Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service
Much to the dismay of Boston’s restaurant community and Tuesday night tipplers, tonight marks the last ‘official’ shift for Josh Childs behind the bar at Silvertone in Boston’s Downtown Crossing. We will miss his affable, warm, welcoming, inclusive and good-natured presence and humor behind the bar. Long ago dubbed, the “Godfather of Boston Hospitality,” Josh is a guy whose laudatory reputation accurately precedes him.
It’s time to celebrate one of Boston’s most beloved bartenders.
One of the first “Josh moments” I had was at Silvertone. After talking with someone outside for several minutes, I came back to my stool at the bar and my High Life was in a mini “beer cooler,” a Boston Shaker tin filled with ice to keep my beer cold. Absolutely brilliant. After several similar interactions with Josh, I quickly realized that the legend was not myth.
A few years back, Misty Kalkofen asked me to help coordinate the initiative to bring “Hey Bartender,” a bartending documentary to Boston. Part of the initiative included assembling a panel of Boston bartenders for an on-stage discussion after the film. I was anxious about getting a great group to commit to the event. Not only did Josh participate, he showed up to dinner with the director before the film, then added his down-to-earth candor, wisdom and insight to the panel discussion. It was a huge relief to have Josh and his voice included in the conversation. Two days after the event, I received a hand-written envelope in the mail. It was an old-school, ‘Thank You’ note from Josh stating that he was “honored to participate.” I was nervous as hell about assembling a panel, and the living legend himself not only comes through, but takes time to humbly send his gratitude. Those are the defining moments that reinforce what the term, “good people” is all about. I’ll never forget that.
I asked some Boston restaurant industry folks and friends to share their reflections about Josh Childs:
Aaron Butler: There are too many stories to exactly say how much Josh has had an impact on me. Still, there is one. That amazing man opened Silvertone on my 30th birthday on a Sunday just for my friends and me and bartended it the whole time with Cedric. He is selfless, thoughtful, and wants nothing but the best out of and for others.
Seth Yaffe (GM, The Gallows): Josh Childs has always been and will forever be my hero and an inspiration when it comes to how to personify true hospitality in the restaurant industry. He is one of the best people I have ever met, and I am truly grateful to be able to call him a friend.
Nicole Fonsh: I had to think of a quick place to take my parents before a Saturday night show in the Back Bay that also took reservations. We ended up at a non-descript but reliable chain-type spot on Newbury Street [name redacted to protect the innocent]. As my family and I approached, I thought I recognized Josh and his family sitting outside. And it was him. And I think we both felt slightly guilty to be at this particular establishment. And immediately everyone was laughing about it. I introduced my parents to him and he couldn’t have been more warm and friendly and appreciative of meeting them. Once inside, I explained to my mom and dad who exactly they had just met. “That’s the guy that made me feel like I was home at Silvertone and Trina’s, even when I go in on my own.” They were so excited to have met the man, the myth, the legend. And ever since that encounter, I don’t think there was an night where Josh was working and didn’t ask about how my parents were doing. That has always meant so very much to me. Cheers.
Domingo-Martin Barreres: Josh is the consummate professional and all around great human. A bartender of the people as well as the bartender’s bartender. A rare breed of person who exists on a level that all aspire to but few reach. There is the old saying we have all heard numerous times since childhood that states – if you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing. This simple, yet seemingly impossible phrase for most to practice, speaks volumes to the character of Sir Joshua Childs. I have never, not once, heard that man utter a single disparaging word about any one or any thing.
The world can be a dark place at times but, in his presence, always shines a little brighter.
Thank you Josh for being my friend. I love you. Cheers.
Trina Sturm (Trina’s Starlite Lounge): I met Josh the way most have, sitting at his bar, being in awe if his hospitality and the way he commands his bar. We got to know each other when we started working together at the Beehive. Although both of our stints there were short, we formed a great friendship that is still strong. He and my husband, Beau Sturm became fast friends as well, and quickly formed a partnership that over the last 5 years have been lucky enough to open 3 restaurants/bars.
I owe so much to Josh. The last 5 years have been amazing because of him and we are still going strong. Everyone knows that Josh doesn’t have to be behind the bar to be the guy running the show. His professionalism and hospitality show even when he is sitting at a bar on his night off enjoying a drink. I’m grateful our friendship and business partnership continues, but I’ll miss having him make me a cocktail.
