Knock, Knock

A few years ago my buddy and coauthor Chef Charles Carroll had a crazy idea. Let’s organize a trip to Afghanistan. Bring along a troupe of celebrities, entertainers and cooks, a few tons of food, dozens of pallets of gifts, drop in on a forward operating base (FOB) in a war zone, put on a Vegas-style show, and make a home-cooked meal for 5,000 US troops. Some people build model airplanes in their spare time. Some go on hikes, or start a coin collection. Chef Charles does impossible things. It’s like his hobby, I guess. Although he doesn’t actually have any “spare time.” As executive chef of one of the busiest country clubs in the U.S. he runs a staff of seventy-five, putting on eighty to a hundred banquet events per week. Spare time or not, though, he keeps climbing these impossible mountains. So he raised the money, organized the team, and made the trip. Cooked for the troops. That was 2011. And it had far more impact on him than he even expected. “Men and women came up to me and told me what it was like there,” he says. “That they hadn’t expected to be there more than a few months, and now they were there for years. How much they missed home. Some of them were talking about suicide.” When he got back Stateside he decided he had to go back, and this time, he had to bring them as much of a taste of home as possible. A flood of messages from people back home saying they missed them and how much they loved and...