I have been in the hospitality industry in one way or another for around 30 years — the first restaurant job I had was at the Elsah Landing Restaurant at Plaza Frontenac in St. Louis in the fall of 1983. My mom would drive me to work…

Since then, I have had some really interesting and life changing positions and education (Pinewoods, followed by the Culinary Institute of America and on to La Grenouille in NYC was most significant — earthy-crunchy folk dance camp food to the great culinary school where I graduated with honors to 3 star classic French, all of which inform what I do now), work that has set the course of my life. But there has always been a sense of needing more, needing the next thing, dissatisfaction, hunger, frustration, desire, longing… I got to three years at Meridian Pint, and for the first time in my life I was not thinking about the next position, the next job, the next person I work for. I was planning, yes, but in the context of the work I had in front of me, the growth of the people who worked for me, and those for whom I worked (and in some cases they were one and the same, if you think about it). I was far from satisfied about where we are — we were constantly reaching, growing, and improving, but to know that I was a part of something that sees that as its mission was a really an amazing experience. While I was far from satisfied, that did not in anyway mean that I was dissatisfied. To the contrary, I was anything but.  At three years, I was ready for what was next, at three and a half, I painfully had to leave.

After the summer, and trying out lunch, for a number of reasons I hit a personal wall.  It was not something I wanted.  I was looking forward to opening the next restaurant, what is now Brookland Pint.  But my internal mechanisms, after three years of going months without taking days off, intense pressures, and my own personal life that wasn’t getting tended to, I crashed.  It was personally devestating, and I spent many months putting myself back into a place where I could put myself out there.

I do want to continue, however, to express my gratitude to those who made my time at Meridian Pint a success.  I am enormously proud of what we accomplished. During the three and a half years that I was at the Pint there were some key players that I would like to publicly acknowledge and thank, because honestly I am still really, really grateful…

In the words of my boss, first and foremost is Cynthia Connolly, who supported me in so many vital ways. We met around the same moment that John Andrade hired me. And John Andrade did indeed hire me. John and I had our challenges, but he trusted me, and gave me the freedom to make the decisions I felt needed to be made.  We worked collaboratively  to make the menu a success.  Of course, I think Sarah Voorheis Andrade is the person who actually put the bug in his ear when I first tried out for the job. I am indebted to both.

All of the people that were at the tasting at Asylum, before I was hired, well, I really appreciate them being there. And the support staff that helped me to pull that off… First impressions are important. They really made that moment happen for me.

The original management team at Meridian Pint, including Drew Swift, Jennifer Marcano and Sam Fitz, with whom I fought, struggled and grew.  I loved working with all of them. Oil and water don’t mix, but you can get a pretty stable emulsion. I do not think I could have asked for a better team.  It was a gift.

Zachary Conway who was one of my first hires, a remarkably creative cook, a great friend and supporter when things were not as rosy.  I hope to collaborate on future projects with him beyond cooking.   He was never my sous in title, but that was what he was before he left. Jose Alvarez my first Sous Chef who is as good a cook as any I have ever worked with anywhere, I hope to one day hire again.   Francisco Javier Ferrufino, my other Sous Chef, who taught me through teaching him. His growth as a cook propeled my own growth as a teacher, and it was with pride that I left the kitchen in his capable hands.   It is a tremendous honor to be a part of another human beings growth. Cruz Dubon had been with me since the first day and is the quiet man who kept our production humming. The rest of our kitchen over three and a half years, all of whom I would mention here, but particularly Abel, Erika, Victor, Melvin, Walter, Pablo, Adali, Isaias, Edwin… There are others…

The front of the house staff, too numerous to mention here (so I will mention a few: Elizabeth, Mike, Jack, Jay, Maria, Justin, Luke, Jason, Devin, Jennie, Ovidio, Nelson, Audrey, Jordan, Mary Carroll, Ben Brown, Stephanie, Elle, Rodricka, Carmen, Taylor and all the rest that had come and gone) but some who grew into management positions, and whose input and friendship I valued: Rachel Fitz, with whom I worked very closely on a daily basis; Ward Eliot, who managed brunch, and like a bunch of us, put in a lot of free labor to get the place open; Zach Meyers, one of the smartest cats I know, who also invested heavily in making it all happen; Timothy Prendergast, the consummate perfectionist… There are those who were  the pillars of our service program, who completely  bought into what we the Pint does, and without their input, professionalism, salesmanship, and belief in that, would not have brought us to where we were when I left.  I remember when the Pint was just unrealized potential, and it was amazing to watch it transfrom.

Kendra, whose graphics work helped define our aesthetic, continues to be a blast to work with, and a really great friend.  If you like the design of my logo and site, she is the one to talk to.

Kevin Reilly was a salesman who I could not have done it without.

Dennis Chadonnet, who I worked closely with since the beginning, even after he sold his company and went to work for someone else.

Christian…. whaaa?

So many producers and farms, but the most exciting was Shannon Varley of Bella Terra Family Farms… Jamie Stachowski, Stanly Fedder, CommonGood City Farm, The Farm at Our House, Robert of Lydia’s Fields, Ned of the Duck Egg (Twin Post Farm)… all great, but Shannon’s Pig and the first Pig Roast… wow!

All the amazing breweries who I had gotten to do beer dinners with… absolutely amazing, so educational, and so much fun….

DC Brau who helped put us on the map (Jeff, Brandon) and all the other DC Breweries that continue to sprout up (3 Stars!)… Stephen Jones from Oliver’s, the finest cask ale in the US… Huge supporter of the vegetarian program here…

Fritz Hahn, who I had the honor to give the Heimlich Maneuver to. Fritz gave us our first review in the Washington Post before we were ready, and yet it was relatively positive… and gave me my first bit of press promotion by writing about a Vegetarian Small plates event (I did the Heimlich Maneuver some months after the write up — no conflict of interest, I swear)… It blew it up! Thanks, man…

Perhaps most importantly: all of the initial investors in Meridian Pint who I shall always count as friends. Thank you for taking the risk in an extremely dubious economy on a venture that was perhaps more of a risk than you knew. As a guy who needed a job, and was waiting on the bench, I have a deep appreciation for the risks that you took.

The Public. Meridian Pint continues to be a  popular restaurant, which I find to be incredible — not that they shouldn’t be, but I was never in the popular scene, and its kind of cool… Once, I had this moment when I was out and about in the neighborhood… “Damn,” I thought “I really want a burger… We need a great burger place in this neighborhood…” and then I realized… “duh, oh yeah…” Of course, the Pint is that and so so so so much more, but I am indebted to the guy who posted on Yelp, who told us we were missing an opportunity. I think he should be happy now. If I ever meet him, I’ll buy him a drink.

So, here’s to all of you who made this chapter of my life happen, who gave me something I never expected or knew what would feel like.  It was a profound experience.


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