It has been exactly 9 days since Kevin, the realtor, handed me the keys to 12 Thornton Drive in Hyannis. It's been about 20 years since I was a young busboy at my cousin's restaurant Primavera, in Millis Ma. hanging out with other cooks, and busboys, and talking about opening a restaurant one day (usually chatting nonsensically while drinking Bacardi 151 rum)
.The location has served as a restaurant for years, first as Murph's Recession ( I hear their prime rib was to die for) and later on a BBQ joint, rightly named, Porky's. The is a 1970's style commercial building, that from the outside, and has a really old, "vintage" window air conditioner sticking smack dab in the middle of the building. Never judge a book by it's cover, and never judge an a building by crumby landscaping, out of date design and off the beaten path location. We are going to make it beautiful. We'll call it Spoon and Seed.
My wife, father and I said it was a great opportunity to open a restaurant. "Everything is there". The wall to wall carpeting can easily be ripped out, showcase some exposed concrete for a sharp finish, tables need a little TLC, there's a barn wood fronted bar that could be re-purposed for a cool breakfast counter, a filthy, greasy kitchen, with solid, but unpaid-attention-to (for 3 years) equipment and that just need a "really, really, good deep cleaning. The location is not on 6A, Main St. or by the water but people will come. Why? Because of the inspiring, simple, farm to table food we are going to cook, how we are going to serve it and how people are going to feel when they come and leave. Between my wife and I, we bring over 30 years of restaurant experience to the show. Most of it at top restaurants in New York City, like Aureole and La Grenouille, where attention to detail is crucial.
My wife Andrea and I compliment each other really well. She is very logical, I'm a little bit more spontaneous, but we keep one another grounded. One of things we are lucky enough to have in common is that we were both raised by hard working families. We believe in loyalty and dedication. We have been lucky enough to travel around the world and eat in incredible restaurants, but we also are not afraid to wash dishes, clean toilets and get our hands dirty, and at the end of the day have a quick bite at a cheap, really good Malaysian restaurant on some street in Hoboken were there is no parking, mismatched seats, but "oh boy, that chicken roti and green mango smoothie is delicious". So now is the time we do what we said we could better than most, open our own restaurant.
Luckily, I have a great team. My family. Oh, yeah, I'll put them to work. Let's start with Braveheart himself. If this were a thousand years ago, my 66 year old, father Alfonso, who was born and raised in a small farm village miles from Napoli would have been a general in an army leading the fight from the front lines and in the trenches with his bow and arrow and cold steel. He'll always be stronger than me, smarter than me and I have always wanted to be like him. I always learn something new from him. He said he would help me out to open a restaurant if the time ever came. I'm calling his bluff. He's not a carpenter, plumber, hairdresser, gardener, fisherman, chef, hunter, golfer, farmer, he's a problem solver that can do all the above things and more.
In the first two days of getting the keys to the location my father and I had torn up the dusty, dirty, bluish, wall to wall carpeting, chipped away, tile, by tile to reveal some exposed concrete, surgically removing the barn wood from the former bar and saving it for later use on our breakfast counter ideal. All the while, my wife is helping, making calls to the town, filling out paper work, my sister and mom are scrubbing with me in the kitchen and oh, I found a smoker in Quincy on craigslist, I'll call my brother to see if he can pick it up for me. My two kids, Sophia and Sebastian, are testing pancakes, and making decisions about how we should "cater" to kids.
I'm 35 now, close to 36, and the more I think, the more I come back to the conclusion that life is just made up of small details and simplicity. Lately, taking things away rather than accumulating them has made more sense. A chef I used to work for, Michael White, of the AltaMarea group in Nyc, was interview about one of his restaurants and he made a comment about the designer Coco Chanel of all people. He said that before Coco would leave the house, she would look in the mirror and always take one thing off. I don't have the money (or style) that Coco had but when it comes to hard work, family and motivation, I'm a rich man.