Yuki: Visiting Josh & Silvertone – “The best bad idea always.” So easy to stay late because you’re having so much fun.
On my worst days because work or life is stressing me out, Josh never fails to make me feel better. The drinks help for sure, but it’s because he really listens, cares and puts things into perspective through advice or inspiration that really lifts my spirits. Josh & Silvertone always feel like a safe place to be yourself.
Daren Swisher (bartender-jm Curley): Josh has an inimitable presence behind the stick, unfailingly hospitable. He works a bar with such aplomb, all the while forging a genuine rapport with each and every guest. I’ve asked myself, more times than I can count, if tending a bar will ever be so seemingly effortless for me as it is for Josh. I can only hope that someday it might be.
Karen Richey: I first met Josh Childs on a Sunday while I was working at The Butcher Shop in 2007/08ish. He would bring in his daughters and have lunch and many other patrons and employees would invariably stop by his table to say hello. I had no idea who he was or what he had done for the hospitality industry in his life, I only observed him as a Dad, amusing his kids and generally being an amazing guest in the dining room. His personality always sparkled and he had his own share of “Dad-jokes” that would usually make his older daughter roll her eyes and sigh loudly… “What does blanc-de-blanc mean, sweetie?”…”Aw, Dad, (insert SERIOUS eye-roll) it means the grapes are 100 percent Chardonnay!”
I can only hope that his example is followed as a Father and a Bartender. What a guy.
John Nugent: My favorite memory of Josh Childs is probably and selfishly the day he hired me. It was a very casual conversation between friends and I asked if he needed anybody for the fall. He replied with “How about you start in September.” I hope I kept my cool but I was doing backflips on the inside. I always wanted to work for him and was so excited to learn from him, Cedric, and Mike, The Three Musketeers of Hospitality.
I think you can relate any positive adjective toward Josh Childs and it could be correct in my opinion. My biggest dare–Find any bartender who has worked for Josh Childs and see if they have one negative thing to say about him.
Greg Reeves (Vialé): Josh Childs is the ultimate role model that many industries/professions lack. Aside from just being good at what he does, he can be an inspiration to just do the right thing. Whether it’s opening an ice cold High Life, or stopping the music so everyone can greet you and know you walked in, he is what the world needs more of. Plain and simple. And tall and handsome.
Tom Mastricola (Café ArtScience): I met Josh when we opened Roadtrip on Canal Street, I believe it was 1994. I was a kitchen guy at that point, but was lucky enough to be a part of an opening restaurant team with an amazing staff. Barmen like Rob Zin, Cedric Adams, Patrick Lynch and Josh Childs came form West Street, which was a great bar, and other places around the area. Everyone in the house was trained by the likes of Steve Olsen, one of the best in the business. A few years later Josh opened Silvertone and I was part of No.9 opening as bar manager. We lived at Silvertone after work and days off. (I actually pulled many shifts on Monday afternoons into the evenings at the end seat of the bar). We would go to Silvertone not only because of the close proximity to No.9, but for the most part the welcome you would get from Josh and everyone there! As far as I’m concerned, he is the king of hospitality in this town and it trickles down to everyone he works with.
We would walk down those stairs after work into a little piece of heaven. 100% industry!! We played cribbage, smoked, talked about the night, met chefs, dishwashers, servers, barmen and everyone from the restaurant scene. Not to mention drinking great wine, drinks, and of course Fernet and beer! Silvertone was everybody’s place to go to feel you where a part of something normal, not just a “restaurant worker.”
Beau Sturm: I wanna tell you about the first time I walked into Silvertone, which is to say, the moment that I knew I wanted to be in the bar business as my career.
It was winter 2000 I’m pretty sure. I was a fairly new bartender/server at Joe’s on Newbury Street– hey, it payed the bills…
After a day shift on a Tuesday, I had dinner at Biba with Mike Ray (another mentor of mine) behind the stick. After dinner I asked him where I could go on a Tuesday that would have some people. He didn’t hesitate to insist that I go to Silvertone, in his words: “the coolest spot in town.” He told me it was in a basement down some alley by the Orpheum. After some alley weaving, I found it.
