Elevator phobia had me walking down eighteen flights of stairs, loosening my tie, still jittery from the anxiety of quitting my job. As I crossed the threshold of the shiny building with the fancy lobby out into the Georgia summer, I knew I’d never again wear a suit to work. I had two hours before I had to be at my second job, opening beers and pouring wine on a restaurant patio bar, so I went and had a messy cheeseburger and a chocolate milkshake and I didn’t care if I spilled on my clothes. I wouldn’t need them again. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had just passed the proverbial fork in the road and at the tine’s end, beyond the juicy remnants of lunch’s cheeseburger, would be long hours, crappy pay, risk, reward, and purpose.
Nine years later I opened Panciuto where you’ll still find me in the kitchen, day and night. Working at good restaurants prior to opening my own, I saw the merits of working with area farmers. What I had not anticipated was that these farmers would become my friends and that these personal relationships would come to define both the way I cook and enmesh me in a community that is food centric, progressive and mostly pulling in the same direction towards sustainability. Working this way gives cooking more meaning and value, and I think translates to the finished dish.
Here is as good a place as any to thank my family for their unconditional support in the face of risk, the demanding nature and the perpetual stressors of restaurant ownership. I’m fortunate to be able to say that Panciuto has given us much more than it has taken away.