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Do The Work.

Updated: May 8, 2023

For those keeping track, it's now been 55 days since Chef Olivia and I received the keys to the new República space. I've spoken a bit about what that day was like but never quite gone into detail. That morning, a few of our República employees joined us in starting the transition from one space to another. Keep in mind, this was New Year’s Day. The night before, many of those same employees stayed up at Comala (our bar) until 4am, celebrating the new year, along with their upcoming (paid) break while we rushed to get the new space up and running. For the record, I stopped drinking at around 10pm. Nowadays, I have a two-cocktail max. I’ve learned that three will certainly make the next day “complicated” for me. The kids however, not so much. Like most people their age, they drank like they were in their 20s…which is pretty accurate considering our Executive Chef is 22, our GM, 22, our Culinary Director (Chef Olivia) 29, and many others in our staff around their late 20s, early 30s. There is one other old guy, a seasoned Portland veteran who often behaves like…well, the old guy in the room, and I love him for that.

I wasn’t having a lot of fun during this time. The week before, the snow days wiped us clean of nearly 40k in lost (net) revenue. That day we had to put down 20k deposit on the new space, we also had an upcoming payroll of almost 73k, and somehow we had set aside 40k for the new buildout and purchase of furniture and the other equipment necessary to get the doors open to República.

Let me backup on this last one, 40k to get everything done for the new space: new floors, new bar, new bathrooms, new lighting, new furniture (8 tables, 28 chairs), permits, labor cost, more equipment, a new wine installation, more wine refrigeration, new silverware, more dishware, and the never forgotten “miscellaneous” costs that show up during and after construction. Lucky for us, we have the incomparable Chef Olivia, who somehow made it all work. But I will save that for another time, assuming that we survive this snow weather.

Right around noon New Year’s day, our staff began to show up, each one of them looking more or less like zombies but still somehow keeping it together. Keep in mind, none of them had to be there; it wasn’t mandatory, but somehow they channeled the old Sin Miedo Al Éxito motto and began scrubbing down the kitchen, the walls, the walk-in, the equipment… all of it. The next day, they started bringing everything over from the old space to the new. It was a special moment to see everyone so excited about the move. As they came in, I’d walk each one of them through what the floor layout was going to be and what the space was going to feel like. It was a fresh start, despite the fact that as a company we’ve had seven fresh starts in the span of one year. Yes, I can honestly say that I am exhausted from opening up spaces. Not because it isn’t exciting to watch a Chef or a café manager walk into their space for the first time after it's been completed, but because it takes so much out of you – physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially.

Nonetheless, I am proud of everything that we’ve somehow managed to accomplish over the last 24 months. And this team… oh man, this team. Not just at República, but across every concept that makes up our little company.

There is more to this story, though, than most people have heard. So if you will, let me take you on a journey where we’ll circle from now, back to nearly the beginning.

Stick with me.

Let’s start here, with James Beard. In case you didn’t see, the James Beard nominations for 2023 were announced a few weeks ago. Often referred to as the Oscars of the Culinary Industry, a lot of truly incredible people and incredible places throughout the country were nominated. Every year it feels like there are more and more people who look like us being recognized, and that brings me joy. Unfortunately, we were not re-nominated this year, but to be perfectly honest, I am more than okay not seeing our name on the list.

I was in Oaxaca last year when I got the call from Portland about the nominations. It was a Wednesday, and I was sitting at a small café shooting coffee content for our Mexico series. I was mid-sip when I saw that our Instagram account was blowing up with tags from the local press. I stepped outside in disbelief, when all of the sudden the text messages began to pour in too. Olivia called, she was emotional. I was emotional. I kept going back to their website and our social media account, just to read our names again and again. It was one of the most incredible hours I’ve had, making it almost impossible to concentrate on anything for the days to come. Three days later, however, I received a call from someone on behalf of the James Beard Foundation Governance Committee informing me that they were considering revoking our nomination based on a number of accounts from former employees for a number, A NUMBER of incidents ranging from discrimination, employee abuse, creative theft, and overall toxic policies and environment. I was shaken. I could not believe what I was hearing. I froze. The person on the other line kept talking. According to him there were a number of people who had emailed the organization after seeing our nomination, all apparently at the same time. (Hold onto that thought for a second).

