Forty years ago today, I assumed employment in my Uncle’s restaurant, filling in for a dishwasher who couldn’t make it to work. Within a short time, I was making club sandwiches and the like, absorbing that strange, maddening and often beautiful enchantment that is a kitchen in motion when there are 19 dupes hanging on the clothes pins; that orchestrated chaotic cacophony that lends no sense of order to the uninitiated and cannot be discerned by novice ears and eyes. But, I heard it; I saw it and I felt it all on that first night. That was forty years ago and I was twelve years old.

Today I am struck by how fortunate I am to have never lost that wide-eyed sense of wonder at the possibilities of food – the simple joy of a perfect tree-ripened peach; carrots roasted in duck fat and finished with a touch butter and brown sugar; the complex layers of taste in an herbed veal stock ladled over simmered mushrooms and shallots; the just right balance and presentation of this or that plate that says “this is the new precedent” and sets the bar a little bit higher. Of course, for many years now that has been a personal quest: to make good things to eat, carefully plated and placed before someone to enjoy. I know I’ve been successful at doing that but the immense satisfaction I enjoy as a result is much more a humble gratefulness than any ego-driven thing. Ego plays a large part in any artistic expression to be sure, but in the past forty years there has been so much more to it than that. In framing what I want to say here, I am drawn to this one thought more than any other: I have learned to recognize in myself a deeply felt gratitude for this life I live. Yes, I am grateful for having been gifted with some talent for what I do and I have exploited that but I also have a deep interest in what I do with that talent. I have immersed myself in the world of food and service.

Putting all that aside, though, the real gratitude I feel is for the many people who have crossed my path, influenced me almost always for the better, the young people who have taken up temporary residence in my kitchen, hopefully under some good influence from myself. I’ve benefited from nearly everyone I’ve worked with, made life-long friends, almost always laughing at and with the endless parade of characters that have passed these last forty years with me. My clients, my patrons, my friends become my very own whenever they take a chair at table at Savory Grille. And, I have been gifted with Dorothy as wife and life partner, and most importantly, mother to my children and that gratitude rests at a higher place than any other.

If you are indulging me by reading this, I’m grateful to you, each of you, for being such a rich part of my life. One way or another, you will know who you are. Thanks for coming along for the ride, thanks for your patronage, thanks for intimate evenings over food and wine. And, thanks for laughing with me all along the way. It is a good life indeed.