Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Never Let Them Have You By The Balls!

“Never let them have you by the balls!” That’s what a friend, who owns several restaurants, said when I first bought the restaurant in 2002. Back then I wasn’t 100% sure what he meant, in the years to come, it was definitely a lesson I would learn many, many times over. You definitely need to learn how to do every job so no employee can ever have you by the balls!

As I was standing in the dining room of the restaurant I had just bought, staring at my drunken chef on the floor, barely conscious, I realized that this was one of those moments. Chef knew that the former owner had no one else who could cook his food, so he did whatever the hell he wanted. He had the world by a string, or at the very least, the owner by the balls. It was at that moment I made a quick decision (one of many self-destructive, impulsive decisions I would make over the years). I walked over to where my drunken chef was sitting, and told him, “I now own the restaurant and you’re fired!” Over the years, I have learned the consequences of impulsive decisions and the benefits of taking your time, finding replacements and, most importantly, the art of not cutting off your nose to spite your face. As of that moment, I had to open up the next day with no nose and now, with no chef.

As the shift came to an end, I asked the staff to stay so we could have a quick meeting. Everyone grabbed seats in the small, private dining room on the second floor. My wife and I told them the news: that the prior owner was no longer involved and we were taking over. We told them that we fired the chef and would be searching for a replacement as quickly as possible, then asked if anyone had any questions. I didn’t know how they would react. No one really had questions. I didn’t know what they were thinking. And then they told me that they just wanted to celebrate -- their freedom from the prior owner and the drunken, nasty chef. They were excited about working for my wife and me. Some even said they had been about to quit, but now they want to stick it out and see where things went.

I felt good. I convinced myself that I had made the right choice and everything was going to be okay. Honestly, I felt… like having a cigarette. For the first time in three years, I wanted to smoke. I don’t know why. Maybe it was to celebrate with everyone, maybe to calm my nerves, or maybe it was just to look cool. But, I felt like to Tony Soprano choking on a big cigar with a sh*t-eating grin...only I did the same thing with a tiny cigarette and “oh-sh*t-what-did-I-get-myself-into” grin! Unfortunately, it would be the first of many “oh-sh*t cigarettes” to come.


  1. Haven't heard the expression "biting your nose off to spite your face" since my Mom used to say it. Thanks for a great story.

  2. Hey, great blog man. I hope you update regularly as I'm walking the same path as you right now. Hope we can have a chat online and exchange some experiences and learn from each other. Cheers!

    All the best for your restaurant.