Within the confines of the four walls of a restaurant lie the stories that engage, confound, and perpetrate a culture that only those with intimate knowledge can relate.
My first job in the restaurant business was at the Caprice restaurant in Tiburon, Ca. I was in high school and worked as a busboy at the Caprice. The restaurant was located next to elephant rock with a view of Angle Island, San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, Belvedere, and parts of downtown Tiburon. With hand painted globes encasing candles on every table and huge bay windows, the setting was engrossing, magical, and captivating. My favorite view was when there was a full moon which lit up the island, bay, and beyond.
Downstairs was a private dinning room with a bar, a rock fireplace carved out of the California coastline, and the windows were portholes from the USS Texas. The waves would come crashing underneath the structure providing the perfect natural cooling system for the wine cellar also located in this downstairs private dining room. The ceiling was a configuration of old wooden Bordeaux and Burgundy wine cases aligned like ceiling tiles so that you could read the vineyard and vintage for every hand-crafted case. For private parties… there is no better setting.
The owner was a real character out of some weird nautical novel about a man possessed by excess that throws caution to the wind. He looked exactly how you would picture the captain of a ship with a grey beard and face off the cover of some old sailor whiskey bottle.
One day at Christmas time we had a lunch party for the executives of Hallmark greeting cards. There were approximately 30 people at this luncheon.
The owner, Kirby Atterbury, was in rare form as he came down from his home up on the hill and not too far away from the restaurant. This was about noon and he was already plastered. His nose was so red he could have guided Santa’s sleigh through the darkest of nights.
Upon arrival to the restaurant he walked past the entrance and started for the party. No one could stop him, I mean he was the owner and had a propensity to fire people for no sane reason. He just happened to pick the table the host was sitting at and began to tell some crude jokes. When I say crude this man could make a stripper blush.
Insulted by this bawdy man (the host didn’t know he was the owner), threw this degenerate out of his own restaurant. Then the host made the mistake of making his way to the restroom. While the host was in the restroom Kirby snuck back through the kitchen and proceeded to sit down at the hosts table and finish the host’s entree.
After that, Kirby sat at his bar which was right by the entrance and began powering down even more vodka. As the host was incensed by this display, he couldn’t figure out why this man was still in the restaurant. When he found out Kirby was the owner he led the group out of the restaurant, not waiting for desert.
Needless to say Hallmark never returned to the Caprice. I would have loved to have witnessed the Hallmark card that event inspired.
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