Between my college years, I worked at several restaurants on Fire Island, a car-less beach community thirty minutes by boat from the south shore of Long Island. I’d stay at my grandmother’s house on the island, swim in the ocean every day, shoot pool in the bars after work, and slowly reel in the spending money that would get me through the winter. I also learned a lot about how not to run a business.
I made friends with the other young people working on the island, a mix of Long Island jocks and frat-boys, Irish kids working in the states on Morrison Visas, and some rough and tumble Manhattan kids who’d figured the beach was the better place to be during summer, even if you had to work and play with all of these jokers. I gravitated toward the latter group and made good friends with Sauce, Dan, Derek and Daryl, city boys with considerable experience in food service, and an irrepressible sense that the world was their oyster, or at least their Clams Casino.
After two seasons bussing tables, Dan helped me get my first job as a waiter, at an outdated but quaint little hotel dining room, with clear views of the Great South Bay, and arguably some of the better food around. There were a handful of waterfront eateries in the town of Ocean Beach, and they were all pretty terrible. Ingredient quality was poor – frozen seafood shipped to an island surrounded by fishing boats – and questionable preparation and technique further worsened the situation.
The owner, and chef, was a raging - is the only word – alcoholic, a lascivious and blustery mustachioed despot, who took it upon himself to sexually harass any marginally attractive young man within earshot. He drank a vanilla-flavored Italian liqueur called Tuaca, wore cutoff jeans and Timberland boots without socks, and chain-smoked cigarettes as he worked the sautee station, with long ashes dangling precariously over every sauce, as plated food and spouted obscenities. Dan hated him so much that he’d throw away the restaurant silverware along with the food scraps as he bussed tables.
If you were not there to pick up the food when it was ready, you were soundly excoriated, but if you stood in the kitchen waiting for the food, the abuse was even worse, so I attached a small mirror to the doorframe between the bus station and the kitchen, and I would stand just outside the door with my eyes trained on the countertop in the tiny looking glass until the food popped into view, then I would snatch it and run.
What did I learn there? If you want to do something, do it right - with integrity and kindness, sow only good seeds and they will grow likewise around you. Life’s too short for bad vibes, or second-rate food cooked without love. We’re very excited to be partnering with Julya and Steve of Nokni Oakland for tomorrow’s pop up Korean food and wine pairing event, because they share these values – and their food is amazing! No smoke, no mirrors, just quality ingredients and a welcoming, positive attitude.
We’ve filled up the second round of tasting, but still have space available from 5 to 6:30. Come by the shop or give us a call to reserve a spot now, or buy tickets online at brownpapertickets.com and stay tuned for more Friday Night Bites coming soon to OAKLAND YARD.
But first, TONIGHT…
THURSDAY NIGHT FLIGHTS: Spanish Reds or Austrian Gruners from 4 to 8pm!
And weekend tasting flights:
SATURDAY: Sparkling Wine from France, Spain and Italy. Bubbly Flights from 3-6pm!
SUNDAY: Wines of Alsace. Flights from 12-6
See you soon,