If put into this same situation, imagine what your reaction would be, what it would feel like to receive a random call from a person you’ve never heard of, telling you that somehow everything you had built up to that point was built upon the aforementioned accusations.

I started thinking about all the people who worked for us. Not just in the restaurant, but in coffee too. I thought about the people who supported us, who put their faith in our values and mission statement(s), of the families of our employees, our own families and what they would think of us. I thought about this city, about how it often feels like it would rather find a reason to hate you than a reason to respect what you are doing.

After this all ran through my head, it dawned on me: we had not done ANY of what we were being accused of.

“Can I ask, are you telling me that we’re being disqualified for this, or do you plan to investigate these allegations? Because if you are disqualifying us and we can prove to you that what you are disqualifying us for is either inaccurate, incomplete, or just down-right false, I will be seeking legal action.”

And so, the wonderful people of the James Beard Foundation Governance Committee hired another wonderful group of people to thoroughly investigate the matter. Known simply as “The Alcott Group”, a full-service private investigative firm, they were brought in - not because of what I had said to them, but because apparently, we weren’t the only nominated group dealing with this situation.

Three days later, I was back in Portland. I arrived to a number of documented conversations, write-ups, exit interviews, printed payroll reports, screenshots of conversations, and employee evaluations all waiting for me at my desk. I went into this thing not knowing what to expect, but trust me, I felt I was ready.

After my initial three-hour conversation with the Committee, I realized I was not ready. First off, let me just say that talking to the people on the other line was like being interrogated by the DOJ. Holy shit, were they scary! But above all of that, it was tough to hear all of these things, to know that people who at one point we had praised, celebrated, and dare I say came to love, thought so low of us.

I learned a lot about our little company that day. I learned that first and foremost, it wasn’t little anymore. The relaxed and familiar environment we fostered needed to go, and that giving people an opportunity to grow isn’t the same as providing people the step by step guide to a career path. Quite honestly, that is the one we were least equipped to handle.

That day, I learned that people came to work for me primarily for two reasons: they saw someone who looked like them determined to accomplish great things and took inspiration in that OR because they expected me to simply hand them their roles, their titles, and the keys to success because we look alike or share similar background stories. When they didn't find what they came for, they waltzed right out, pissed off about how terrible everything was. In fairness, they weren’t entirely wrong. Our little company had grown too fast. We went from having seven employees, to 20, to 30, to 45, to 60+. All in a matter of months. We moved forward using one strategy, put your head down and work, and the rest will fall into place – but “It” didn’t fall into place. This was made evident by the trip Olivia and I took at the end of our first year.

After twenty months of grinding, Olivia and I took what was supposed to be a forty-five day trip to Europe. It was the first break we had taken since the start of the pandemic. Yes, three weeks into the start of the pandemic, both of us started working again in some capacity or another. The break I had planned for us was necessary after so many months of non-stop work. Before we left, things appeared to be pretty good. Leading up to our departure, we did everything in our power to prepare our team for our time away. Managers were set to have weekly meetings with their staff, checking in on a number of questions including overall satisfaction for working for this company. We had a Daytime Manager, a General Manager, a Bakery Lead, a Sous Chef, Chef de Cuisine, and our business partner who was the Executive Chef in charge of it all. For the day to day support, we had a “COO”, whose role was simply to make sure all instructions were followed by the managers. We felt so ready.