I walked down the steps to the sound of laughter, loud laughter. It was 11:30pm on a winter Tuesday in downtown crossing; it couldn’t be that crowded…
Well, it was PACKED! Packed with a who’s-who of the restaurant business and what seemed like every hot girl in Boston. Some kind of smooth electro-jazz was playing at the perfect level. The lighting was dim but warm. Every inch of wall-space was taken up with vintage European liquor ads & antique radios. People were having a blast! But why? The place looked really cool but how could it be this busy and fun on a freezing cold Tuesday? I quickly found out. I was one of the droves in the bar. I knew no one. I was just trying to position myself to get a beer when the tall, debonaire barkeep breaks his conversation with a couple of the aforementioned beauties, looked up and gave me a huge smile like he’d known me forever. “Hey brother, can I get you anything?” I ordered a High Life because that’s all I saw anyone drinking. Then Josh saw that I wanted to ask him something but hesitated. He asked what else he could get me and I inquired if he might have a smoke I could bum. He said, “I can do better than that. I’ll be right back.” This guy comes over with an antique cigar box filled with cigarettes! “Take as many as you need buddy”.
I was hooked.
From that moment until this very day if someone comes to visit me, or is staying downtown and asks where to go, I don’t hesitate to insist that they go to Silvertone & see my good friend, Josh Childs.
Peter Boyd: Whenever I would be talking to a young bartender or barback I would always preface things with: I don’t claim to be the best behind a bar, because I know the best bartenders. I just try to take what I’ve learned from watching (and working with) the people I look up to in this business. You should all go sit at Josh Childs’ bar on a Tuesday night. Don’t tell him why you’re there. Just have a couple beers and observe how he moves behind the bar, makes sure you have a water and interacts with strangers and regulars alike.
I always felt that no matter what was going on outside the Silvertone door, you could always count on a smile, kind greeting and a few good hours there.
If you left Boston for a few months/years, you knew there would be that constant. We will miss him behind the bar, but rest assured that the generation of people who learned from his example will be there, spread throughout this city and beyond, to get you a beverage.
Steve Riley: If I was a wordsmith I could go on for days with Josh stories. And if I had a Happy meal #4 or the 200ml of Chartreuse that sits on my desk, I would ramble on…
I first met Josh in the dark ages of Bartending in the early 90’s. Hotel dining was for fancy dinners. No 9 Park, Clio or Radius hadn’t been hatched yet. But the ideas of bigger, more adventurous places were brewing. Josh Childs, Cedric Adams and several of their friends from around the city created an All-Star team behind the bar at a short-lived, white-hot restaurant called, Road Trip. With a collection of egoless talented bartenders from across the city, the bar became an instant success, probably to the detriment of the restaurant itself because every 25 to 40 single in the city was standing in line waiting to get drinks from this talented, fun, funny group of dedicated professionals. I was a fledgling wholesale sales rep when I met Josh for the first time at Road Trip, along with several others who have become lifelong friends. These guys were a Renaissance of Bartenders in Boston, real restaurant pros and not just a collection of students and actors on their way to greatness…
Josh and a few others of his generation helped set a very high standard of hospitality. Silvertone became a place for industry people to congregate, share ideas, successes and dreams. Lots of the places we enjoy today came from post-shift drinks with waiters, bartenders, cooks, bussers and runners–people drinking and dreaming about better, different, faster ways for us all to eat and drink. Silvertone surely is one of the places that helped incubate the Boston’s restaurant community’s inclusive and supportive nature so prevalent in our city. I believe most people in this city could agree that Tuesday Night with Josh behind the stick at Silvertone was one of the best definitions of HOSPITALITY.
Thank goodness this is just farewell to a bartending career and the end of an era that we are honoring. Here’s to many more years of sharing thoughts, dreams and drinks with our exceptional friend, Josh.
Aaron Cohen: I don’t get to the other side of the river hardly ever, so I just want to thank Josh with warm hugs for Trina’s Starlite Lounge as often as possible.
