Monday, October 11, 2010

Old Colleagues and Coincidence

I hadn't heard from my good friend Jerry in months. He had a job lead a few months ago for a Head Chef job here in Pensacola and asked me for my appraisal of the restaurant in question. I put out feelers and gave him my opinion: a juggernaut on the Gulf Coast that had a rotating door policy for Head Chefs in addition to the kitchen door type. As much as I would have loved having him down here, I couldn't recommend him taking the job. As it turns out, he's doing well, as he told me tonight. A new concept that he nurtured from inception that is receiving raves.

We first met at a Macaroni Grill in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I moved down from Massachusetts on my way to eventually Florida (or so I thought). He was from North Georgia and had just started with Mac after much experience with smaller companies.

He was extremely strong, back-of-the-house-wise. I was more comfortable in front, but could jump back in a pinch. When we worked together, which wasn't as frequently as we'd like, it was magic. Constant communication and teamwork proved to make the evening go smoothly. That we both had a similar sense of humor only made the nights go faster. We spent more time laughing than we did yelling at the employees. Work was fun, and how often does that happen in this business. I'll tell you, ALMOST NEVER.

My temporary assignment there lasted 7 months, and it went way too fast. I enjoyed the staff, we increased our profits and the customer satisfaction index, and our bonuses were off the charts. I almost didn't want to leave. I had a nice apartment minutes from work and I liked Chattanooga. But, my future led to Florida.

Leaving a good situation is difficult. Many people end up staying in a job like that and calling off their dreams to stay in a (relatively, temporary) stressless job. When you have a co-worker that you look forward to working with every day makes the job easier. The employees feel that, too. It makes for a relaxed work atmosphere that is almost unheard of in the restaurant industry. Too many Assistant Manager peers are only looking to make themselves look good, and if they have a chance to make you look bad, look out. That ladder to success is littered with bodies at the bottom after being kicked in the back.

I knew I would miss working with Jerry, but I knew we would see each other in the future. A year later, he would come to figure in a major career change for me. Funny how things turn out that way......