Well, we made it through the holiday gauntlet of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Eve. These holidays I've celebrated this year will be my last in the restaurant business. It is a bitter sweet pill to swallow.
As I look back on some of the most memorable times during those holidays I can almost see the joy on the faces of all those guests served by myself or my team. The memories I've collected through-out the years cascade from the windmills in my mind. From the Caprice in Tiburon, Epanoui, the Fairmont Hotel, The Mark, Domain Chandon, Yesterdays in Florida, Bonnie Castle in New York, all the way to Vegas, Baby... its been quite the journey affirmed by the experiences that make up a full life.
I sometimes dream (as though it was yesterday) about the places I've worked and the amazing food I was so blessed to serve. The wonderful guests (for the most part) I was honored to meet across four states have become pictures I look at from the album of life. Very few professions afford you the opportunity to create an experience by which all others would be judged. This responsibility I never took lightly as I remember the very few times that the service, food, and wine exceeded my expectations and created a memory that will be with me for as long as forever is.
Once upon a time in a land far away I worked at the Caprice in Tiburon as my first job as a busboy in the restaurant business. I remember how nervous I was as I'd never worked in a restaurant before. I also remember the most amazing smells from the kitchen, the eccentric chef, the French maitre'd, and of course the jaw dropping view of Angel island, San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, Belvedere, and of course Tiburon.
The downstairs private dinning room at the Caprice had a fireplace carved out of the California coast line. The ceiling was adorned with old wooden wine cases featuring the rarest of French wines. The windows were portholes from the USS Texas and could withstand the violent waves from the bay crashing upon the glass. These same waves would roll underneath the restaurant to cool (at a perfect 58 degrees) the wine cellar. The final touch was a full bar with a very nautical theme. This restaurant was the reason I fell in love with the restaurant business and all the ups and downs provided by ownership, management, fellow employees, and of course the guests.
Writing menus for the chefs to execute, managing restaurants, designing wine lists, producing commercials and media campaigns, training and teaching of staffs, bartending, dishwashing, busing, and serving were all part of the many different hats I've worn through-out my restaurant career. I have also been blessed to experience special events that entailed everthing from the opening of restaurants, wineries, or hotels, and then staying at world class hospitality insider venues while meeting some of the most influential chefs, master sommeliers and restaurateurs in the world.
It seems like only yesterday I began and now I am close to the end of this part of my life. I will always look fondly back at a profession that has provided a living for me and my family for almost five decades. I have seen the beginning of the internationaly recognized wine industry in the Napa Valley and the food that soon followed. I have seen a small periodical bloom before my eyes (the Wine Spectator) and have personally witnessed the creation of culinary master pieces that stretch the imagination. I've tasted wines most people only dream of and have enjoyed dishes created by the personal chef for the president of France and the chef that prepared the innagural dinner for President Reagan.
I only mention all of this as a humble refrain because I've been so lucky to start at a small French restaurant and then enjoy the fruits of the restaurant business. This only happened because I fell in love with the broad view of hospitality and all the nuances that goes along with that concept. After all of my experiences in this industry I can honestly say one thing: The more you learn about food, wine, and service, the more you realize how little you truly know.
Too all those I've been honored to work with and the guests I've met I can't think of another job that would have affored me the blessings I've enjoyed because of the simplicity of serving food, wine, and other extraordinary beverages.
I raise my glass to all with the hope that sharing a meal with others will bring the joy intended with an inner smile that goes beyond the now and becomes the present.
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