wife and I found ourselves in Upstate New York and decided to stop at Chuang Yen Monastery in Carmel known for the largest Buddha statue in the Western Hemisphere. With serene peaceful rolling hilly landscape with a large Temple and various outbuildings the monasteries property is perfect for meditation and escaping life’s complexities.

Weekends the Monastery serves a vegetarian lunch for a nominal donation. At the time of our visit we were still on a pescatarian diet so we knew that days vegetarian offerings would work within our existing diet. With denoted vegetarian foods cooked and served by volunteers the lunch was sure to be tasty and it did hit the spot. Our plates were lovingly filled with rice and fresh steamed vegetables and the rooms general silence was humbling.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Thinking of food entirely as natures resource and less like a commodity was a contemplated rule. Therefore by prioritizing the foods quality and less about quantity and recognizing the foods offerings would be for nutritional and medicinal purpose as part of your personal requirements was the philosophy. Your positive attitude and respect for nature and it’s resources prepared you for your food. As we ate we noticed most of the visitors were intently immersed in the meal they were eating and there was limited talking as I believe the visitors were expressing respect for the food and the volunteers for creating it.

As we finished our meal and walked around the grounds we felt a bit more mindful and at peace as we respectfully moved throughout the Temple and prayer gardens. A connection with the Buddhist philosophy and being one with nature was apparent that day.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Buddha’s teaching allowed monks to consume some meats and fish being vegetarian was not a requirement however the practice is implied. The point of reference is my experience of serene Monastery and vegetarian meal felt natural and harmonious to me.

An egg farmer friend of mine spent many hours of many days explaining to me natural farming. Having some cows, pigs and a lot of chickens his farm specializes in meats and predominantly eggs. With hundreds of Happy Chickens he makes Happy Chicken Eggs. His dedication to the craft of natural farming and sustainable process is absolutely extended directly to the products he produces that are of superior quality.

I predominately learned the complexities and risks associated with being a natural farmer, from the costs of feed and work involved to maintain a free range farm, the practice is challenging. By mostly selling direct to consumers and fending off the market ruining wholesalers my farmer friend is motived by passion and integrity. He works incredible amounts of hours nurturing his animals and respectfully selling his products.

One afternoon I went on a field trip with my farmer friend to visit a Halal Meat Market. The owner was interested in purchasing chicken feed from my friends farm as well as advice on the proper slaughter technique. My farmer friend explained the watering, feeding and slaughtering process to my market owner as I listened intently.

My farmer friend asked the market owner for a chicken to use as the example and the owner handed my friend a chicken. I watched as he respectfully petted the live chicken to calm her and then he slide her head first down into a stainless steel funnel. A sharp knife was used to cut the chickens throat while ensuring you didn’t cut the windpipe so the chicken can continue breathing as see bleeds out filling a trough below with blood.

Ironically the chicken remained reasonably calm as she took her final breaths. The chicken was removed from the killing cone and placed into a vat of hot water called a scalder which scalds the chickens flesh to simplified the feather removal. The chicken is then placed into a chicken plucker which is essentially a cylindrical vat with rubber prints and a beater that whips the chicken around removing the feathers.

As I looked at the then bald and motionless chicken I began to feel sadness. This chickens life was ended before me soon to become someone’s meal. The entire slaughterhouse sequence was understandable however I began to ask myself why?

I began to research the source of our food and gain an understanding of modern farming practices. I’d ask my farmer friend hundreds of questions after I watched documentaries such as Food, Inc., Cowspiracy and Forks Over Knives. Learning more about the techniques used to produce uniform products while maximizing yields and profits became apparent. My research was showing a different farming practice than I had witnessed at my friends egg farm or the dairy farm I helped work on during one summer.

When I was a child I’d spend summer weeks with my grandparents. They both had immigrated from Austria and had lived during the tumultuous times of World War II in Europe. With good hardworking values and an appreciation for quality we would spend the entire Saturday grocery shopping.

My grandfather and I would head out together grabbing fresh produce from a local farm stand as we headed into downtown Clifton and start with the live poultry market. My grandfather would let me choose the chicken I liked and then we would head across the street to the pork store where we would pick up cold cuts and pork chops. We would stop into the cheese store for fresh butter, milk and cheeses and fill the cooler he kept in the truck of the car.

Finally we would stop back into the chicken store and take our eggs and freshly slaughtered chicken still warm and wrapped in brown waxed paper.

Our final destination would be the bakery to purchase fresh bread, baked goods and cookies. My grandfather would lift me up to the counter to grab a paper number while we awaited our turn. I would often get to pick a cookie or a cream puff as a treat for being patient. The chomping noise of the bread-slicer cutting up my grandmothers rye bread usually was the signifier we were almost done.

We would head home and my grandmother would make up fresh cold cut sandwiches from the freshly baked kaiser rolls. Our treat for eating all of our lunch was some freshly baked cookies and pastry.

Years later I think back at this early style of shopping as we headed from specialty store to specialty store. Everything we purchased coming directly from a farmer, butcher or baker was fresh and perishable. My grandmother planned her weeks meals around the freshness of the food and had a system I’m sure she picked up in Austria.

The food store we used to purchase paper towels, dish detergent and tin foil as she would express to me “Michael that’s junk” as I’d question why we didn’t purchase our food there. In the defense of modern food stores, the food stores of the 70’s and 80’s were exactly that….Junk.