Justin Ito-Adler (GM, Nantucket Prime): When my brother came back from a year abroad, I brought him to sit with me at Silvertone. When I helped design a new bar program and we needed advice, Josh personally came out to sit with us. When I brought a group out to celebrate my mentor, Tom Mastricola’s, birthday we went to sit at Silvertone. When I wanted to leave the hospitality industry and needed inspiration, a coworker told me to go to Silvertone and sit with Josh. When I lost my job at a law office downtown and didn’t know what to do for work, I went to Silvertone and sat with Josh. When coworkers want to truly understand hospitality, I send them to Silvertone to sit with Josh. A true standup guy in the industry, there are no joys, remedies and experiences in the world of bars quite like going to Silvertone and sitting with Josh Childs. I am happy to be able to say that I had the opportunity.
David Robinson: All I want him to know is that he has all my love and respect.
Joe McGuirk (Highland Kitchen): Josh Childs is Rosa Parks. Or maybe he is Babe Ruth. Or maybe Moses. Or is he Lewis & Clark? Michael Jordan? Maybe he is a bit of all of them. I am talking about his immeasurable impact on the way people tended bar and the way people perceived bartenders. Josh moved all of us bartenders to the front of the bus. He did it with grace and dignity, like Ms Parks. And when he turned his hand to tending bar, he was Ruthian in how he changed the game. There were very good bartenders before Josh but he was a celebrity bartender before every job under the sun needed a “celebrity” version. I’m not saying Josh can part the sea but he did bring so many to a promised land and gave them a code of conduct; he taught both the industry and its patrons how to act whether it was behind the bar or sitting at it. And he did it with patience and humor. He blazed a trail for us all to follow and he did it with a smile but also with a string of incredible successes that reveal his competitive streak. I leave it to all of you to talk about what a great dad he is, what a mentoring boss he has been, and how he made you your first cosmo. I am here to say, bartenders and servers, we need to get this guy a statue, because now when we tell our friends we are working in restaurants, they don’t ask, “What else are you doing?” They will ask if we are hiring.
Here’s to the next chapter, Josh. Thank you for the nights you masterfully held court behind the bar while respecting the people you were serving on both sides. It will be comforting to see you on the same side more often. Cheers, brother.
Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service
When Fontaine locked the door on Thursday afternoon and Arthur climbed onto a stool to take the weight off his bum knee, I knew it was time. You could feel it. The Manjourides siblings have earned their retirement after working very hard together at Charlie’s for nearly four decades–an amazing feat unto itself.
I attended the last day of service on Saturday morning. Some of us camp out for concert and playoff tix, some of us for food and history in the making. My goal was to be first in line for the 7:30 opening. When I arrived at 6:25, the counter was already full of melancholy regulars and lively banter.
There are very few authentic places left that exude as much soul and history that Charlie’s did. After the door was locked on Thursday, I slowly walked around the restaurant taking in every framed picture and scrap of memorabilia, some I had never seen before. Fontaine filled in the blanks for me, “Oh yeah, that picture of me and Marie was used for an AT&T Ad. Yes, that’s Dennis Johnson (“DJ” Celtics legend), Al Pacino,…the Texas Chainsaw Massacre guys were so nice…”
We’ve all been to wakes, funerals or memorial services and thought, “If only we could have gathered this group when (deceased) was alive to celebrate their life with them and let them know how much we loved them.” The “living wake” for Charlie’s began on May 11th when the cat jumped out of the bag via twitter. Since then, and another twitter announcement, the Manjourides siblings have been inundated with media and sentimental regulars visiting for one last meal to say goodbye and congratulations. One gentleman who frequented Charlie’s 50 years ago, drove up alone last week from Alabama to pay his respects.
Personally, I’m thrilled for the Manjourides siblings and their families. I’m honored to have befriended all of them, and so happy they’ve closed the restaurant on their own terms. I have so much respect for what they have accomplished and endured. I’ll repeat the message I posted on my Facebook album dedicated to the extended Charlie’s family:
Much gratitude to siblings, Arthur, Chris, Fontaine, and Marie who have been operating Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe together for decades without killing each other!! I’ll miss the history, charm, wit, character(s), stories and friendship. Thank you for serving the South End neighborhood and Boston (and far beyond) so long and so well. Congratulations on a legendary run, and good luck on the next chapter. Cheers to everyone on both sides of the counter at Charlie’s, past and present.