The first two weeks went as planned. We made sure to Zoom in for our weekly Executive Meetings while on vacation. To me, these meetings were always the most important. By Week Three, however, things began to change. The Managers could not find the time to meet. Week Four, the same, only this time everything was starting to feel a bit odd. At this point we decided to cut our trip short and head back as soon as we could.

When we arrived, I no longer recognized our Restaurant. I mean, it was them, our staff, and a few others who had been hired as we were away. Yet everything and everyone was so different - there was tension and animosity in the air. It seemed most of our Front of House staff either hated us or hated each other. I quickly realized that the systems I left in place were gone.

Immediately, my tone changed. It had to.

I reviewed the work of our managers and the work of our Co-Owner. Just three weeks into us being gone, they stopped having employee meetings because they were becoming “emotionally draining”. Just about everyone had something negative to say about the way we were running this business. I learned then that although I left our team plenty of instructions on how to run things while we were gone, I had not prepared them for how to respond to the negative feedback they were receiving. Instead of asking clarifying questions or even for evidence of the claims some in our staff were submitting, Management simply went along with whatever issues were raised, too afraid of the confrontation that might follow if they said otherwise.

So many issues arose from that same group that now when I think about it, I wonder why we didn’t hire a true professional to help us run this place from the beginning. Don’t get me wrong, we did a lot of things right considering how quickly we grew. We hired a gem of a human being as our general manager – a dear friend of mine who I loved hanging out and being around – but someone who was not ready for all of the complexities of this role (his words not mine). Unfortunately, however, we just didn’t give our Managers the resources or training to handle this type of growth.

When we closed that night, I noticed that when our last guest left, just about everyone on staff sat around, got food and sipped on some sort of cocktail, glass of wine, or beer. Almost an hour later they finally started cleaning up and closing up for the night. This was during a period when we were clearly overstaffed, yet somehow we were going through so much overtime and so much liquor! Truth be told, this wasn’t entirely new, but it was clearly something that had gotten out of control.

As much as it pains me to say this, that was our doing. That was OUR doing.

Early on, there were so many reasons to celebrate - we poured shots for any reason. There weren't many of us, so it always felt right. When there were many of us though, it became a problem as made evident by the fact that during the time we were gone, we racked up over 14k in comps and discounts. Fourteen thousand dollars of just giving away free meals, cocktails, and more, in less than 45 days!

My first question: Who was in charge while we were gone?! In the coming days, I went back into our space at República, and started working service, making necessary, sweeping changes along the way. I watched as one by one, many of our original employees walked out, angry with the new systems that we put in place. Everything felt “too corporate” all of the sudden, they said. Comments like that always made me wonder if they truly understood what “corporate” meant.

All of this while going through the entire exhausting investigation.

At the end of it all, the verdict finally came in.

The Committee determined we were just too naive and inexperienced to be running such an impressive and fast-growing business. Every one of those accusations was disproven with hard evidence…all of them.

So we received a call. Not an apology, but an acknowledgement that based on the investigation, it was less than likely that we had done anything wrong, and so we remained eligible for the nomination.

It was actually a great conversation, brief but encouraging, letting us know that they were very much in awe of what this restaurant accomplished in so little time.

I felt redeemed. Vindicated. I felt free of all faults. Emotionally overwhelmed. Exhausted, but relieved. Twenty minutes after that call, the finalists were announced; we were not part of that group, but at that point, I couldn't care less.

That investigation took just about everything out of me. I was happy to finally put it all behind us. So we thought.

As it turns out, the one thing the investigative firm found “odd” was that the emails they received all came at around the same time, from the same IP address, but from different people, which made the entire thing a bit strange. Later on, I found out the group had planned a get together at someone's house to do this. It didn’t surprise me one bit…. After all, many of them have continued to remain friends and have formed a bond on their dislike for us… so I guess we accomplished something great after all.