When I’d ask my mother why my grandparents shopped in such an odd way, she would tell me that’s how it was in the old country. My grandparents grew up on farms where you raised your cows, chickens and pigs for your own food. You grew fresh vegetables and only purchased the few items you couldn’t produce. This manner of shopping was the closest my grandparents could do replicate that life.

She also told me she struggled to forgive her grandfather who had her pick a pet pig only months later slaughter it for food. My mother refused to eat it.

Only years later did I make the connection to the chicken I had chosen in the live poultry market was the dinner I was eating. I’m uncertain why I didn’t make the connection but I can only believe it was to avoid the unthinkable. Armed with years of experiences and knowledge while finding much of the modern farming practices while feeling empathetic to slaughtering animals for food has led me to living a Vegan life.

This article is an outline to future articles on Buddhism, Veganism, sustainability and environmental concerns.

Ew Your Cheese Smells Like Feet

How Removing Dairy From My Diet Changed My Sense of Smell

Photo by Michael Competielle

For most of my life cheese has been an important staple in my diet. Breakfasts often consisted of a smear of cream cheese on a bagel or an egg omelet with melted cheese. For lunch I’d love a sub sandwich with cold cuts and thinly sliced deli cheeses. Swiss, American, Provolone and Fresh Mozzarellas we’re regulars.

Evenings my wife and I would share with our slightly overweight dogs blocks of Champagne Cheddar, Smoked Gouda, Swiss and Colby Jack. For dinner we would have blends of mozzarella, parmigiana and ricotta mixed with pasta. Ravioli, Tortellini and Cavatelli with homemade sauce and sprinkled with Pecorino Romano was a weekly tradition.

Friday nights we would feast on nachos grande sprinkled with a four cheese taco blend or a large Brooklyn pizza pie. Desserts we would treat ourselves to ice cream, gelato and cheesecake.

We ate cheese daily and the chances were slim to none we could ever give up our love of fromage.

It is little over a year ago until I watched and my wife heard from our kitchen a rather disturbing video from Erin Janus on the dairy industry.


The content in this video highlights the Dairy industry in a graphic matter and the content is unsettling. Immediately upon watching this film I had vowed to never consciously consume dairy products again. If you love your ice cream or cheese I highly suggest you pass on this video and watch some cheesy feel good videos. You’ve been warned.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Years ago while in my late teens I spent a summer in Otsego County in Upstate New York. With charming villages nestled along the 70 mile long Unadilla River and large expanses of forest the area was a perfect location to just get away. Driving up the old single lane country highways I’d pass dairy farms and cattle farms often populated with hundreds of baby calves chained to small white huts. After only a few short days I began to learn these calves, often males as they were unable to become “dairy cows” were kept in close quarters to keep their meat tender as they would soon become what we know as veal.

Veal is the meat of calves, in contrast to the beef from older cattle. Veal can be produced from a calf of either sex and any breed; however, most veal comes from young males of dairy breeds which are not used for breeding. Generally, veal is more expensive than beef from older cattle.


Since that time I’ve only once (and only mistakenly) eaten veal. With such harsh living conditions and without any quality of life I refused to make veal a part of my diet.

Upstate NY was a perfect place to pick up the occasional odd job often helping farmers with haying, fence repair or working as a farm hand. Working for slightly more than gas and cigarette money, I’d work a 9 or 10 hour day at various farms. I became friendly with a family of dairy farmers, 3 high school aged boys who’s father had passed away. Afternoons and evenings I’d head on over to help relieve the boys from the 8 days a week job of running a farm.

Armed with my horse farm work experience I helped herd the heifers and female cows across the busy street into the dairy barn. Cleaning stalls, feeding and watering was my specialty as the brothers would proceed with the milking process. Tubing ran inside the barn to the milk room that contained huge stainless steel tanks of freshly pumped raw milk. Every other day the affiliated processor would send trucks to pump out these tanks. An evening treat would be a small cup full of the freshly pumped milk.

For many years I consumed milk based products with pride feeling that the dairy industry was generally wholesome. I’m uncertain at that time if these farms would have been considered organic and free range as I’m doubtful those were everyday terms of those times. I ignorantly assumed dairy cows consistently produced milk in a natural and pure way. It wasn’t until I had watched Erin’s 5 minute video did I learn the truth.

Weening myself off of dairy products wasn’t as difficult as I assumed it would be. For years I was using Almond Milk in my coffee so the challenges would be cheese, butter and cheese.

Oh how I love cheese.

photo by Michael Competielle

My wife and I quit cheese cold turkey (oh we quit turkey too and all other meats and fish on one fell swoop). Having heard that the non-dairy or Vegan cheeses were quite simply gross, we built a revised diet around rices, beans, grains, fruits and veggies as we boycotted anything remotely similar to meat and dairy products.

Watching scores of YouTube videos and reading hundreds of webpage articles we gradually began to reintroduce and consume Vegan cheeses and pseudo meats. Our first Vegan pizza was simply delicious as we devoured the entire thin crust brick-fired pizza with plant based cheese.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Our son who only occasionally makes the Vegan switch claimed the nondairy cheeses weren’t horrible as he helped us devour vegan pizza. With plant-based diary items gaining a massive growth spurt the availability of ice creams and cheeses has increased.

Walking thru our local high end supermarket we try our best to avoid the cheese aisle. The aged and moldy smell that reminds me of old gym shoes reminds me of the horrors I saw in the above video.

Our collective efforts to remove dairy, meat and fish has been a success as we recently celebrated our one year anniversary being on a plant based diet we look where we stand and feeling complacent about our stance while happy to have made the transition.

Oh and your cheese, it smells.