I can trace back my love for the restaurant business to one single moment. We were new to town. Having just moved here from the great white North. A total culture shock. We were Northerners. Raised on the land. Snow toughened. Probably talked too fast in a funny accent. And then we were Southerners. Just like that. A slower pace for sure, but also a difference in the people. Not good. Not bad. Just different. In the North, the winters tend to separate people. You go inside in one season and come out in the next. Human connections are almost put on hold until the thaw. In the South, there is little broken connection. There is little to no hurry to be connected. So it’s slower. A pace.
We may have been celebrating the move, a new start, a fresh beginning, or some other milestone. Eating in the best restaurant we could afford. The pageantry of our evenings marking moments. I was a fourteen year old kid. Life was big. All of it very confusing and larger than comprehension. My parents had been there a time or two. We arrived and they were greeted by name. That was a big deal. I thought they were famous. We were escorted to the table and seated. Impeccable service. Each of us treated like a king. Like we were important. I’ll never forget. A man approached our table. He was larger than life. Immaculately dressed. Groomed to the nines. A booming voice. A presence. A captivating character. There was no doubt that this man was in charge. He could have been the president, a famous athlete, a movie star. I was in awe. And he treated me like royalty. Me. A fourteen year old kid that was still trying to figure out his worth in the world. It could’ve been yesterday in memories. And yet it was over thirty years ago. A million miles and moments between then and now. And yet, this moment stands out.
Since then, he and I have shared other stories, other moments equally as powerful as this one. He raised me in this business. He was the standard by which I measured myself and others. A good standard. The right standard. I understood then, and I understand now, the importance of human connection. That is the true North. The guidepost.
I was honored to sit at his table this morning. I was honored to be able to tell this man, thirty years later, how much he meant to me. I am honored to be his friend. Since I was fourteen. aj