Turns out, the Beard Foundation was just the beginning. Despite this group of former employees having their time to provide proof… actual proof of what they accused us of, they couldn’t. So the rumors continued, eventually becoming their brand over the last year. Every time these folks have started a new job or anyone had anything positive to say or write about us, their stories would resurface, everytime with more and more exaggeration. I went from being an “angry” boss to an abusive “spouse beater” in a matter of months. Think about that for a second. What that has felt like for myself and my partner. For our current employees, especially the women who work for us. We were shaken by that last one.

Every time something comes back to us, we just quietly push through. It’s never a “when they go low, we go high” strategy, it's more of a "we don't have time to put out that same energy” kind of situation. It’s useless. That would never accomplish anything for us.

But again, it’s not my responsibility to call them out. It's not up to me to jump onto the comments section of their social media and expose their lies. At the end of the day, they are human. And as much as it pains me to say this, they have the right to feel how they wish to feel about us, even if their “Fuck Republica” brand is based on discredited allegations and fabricated lies.

I am not going to say that we're free of any fault. We were dumb. I was dumb. I exposed our company so much daily living by the mindset that if we put our heads down, the rest would fall into place. We spent so much time and energy creating something that never existed in this town, possibly in our entire cuisine, that we unintentionally created an “Us vs. Them” environment without really considering who the fuck “Them” was. That “Do the Work” mentality was strong in the beginning, but it was undefined and quickly became flawed.

If as an employee, you felt like you deserved more for simply showing up to work, my attitude towards you would be, Do the Work. It was my way of saying “You want to make more money, show me your work ethic, the quality of your work, and make those around you better. Otherwise, best of luck”. That part, the last part, is what people kept hearing.

Nevermind the fact that we would surround these people with whatever mentors we could place around them. Nevermind the fact that up until that point, they were still working for Portland's Best Restaurant, that they were still working around more brown folks than ever before, in their time, in this city.

Or that I was willing to do whatever I could in my power to help them with your career, in any way. None of that was coming out. All they heard was the last part. For the record, we never actually said “Otherwise, best of luck”. This was just how things sounded to them, how they were interpreting it.

And still, above everything I’ve learned, I believe my biggest mistake to date was giving so much access to a certain few around me.

Now let me preface this by saying, I don’t have any scary skeletons in my closet. I haven’t physically attacked or put my hands on anyone in our team, including my partners. I haven’t had inappropriate conversations with anyone on our team… no creepy boss stuff. I haven’t slid into any of my employees' DMs or cornered them in the walk-in. Nothing like that.

But I do have to share something I think you all should know. Let me first say, I only speak for myself on this.

I am extraordinarily particular about the ways in which I interact with our staff.

The don’ts…

I don’t hang out with employees.

I don’t shoot the shit. I don’t go to their parties. I don’t go to the bar or do anything that remotely puts me in a position where I have to worry about something that was said or something that happened the night before. If you ever see me out with my employees it's because it's a “company sponsored” gathering; we are talking shop, or I have agreed to extend the invitation to everyone on our team, and I am prepared to pay for everyone's drinks or food. I'm not kidding about this one. I’ve gone out maybe 3 times with employees. Once, there was what I would consider “inappropriate behavior” between a “manager” and employee. Another time, there was resentment for not inviting everyone. And the very last time that I broke this rule, which was a few months back, one employee, after three drinks, built up the courage to tell me that I was a fucking idiot and should not be running a business.

So, as a general rule, I do not partake in such activities. What I am indeed guilty of, however, is having incredibly candid relationships with those in my inner circle.

Here is what I mean. If you at any point are an employee of ours and make a significant mistake that leads to financial setbacks for the company, or any type of setback for that matter, there will be a conversation. In this conversation, another manager will be in the room. We will have a “coaching moment” and talk about best practices moving forward.

If you are underperforming, we will try to find what it is that inspires you. Front of House isn’t your thing, and you want to learn to bake? Great, give us a few days. We’ll move some shit around and get you a rolling pin and a baker's apron. That is the kind of company we run.