To Charlie’s, a legendary American institution. Cheers. You will be greatly missed.
Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service
Some people are of the opinion they are beyond reproach, and that, regardless of the circumstances, they are the victim and the world owes them something. Fortunately, the backlash against entitlement and the disdain for pretension have exposed some of these individuals.
Enter semi-anonymous, “opinionatedchef” Chowhound extraordinaire, Mindy. The first obvious hint of Mindy’s persnickety nature is gleaned from her choice of Chow handle. The second is her body of work–while often very informative, there’s also a snotty tone in her posts that I’ve been reading for several years. Last week she outdid herself.
In her post about the very-popular Sycamore restaurant in Newton, MA, Mindy referenced two “uncomfortable service confrontations” in her opening paragraph. A lot of people only scan Chowhound, so if they read the title of her post, “Sycamore: Stellar Food but People Problems…,” along with the first paragraph, they’d be left with a negative impression of the hospitality at the restaurant. However, when we dig deeper into Mindy’s post, we find the root of the “confrontation”:
Now, last Wednesday we were 30 minutes late for our 5PM Sycamore reservation. And Sycamore is very small and usually booked solid, so 30 min. tardiness causes them big problems. I get that. And I own the responsibility. But still, the last thing you want to hear FIRST when you arrive late from a miserable over-extended crazy-Boston-drivers tempest – is how much of a problem you’ve caused and how the ONLY solution is for you to depart by such and such a time. And ONLY after you agree to that condition will you be seated.
Mindy prefaced her comments by distinctly identifying the General Manager who spoke with her, and summarily upbraided him in her post. And in a bizarre attempt to bolster her argument, she also interjected the name of a popular Boston restaurateur and concluded what he would have done in that circumstance to make her feel welcome. How clairvoyant.
She concluded her post with, “Next time? Well, hopefully, we will find a more relaxed and welcoming tone [from the staff], but if traffic blockades us…, I think we might just cancel and try for seating (elsewhere).”
What Mindy omitted in her post, but revealed later in the thread, is the fact that she failed to call the “usually booked solid” restaurant to let them know her party was running late. If she “owned the responsibility” she never would have publicly singled out the GM and bitched about the hospitality, period. In fact, when called out on the fact that they didn’t call ahead, she stated, “…we have no cell phone. we left home with ample time to arrive promptly, but the traffic gods had other plans…”
Yup, 2014 and they don’t own a cell phone. And yup, judgement.
Chowhounds can be a very cliquey, insular bunch. Regardless of extreme opinions, there is usually someone who will side with the OP (Original Poster), Mindy in this case. This is the first time I can remember unanimous disagreement with an OP. At least 25 different ‘Hounds’ weighed in supporting the restaurant GM and/or denouncing Mindy’s handling of the situation. Several posts were removed by the moderators (for being too ‘personal’ and attacking the OP), and the thread was locked the same day it started. Here’s a sampling of the comments(I copied and saved some of these before they were deleted):
Gordough: And I am sorry, but you lose me with the no cell phone thing. Totally fine and commendable if you want to attempt to live a completely cell free life but this situation could have been made all the better with a heads up call to the restaurant. I always call if I am going to be more than 5 min late and I can’t tell you how gracious the hosts and hostesses are when I call. To me it seems like common courtesy but so many people don’t do it. And I am also surprised that just based on Sycamore’s tiny size (do they have more than 12-15 tables?) you weren’t more understanding how 30 minutes can mess them up.
Bugsey34: After 30 minutes, I believe you become what is called a “no show, no call.” I think you’re lucky they would have been able to seat you at all, really. I would have expected no soup for you. It’s not about being rude, it’s actually just mathematics of the small number of tables and how long it takes guests to eat there.
MC Slim JB: Might be time to look into a cheap mobile phone and pay-as-you-go plan for emergency use. It’s really not acceptable to make a reservation, miss it by more than 15 minutes, and not give the restaurant a heads-up as soon as you know you’ll be late. It’s worse at a place that is really small and has an early rush like Sycamore.
