A Lifelong Lesson from a Whole Roasted Salmon

Whole Roasted Salmon

Have you ever seen the movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life?”  I’m guessing most of us have with the exception of a few.

In the 1946 movie “It’s A Wonderful Life,” George Bailey played by James Stewart, wishes he had never been born. An angel (Henry Travers) is sent to earth to make George’s wish come true. It is then that George starts to realize how many lives he has changed and impacted, and how they would be different if he was never there. 

In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives we’re often too busy to take time out to help someone, smile at someone, share our time with someone, or even be courteous. We’ve all been thoughtful, and also had bad days, only to take it out on someone we love, or a total stranger.  But, have you ever stopped to consider the impact this has on someone?  Unless you’re told or shown you may not be aware of it, as in “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

As you know I teach culinary classes throughout St Louis, Missouri, in public venues, non-profit organizations and the homes of my clients.  I frequently teach at a cancer organization here in town that offers a variety of classes to cancer survivors.  It’s an incredible facility and one I feel proud to be affiliated with.  It was during one of my classes there, that I learned a lifelong lesson.

After my class, a student who I’ll call Sarah, walked up to me with hope and sadness in her eyes, and said, “This was the best 2 hours I have had in months.”  It was just what she needed to get her mind off her problems.  Sarah had cancer, was going through treatments, plus as a result had suffered multiple complications from the cancer, and treatments.  Her life felt unbearable – yet during the 2 hours of my cooking class she totally escaped and forgot about them.  She felt at ease talking with me in class, and said the entire experience was fun, relaxing, and rejuvenating.  Sarah couldn’t thank me enough.

When I got into my car that evening after class I sat there and cried. I cried for so many reasons:

  • I would have never known the impact I had on Sarah that day had she not shared it with me.
  • How many other lives had I affected through my classes there, or for that matter anyplace else?
  • How often had my actions affected others on a daily basis, whether from a smile, a simple act of kindness, or just taking a few minutes out of my day to be with someone or talk with them? Of course when I’m fussy, what impact did that have on someone as well?

For those of us who have been fortunate to have good health and happiness, have you ever stopped to think of all the little things you might complain about?  Why do we sweat the small stuff when there are so many bigger things in this world to be concerned with?

Whether you operate a large business, small business, a sole proprietor, or for that matter in your everyday life – remember to treat others how you would expect others to treat you.  How we behave has a direct effect on those we interact with.

Sarah’s comment had a huge impact on my life/business, and opened my eyes, a fact she’s probably unaware of herself.

Think about it!  What impact have you had on someone else’s life, and how have they yours?  Chances are neither of you truly has a clue.

Just like George Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life” I too discovered the effect my actions had on someone.  While I thought nothing of what I was doing or teaching, I realized from Sarah that every little action I do, creates a reaction.  Don’t forget, whether in business or in life, think before you act – while we may never know how another perceives us, I feel confident we’d hope it to be positive!

A recipe that Sarah enjoyed in my class and couldn’t wait to try when she got home was this Whole Roasted Salmon that I prepared.  She has since made it for her family and they enjoyed it too.  I thought I would share it with you as well.

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. ~ Winston Churchill

Whole Roasted Salmon

Whole Roasted Salmon


  • 1 whole salmon, 6-8 lb., cleaned by the fishmonger
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 3 fennel bulbs, trimmed, cored and cut crosswise into slices ½ inch thick, with a handful of fronds reserved
  • ½ cup dry white wine


  1. Preheat the oven to 500F degrees
  2. Rub the cavity of the salmon with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.  Lightly sprinkle the cavity with salt and pepper.
  3. Using a mandolin or very sharp knife, cut the lemons crosswise into paper-thin slices.  Lay half of the lemon slices inside the cavity of the salmon.  Strip a small handful of leaves from the thyme sprigs and scatter them over the lemon slices.  Rub the outside of the salmon with another 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with more salt and pepper.
  4. In a bowl, toss the fennel slices with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to coat thoroughly.  Spread the fennel in an even layer on a large, deep, rimmed baking sheet or large roasting pan lined with parchment paper.  Place the fish on top.  If just part of the head and/or tail of the fish fall over the edge(s) of the pan, gently curl the fish to fit inside the pan.  If more than that extends over the edge(s) of the pan, you can cut the fish in half crosswise and place the halves side by side.  Top the salmon with the remaining lemon slices, arranging them attractively. Place the remaining sprigs of thyme and fennel fronds over and around the fish.
  5. Roast fish for 15 minutes, and then reduce oven temperature to 425F degrees.  Pour the wine into the pan, surrounding the fish, continue roasting until the flesh is opaque throughout (use a thin-bladed knife to peek) or an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 130F.  Start checking at 30 minutes; it may take up to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the fish.
  6. Remove the salmon from the oven allowing it to rest for 10 minutes, or cool to room temperature.  Serve the salmon whole, directly from the pan, or transfer the fish to a serving platter and arrange the fennel around the fish.  Encourage guests to help themselves to a portion of the fish and some sliced fennel.

Want to meet purveyors who are making a difference with their customers? Check out BonAppetit.com’s “Out of the Kitchen”, an ongoing exploration of the relationships that build and sustain the food industry. See how hyper-local food markets operate and how their focus on quality and service keep customers coming back for more.