Unless of course, you are that much closer to me. Unless of course, you get more access to our innerworkings. Unless of course, you were pulled out of whatever job you started in and given an opportunity to work on something greater, something that you would not have gotten from most other organizations.

This means that you are now part of my inner circle.

Trips to expensive dinners? Manager brunch meetings? After hours brainstorming at the local bar? Or how about being given the opportunity to work in another country doing a job that you had no previous experience or qualifications for, all expenses paid?

I have made this happen, often going against the advice of those around me. Putting my faith in people, hoping they run with the opportunity and prove everyone wrong. Most of the time it works, other times it blows up in front of me.

Nonetheless, these people become very close to me. They are given access. They are treated differently. They get to see a side of the company that not many others get to see. Let's go back to that example I made earlier. If we have this closer relationship and you make a major mistake, costing us financially or leading to another setback of some kind, I will be even more transparent with you about how I am feeling. No, I will not curse at you. I would never punch you or anything nearby. For the most part, I will react the same as above. Unless of course, it happens multiple times. In this case, I of course would still not physically threaten you. I will, however, be very transparent about how disappointed I am with you fucking up. And yes, this has happened. With those in my innermost circle, those I depend upon, let in the most, my tonality has changed drastically during conversations like this.

And it has happened more than once.

Let me take you through a couple examples.

There was one time one of our managers showed up thirty minutes late for work. Mind you, I already addressed their tardiness on more than one occasion. When they arrived, they made their way down to the restaurant, ordered food, and asked someone in the staff to bring it three flights up the stairs. They then walked over to the coffee shop, did the same there, and walked upstairs to the office like everything was okay. As you can imagine, I made sure that they knew how disappointed I was with their behavior. In fact, I believe the first thing I said to them was “this is so fucking disappointing”. The rest didn’t get better. I also made sure they understood the level of disrespect I felt to have a white person in leadership treat others around them like servants.

But this was about more than just the tardiness. This manager made a number of glaring mistakes, all coming from what I interpreted as a lack of focus, even setting us back approximately 24 thousand dollars in the over-purchase of inventory just a few weeks before. Truth is, I never properly addressed that or any of the minor things, all because so many other things were happening around us at the same time. So when it all built up, I was as transparent as one could be. In retrospect, I should have treated them like the other employees and not like someone much closer to me. The right thing would have been to bring in the Partners and have a serious conversation about the number of issues that had built up. But I did none of that, nor did I apologize. Instead when they wanted to talk to me the next day and address the conversation, I said something like “You are being given an opportunity most people never would have given you. No one here believes in you more than I do. Get your shit together and do not do this again”. It felt right at the time. After all, I was proud of putting this young person in such an important role and making them the highest paid employee in our staff, which is why I took it so personally when I felt they abused their privilege. I should not have.

Another time, I had a close contractor who I will refer to as X consultant. One day, our trusted X consultant was asked to come in and help us with service, as they had a lot more experience than others in our young and inexperienced team. And so they did.

On their guest appearance, X consultant went back to the dish pit in the middle of service and disciplined the Dishwasher about the water stains on the glassware. This was our Dishwasher's first day on the job, and unfortunately he did not speak English. So, when X noticed that he didn’t understand what they were saying, X began to speak slower and louder only this time in Spanish and with a condescending tone. My partner and I caught the whole thing, even the part when X finished their sentence with “comprende?”. To make things worse, X consultant had already spoken down to another employee that same day. That employee was on their first week, and so when this very young and very inexperienced employee was publicly reprimanded they simply walked out to the parking lot and cried out of frustration.