TimTamGirl: I have to agree with the other commenters that it was pretty awesome that they were able to seat you at all the first time. I understand that you would have preferred a gentler tone, but honestly, under the circumstances, I’m not sure one was warranted – especially since it sounds like you were expecting to be given a comforting hug after your crappy drive. I understand that you had had an unpleasant experience, but that’s… not on the restaurant. At all.
midnightboom: I have several years of experience as a hostess and I have dealt with many people like you. Let me tell you just how your behavior ruins everything for everyone.
We hold tables for 15 minutes max, after that, if you haven’t called to tell us you’re running late, you’re out of luck. Once you decide to show up on your schedule, you’ll be on the wait list and that’s the best we can do.
Once you no call/no show, we plan on you not arriving, and plan out the rest of the seating accordingly. The times we quote to those on the wait list depend on you now not coming/us having that table available when we say it’s going to be available. We see which tables are getting up soon and move the waiting list along.
When YOU show up and demand your table, you are now throwing off our wait times, sometimes by a large chunk of time, pissing off everybody else on the wait list because now that you’ve taken their table and extended their wait time. So if we end up seating you as you feel is your right, you might end up having a happy dinner, but you’ve now upset a long list of other diners who have been waiting patiently and are marring their experiences with your entitlement.
Behavior like this is simply rude. This post is all about yourself and not thinking about how your actions actually affect anyone else, and the domino effect it has from the staff onto the rest of the guests. Feign innocence if you must but most of the time, if you are met with a pissy reaction from staff it’s because of the way you’re treating them. You may think the customer is always right but that doesn’t mean people will stand for disrespect.
Also, important things like having a temporarily disabled person with who requires a certain seating arrangement should be communicated when you make the reservation, NOT when you arrive. The right table is not always magically available. And get a damn cell phone, that’s not the restaurant’s problem.
Jerezhound: …Yes, we are in the hospitality business, but in the end we’re in BUSINESS, and we would like to stay that way. If we continue to alienate the majority of our guests by cowtowing to the neediness of entitled, disrespectful guests such as yourself, then we will no longer attract the good guests who play by the rules and give ample notice of potential problems, and we are no longer able to provide for ourselves or our countless employees because no one wants to do business with us anymore because they can’t get a table on time. So, think twice next time you decide to complain about someone doing you a FAVOR.
DrewStarr: You don’t seem to realize that by not calling, you were as disrespectful of the host as you could possibly be – the most important job they have is managing the seating of that dining room. You no longer live in a society where “I couldn’t get to a phone” is an excuse for being late without warning.
You showed additional disrespect when you gave a physical description that identified the individual to those familiar with the restaurant. Had another Chowhound poster done the same of you, the post would have been removed.
The only reason people are telling you to get a cell phone is because you felt it is your place to not adhere to the social contract; given this is a discussion forum, that implicitly gives them the right to respond to this particular aspect of your life.
As someone who has been reading Chowhound from the beginning, Drew’s comment resonates deeply. The biggest problem I’ve had with Chowhound over the years is that they find it perfectly acceptable for an OP or poster to single out a restaurant worker by physical characteristics, but it’s not ok for a poster to point out another poster’s flawed ‘characteristics’ or arguments. I’ve seen hundreds of posts removed over the years that included important facts relevant to the discussion.
ChocolateMilkshake: And they [Chowhound Moderators] just axed another 10 comments. It’s a wonder why anyone continues to post on Chowhound at all.
hyde: Nah, it’s great! It makes for a dumbed down totally acceptable pablum where nobodies feelings are ever hurt and no real outrage ever takes place. Vanilla Ice Cream for Everybody!
senatorjohn: Entitlement isn’t news. What I find incredible about this story is you haven’t bothered to get a mobile phone in the last fifteen years, but you still take the time and effort to complain on the internet.
If you ever return to Sycamore and they are gracious enough to let you in the front door, make an uncomfortable service confrontation of your own: apologize for your behavior, this post included.
Mindy responded to the admonishment from fellow hounds with obstinate narcissism:
opinionatedchef(Mindy): Man, the assumptions are flying today!! All i can see is CHs not willing to READ my post w/o scalpel in hand.
Except for not calling, I never did or would be disrespectful of the host. Wherever we are dining, we always make reservations and if we are running late from our house, we always call to check with the host, before leaving. No one’s place to tell me to get a cell phone. No one’s place to make assumptions about how i live my life.
