,*This is an excerpt of a discussion I had with a BBC reporter immediately after Anthony Bourdain passed away. I have extended this post because my site was down for a few days and I feel it is really worth reading and extending its emphasis.
"I have co-owned two restaurants in Canada.
More like they owned me.
What I found out about owning restaurants is that I was no good at owning restaurants.
The first restaurant we simply invested money. (Yep, I've yet to see a return on my investment. Total newbie F-up.)
The second restaurant, we were all in.
My partner and I were the investors. He hosted, dealt with paperwork, ordering as per the chef's instructions, upkeep, et al.
I hosted, designed menus, picked out the organic wine (I DID have some knowledge there) and hired the entertainment. Pretty basic stuff because I was a pretty basic restaurant owner.
Our partners were chefs and former restaurant owners. We entrusted them as the experts. (Another flippin' mistake, but that was because I didn't know enough to see the signs of a doomed partnership.)
I was a wet behind the ears, green, newbie, riding by the seat of my pants owner with what appeared to be money to burn (and burn it we did). I take full responsibility for my choices.
Our chef, who was immensely talented and a total what-you-see-is-what-you-get person, handed me a book one day.
I will never forget what he said to me:
"KaZ, if you want to know and understand me, and what goes on in a restaurant, you need to read this book."
He handed me "Kitchen Confidential" by Anthony Bourdain.
I said "Thank you?"
It's not that I wasn't up to being schooled by my chef, I just had NO idea what I had gotten myself into and he knew it.
It was the one of the kindest things ANYONE has ever done for me.
I read the book from cover to cover. Some chapters and paragraphs I read more than once or twice.
Some passages I just could NOT believe and some made complete sense to me.
After I "studied" the book it changed how I looked at my chef and at the restaurant business.
It helped me to look for the signs of theft of money and goods from the restaurant (there was both).
It helped me regard my chef as an artist, a humble but proud creator and a master of his art.
The book gave me insight into what I needed to do in the back and front of the house to insure my staff had what they needed.
I also learned the times to tighten the reins when things got out of hand.
Pointing out financial and operational issues did not make me popular with my staff or my partners, BUT it DID make me savvy.
Were any of my staff on drugs, stealing from me or f'ing off? You bet they were.
Were any of them busting their butts? You bet they were.
Was my chef an adept and more than capable craftsperson? YOU BET HE WAS.
Would I have recognized ANY of this without the book?
Probably, but it would have taken SO MUCH LONGER.
My son bussed tables at 8, 9 and 10 years old. He loved it. He loved being in the restaurant. The staff treated him like a valuable person, not just the owner's son.
His dream was to be a chef and as he pursued that dream Anthony was his hero and still is.
Why Anthony and not other notable chefs? I don't know, but I'll ask him.
We both cried when we heard of his death.
I owned a small bistro that was a blip on the world map, but it WAS a blip, nonetheless.
My point is that Anthony did more for me and my son than he will ever know."
If you or someone you know and love is suffering from mental health challenges, seek assistance.
National Suicide Prevention Line
Available 24 hours everyday
Crisis Text Line Text “home” to 741741
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Help Line: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
As always, thanks for reading!
See you next week.