Immediately, we sent X home and told them that their behavior was unacceptable. A few days later they came back. We met upstairs, and alongside my then partner, I expressed how disappointing that whole interaction was considering we are both brown men who came up doing this type of work and had spent part of our lives being spoken to in this manner by white individuals. After I finished speaking, they paused for a second and asked “are you done talking now?” I looked at my partners in disbelief and said “sure”. They began to tell us how great they were at this job and how little we knew about how to run this type of business. They bragged about the places they had worked and the incredible things they had accomplished. They then took a cheap shot at our restaurant, which of course I attempted to respond to. I started “okay hold on one second”, and their response was a finger in my face and the Karen’esque response “excuse me, I am not done talking. You will not interrupt me”. My immediate response was to pound my palm on the table. I looked at both of my partners and said “I am done. You can listen to this shit if you want”. For the record, they weren’t an employee of ours. They were a consultant who we contracted at the start-up of our restaurant. Because of that, I do not blame them for feeling comfortable with the way they spoke to us and how they chose to express themselves. In return, I “expressed” to never have them back, and I wish I could say that is that… but it never is.

The other major severance was with our former Partner. This one is incredibly personal and there isn’t much that I can speak on about why this man is no longer part of this Group. I will say this, prior to República, not many knew of him. In fact, I was incredibly obnoxious about the brilliance of this Chef prior to us opening our doors, doing what I could to circulate his name. I hosted pop-ups, I introduced him to people, I influenced his vernacular on this cuisine, I provided him with whatever tools and resources I could, even went as far as not paying myself so that he can have a better wage.

During the time we owned República, I protected him, mostly from himself.

Let me repeat, I protected him, mostly from himself.

You do what you want with that statement. Am I disappointed in the way he carved a new identity of “Us vs. Him,” absolutely. That isn’t the toughest part though. The part that hurts the most is the way he has let others in his “Us vs. Him” circle drag our names to the ground. Not just us as a company, but us as individuals; myself and my partner, who carried him, CARRIED HIM through the times he was less than perfect or professional. This person went from “humbly stepping away to take care of his mental health” to “his values and beliefs no longer aligned with ours”. Are you kidding me?!

Look, all you need to know about that whole ordeal is that at the end of the day, República, as well as all of our other operations somehow survived despite his failed work ethic and lack of commitment towards the end of his time here. This was a shadow of the person many of us loved and I would not speak on this unless I felt it was necessary to clear the air. Again, you do what you want with that statement.

There are a few stories like this one, of people who were once in our inner circle who went from loving us and being inspired by our work, to truly wishing the worst for us and everyone around us. Much of that sentiment is my fault. I’ll say it again, I am guilty of often treating those closer relationships like friendships. The problem lies in the fact that when the time comes to hold people accountable, the line between friendship and professionalism gets blurred. I've had many a tough conversation where I treated employees more like younger siblings, especially when it came time to remind them that they were fucking up. These are the stories that seem to carry through.

The toughest part to swallow about the local press, namely those who once loved us and now refuse to even acknowledge us, is the fact that they have never reached out and asked about any of the rumors. They just sorta decided that if a group of people (who they had befriended) had a story, it was easier to give them the mic than it was to actually do the work and ask us for our side too.

Nevermind the fact that we are still standing, still growing.

Nevermind the fact that our retention of personnel is as good as (if not better than) the industry average. Nevermind the fact that we still employ and promote more BIPOC folks, Women, and LGBTQ folks than most restaurant groups I’ve seen in this city. Nevermind all of the opportunities that we continue to create for others that look like us. I mean, come on! How the fuck do you think we are able to open our doors daily?

How do you think we are able to retain employees?

You think there's some sort of factory of brown folks that we are circulating through?

The last six months feel like a bad break-up, and if you have ever been through a bad break up, you know what I mean.

Everyone's feelings are valid, Us and Theirs. However, just like a lot of those break ups, there is their truth, our truth, and the truth.

As of recently, I’ve gotten better at setting boundaries around the people I keep close to me. For them, and for me. I don’t get too close or too personal, and I certainly don’t let them do the same.

What am I saying? That is not true.

I am still very much loud around those I love. I celebrate them and thank them for all of their passion and hard work. And I give them shit when they are wrong or when they fuck up.