We did NOT screw up the night’s floor plan/seating schedule. We departed when we were told to depart/bill paid/ no unfinished business. We ate faster; they made their $ on our table; the following guests were able to sit at their reserved time.
Hey, we all fuck up. How we respond after being enlightened makes all the difference.
I reached out to Sycamore via their website and received a nice note from their GM graciously declining to comment.
Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service
Carolyn Grantham’s life was celebrated today at Story Chapel in Cambridge, MA by her family and friends with elegance, class, dignity, humility, humor and champagne. Based on Carolyn’s final wishes, I’m sure she would have enthusiastically approved of the champagne corks popping in the chapel.
Carolyn has been blogging about food (“Writing About Eating”) since the fall of 2006. I’ve followed her journey on and off since then, occasionally exchanging emails and comments about blogging, food, and restaurants. The journey on “LimeyG’s” blog includes trips to Spain, England, Puerto Rico, Aruba, Montreal, San Francisco, Texas, Florida, and yes, the Big E in Springfield, MA. Her food adventures cover everything from humble street foods like Australian meat pies, to foie gras at Au Pied de Cochon.
LimeyG, September 5, 2009 [describing cromesquis de foie gras at Cochon]:
They look innocent enough, … But here’s the deal: They’re cubes of foie gras, breaded and deep-fried. The breading becomes an impermeable shell and the inside turns to liquid.
To eat, you put the whole thing in your mouth, close your lips, and bite. And suddenly it’s as though the entire inside of your head is bathed in warm, soft, rich, deep, soothing liquid.
It actually, literally, seriously brought tears to my eyes.
On January 16, 2011, Carolyn announced on her blog that she had been diagnosed with cancer:
Got some interesting news this week: I have squamous cell carcinoma in my mouth. It’s very treatable and has a high cure rate, which is good. The bad, of course, is that treatment is aggressive and sucky: two or three rounds of intense chemo, followed by seven weeks of radiation.
So what do I have to look forward to? Loss of appetite, changes in my palate, zapped tastebuds, zapped salivary glands, a raw tongue and throat.
Yes, there are a ton of other side effects, but whatever. These are the ones that bug me the most; what will life be like if I can’t enjoy food?
Carolyn’s new journey, including hospital food, medical treatments, and her relationship with her husband, Diego, was chronicled in a poignant Boston Globe piece by Bella English on March 11th 2014. In a very humbling, moving and inspirational piece, Carolyn shared several experiences with Bella about the new challenges she faced with eating, especially in restaurants:
Kate Grams is the nurse practitioner who has been with Grantham since her diagnosis. Her admiration for the couple is deep. “She has suffered horribly, been in incredible pain, disfigured, can’t go out, and can’t eat, which is one of her great joys,” says Grams. “But she has kept an amazing outlook and been game for any therapy and any kind of torture we would dish out.”
…As long as she could sip through a straw, she would take her food that way. “Food is important to me,” she explains. “It’s part of who I am. I didn’t want to lose that bit of independence, that control.”
…She was having to puree her food into liquid form, and when she went to restaurants, asked chefs to do the same.
Some restaurants were very accommodating, and others were not so kind when she requested that they prepare a dish exactly as they normally would, and then throw it in the blender. Carolyn had one nightmare restaurant encounter that brought her to tears when a chef abruptly said no. According to Bella, Carolyn wrote that her experience should serve as a guide to other chefs, “Sometimes a diner will need a little extra accommodation. Please don’t be offended if we need to crush your delicious, carefully created vision. We’re just hungry.”-LimeyG
We’re just hungry.
That quote ripped through me. Eating is such a simple pleasure that so many of us take for granted. A significant focus of my project includes making suggestions about how and why customers should demonstrate empathy and compassion for service industry workers. Thank you to Carolyn for graciously reminding us that mutual respect is a two-way street, and that hospitality includes trying to understand where unique requests are coming from (and saying yes) before judging and/or saying no.
On February 19th, Carolyn tweeted, “Guess I’m beyond the help of modern medicine,” and linked to her blog post, End of the line that included some moments of great joy, accomplishment and fulfillment in her life. I recommend that you read her full blog post.