Believe me, they do the same right back.

But there is a line. And I continue to learn to make that line as clear as I can.

I don’t spend nearly as much time as I would like with my coffee managers and employees, and it pains me. I am not a Chef nor do I claim to be one, so I will never inspire anyone in our kitchens by teaching them a new dish, or a new technique, or good practices. And I live with that.

All that I can do is be as transparent as I can be, without harming our brand or the people around us.

I inspire some with my personality and my work ethic, as much as I intimidate or discourage some with my personality and work ethic. I am a 5 '5 brown man, who has spent his life having to speak louder than most in the room to simply make his presence known.

For some this is inspiring. For others it's a “red flag”. Think about that!

I make no claims to be perfect or run a perfect company, which is not usually a problem unless you are a minority, of course.

Everyone knows that if you fuck up, people like me do not get second chances. And so I do my best to not fuck up. I look at this city. I look at its past. I look at the white business owners who have made millions for themselves without having to “raise the bar” or make their community better. I still recall all the crazy shit they’ve gotten away with; the drugs, the misconduct, the ego… I don’t recall them ever being “shadow-banned” or ghosted from this city. Lilia, República, De Noche, and even Matutina, some of the best food in this city and some of the best people working in them. Our wine program is one of the most ambitious in this city, focused on LGBTQ, Women, and BIPOC folk. It’s like nothing else in this city!

And yet, the same people who now look down on our operations will still genuinely love TV shows like “The Bear” and the way they capture the “realness” of the culinary industry. Let me tell you something, if I ever spoke to anyone in our kitchens, restaurants, cafés, or anyone in my inner circle the way that white Chef spoke to his employees in that show, you better believe I would be banned from this city for life. Drama or not, the rules aren’t the same for people like us.

Looking back at that investigation, it was probably the best thing that could have happened for us. But I guess you can say the same about ALL the things we encountered in 2022.

We are a self-funded, fast-growing, 2 year old company who has raised the bar on the cuisine of our culture and of our people like no one else in this country.

I’ve just opened up to you.

I have given you the worst of the worst. Truly.

I am not waiting for some final chapter in my book to talk about what a piece of shit I was or we were, when we were on top of the world.

“Oh, if only I could have hired more minorities or promoted more women” “Oh, I should not have encouraged all the inappropriate behavior… but it was a different time”. None of that. Leave that for the regretful sexist, misogynistic, greedy, egotistical, racist, best-selling career professionals.

But don’t you fucking box us up with them. We work too hard to be where we are. Am I jaded, bitter, or angry? Does it matter? None of those 3 will move us forward. My final chapter will include all of the greatness we continue to create. At the end of the day, I look at the people around me. My young Chefs. My Managers. My wonderful partner, Olivia.

And I am grateful for them. “Do the work” has become something much greater than what it once was. It means: take ownership. Do better. Be wiser. Be a mentor. Be a leader.

Acknowledge when you are wrong. Apologize when you are wrong.

Assume positive intent. Respect one another. Build those around you. These are the things that I love about this team.

This is why on January 1st, 2023, I had a crew of hungover, inspired individuals show up to deep clean a kitchen in a space that was only going to need a second deep cleaning by the time construction was done. This is how a young Mexican-American Chef can take a group of fairly green individuals, in a brand new restaurant, 10 days from his child being born, and turn it into one of the best restaurants in the country in only 42 days.

This is why, when one of your Chefs de Cuisine leaves to pursue another opportunity, the remaining crew comes together with a plan of action to improve on the things that could be made better. (Believe me, this one brought me to tears!) This is why the Executive Pastry Chef takes on the role of Culinary Director, CFO, COO, CEO, and project manager on the build out of your new restaurant. Let me be clear about this one, there is no one, not even myself, who can get so much done in one day than the incomparable Chef Olivia. I am proud of our little company. Not so little anymore.

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