On February 22nd she demonstrated that her delightfully irreverent sense of humor was still intact when she tweeted, “Spent the morning sorting clothes to give to charity. Now I have to hope I don’t need any clothes.”
A few days after Carolyn passed away, her friends on Chowhound and Facebook noted a message from Carolyn delivered via her husband, Diego:
Carolyn left instructions I now quote verbatim: “In lieu of flowers, Carolyn has asked that you have an excellent glass of champagne; tell your family how much you love them; buy yourself a book you’ve been meaning to read; do one nice, small thing for a stranger.”
Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service
The Boston bar and restaurant community is tight-knit, and very generous with their time and energy when it comes, to cooking, mixing and serving for many great causes. Now it’s time to help one of our own.
On October 21st, bartender Alex Homans was riding his bike to work at Fairsted Kitchen in Brookline’s Washington Square. The restaurant was still a week away from opening to the public when Alex was peddling in, hoping to work on some new cocktail recipes. As we all know, life can change on a moment’s notice, and none of us are exempt.
Alex was cruising down Beacon Street when a car pulled out in front of him. He crashed into the side of the car, went straight up into the air, and landed on his back. Alex told me that wearing a helmet probably saved his life, but he still suffered a separated shoulder and a fractured vertebrae. Fortunately, the prognosis is good. After spending a few days in the hospital, Alex is looking at approximately 6 weeks of recuperation at home, followed by 1-2 months of physical therapy before he can return to work.
I found out about the accident from Daren Swisher, a friend, bartender and co-worker of mine. Alex has many restaurant industry friends who are rallying together to help him. He’s been in the industry in the Boston area for almost 10 years, including stints at Alchemy on Martha’s Vineyard, Flora in Arlington, Myers and Chang-South End, Russell House Tavern and Temple Bar in Cambridge, Backbar in Somerville, and now Fairsted Kitchen in Brookline.
In many instances, when you work as a server or a bartender, if you’re out of work, you’re out of pay. Insurance often doesn’t cover down time. There was a police officer at the scene of the accident, and the driver of the car was clearly at fault, and cited. Longer term Alex should recoup some compensation/damages, but near term he could use some help.
If you are in a position to help, here are a few ways that you can:
After a successful Sunday Brunch introduction last weekend, the team at PARK in Harvard Square has decided that round two on Sunday, 11/24 will benefit a friend and Grafton Group alumni, Alex Homans. All food proceeds from brunch will be donated to Alex as he recuperates from a recent bicycling accident. PARK’s new brunch offerings include Chef Mark Goldberg’s spirited interpretations of morning favorites like sourdough pancakes peppered with bacon or sausage in “The Collegiate” and a homemade hollandaise spiced with Old Bay for the “New England Bennie.” Brunch is available from 10AM-4PM and reservations are appreciated. For more information, please call: 617 491 9851.
#2- Go to Fairstead Kitchen at 1704 Beacon Street in Brookline. Introduce yourself to Andrew Foster, Patrick Gaggiano & team, order a Vin d’Orange ($6), and proceeds will go to Alex. Fairsted will be serving the Vin d’Orange (Alex’s creation) until further notice.
From the Backbar Facebook Page:
This week please come support our friend and former bartender here at Backbar: Mr. Alex Homans! Our drink of the week is a Time Out for Alex ($10), it’s a blue daiquiri with Bacardi Heritage, fresh lime, aged blue curacao and a little sugar! All proceeds from the drink will go to Alex who needs a little help from his friends due to the fact that he will be out of work because of a bike accident last month, leaving him a long road to recovery.
#4- Go to flora restaurant in Arlington, MA and purchase a Brandy Alexander. According to Mary Jo Sargent, 100% of sale proceeds from Brandy Alexanders with steamed milk will go to aid Alex’s recovery.
#5- If you work in a restaurant, run a drink special for a night, or throw a few bucks in at the end of the night and send it to Alex. You never know when one of us is going to need help.
#7- Stay tuned for updates. There’s a Boston fundraiser in the works.
In an era of so many crowdfunding campaigns and platforms, here is an opportunity to do something specific and direct (w/no admin costs) to help one of our own. Please do something if you can.
Thank you very much.