Tomorrow’s Star

Posted on Sunday 22 October 2006

“I’d like to make a reservation for tonight, please,” said the voice of someone I figured to be a 12- to 14-year-old boy.

I was in the office, answering phones, feeling kind of okay because I’d walked an hour-and-a-half to get to work, and I was still in my sweats and not a suit. That would come later, after the hour-and-a-half walk home, a shower, and a change into black suit No. 6–also known as my “Saturday Night Is Special” ensemble when paired with a lavender top.

“Okay, certainly. For what time and for how many?”

“Um, two at 7:30. Do you have that?”

I wondered if he was for real, or if this was some bored tween and his friends playing a prank by calling random restaurants. He sounded young–not baby-young, but kid-young.

“I only have 6:30, will that work?”

“I guess so. I think we can be there, then.”

We may be new, but we are already a popular weekend dinner spot. Every table was spoken for and then some, and each one is mapped out before service. Are you comin’ or not, kid?

“Sir, we expect to be very busy this evening. We will be happy to hold your table for 15 minutes after your reservation time. Will that be okay?”

“Yeah, sure. We’ll be there.”

I took his name and phone number and put him in the system. A part of me knew he’d likely show. Maybe his parents told him to call for them. Maybe it was a homecoming date. You never know, right?

I knew him the minute he appeared in our foyer, on the dot at 6:30. “I’m waiting for my mom, she’ll be right here.”

Mom appeared a second later.

We seated them at one of my favorite deuces, by a window. The kid was beaming. I love a kid who beams when he’s taking his mom out to dinner. How many kids have I seen beam when they take their mothers out for dinner? None. This was a first for The Gal.

When the wine list was presented, and Mom tried to decline it, the kid coaxed her into looking at it. “A little alcohol, a glass of wine with dinner, is good, Mom.”

Seriously, I was falling in love with this kid.

So Mom ordered her wine, and I decided to resurrect my reporter’s training. Who on earth was this kid, and what was his story?

“How did you hear about us?” I asked as I did my I-am-the-manager-stopping-by-your-table routine.

The kid said he knew the chef at our owner’s former restaurant. Really?

A split second of silence followed that news.

“Well, let me explain the way our menu works,” I said, pointing to the sections, explaining our portions and various plates.

The kid smiled and nodded through my brief talk, at one point looking at his mom and saying, “See?”

Uh, yeah. Definitely a story here.

Over the course of three visits to the table, I discovered the following:

–He is 15.

–He goes to a high school I know very well.

–He started cooking when he was two, with his mom, when they made “Stone Soup” in nursery school.

–“By age five he was making quiche,” she revealed. “And he currently owns 750 cookbooks. I pretty much stay out of the kitchen, now.”

Okay, time to sound the trumpets and get Chef in on this.

Turns out, the kid works for a well-known fine-dining spot. I have no idea doing what. But, he outgrew kiddie culinary classes years ago. On Tuesdays, when he’s at his Dad’s, he whips up a 9-course tasting menu, on a pre-set budget. If he spends less, he keeps the difference. Thus, he is learning what I witness every day in our kitchen–let no potato skin or lobster leg go unused.

“So, when I have an extra $40 or so, I buy another cookbook.”

Maybe he’ll go to CIA. Maybe Johnson & Wales, “For more of a college experience, and to learn more about the business side.”

“Well, you have two years to think about it,” I told him. “Just keep doing what you’re doing. You’ll know what’s right for you when the time comes.”

All of the staff was smitten with the kid by now. He saw the kitchen. Chef visited his table.

He continued beaming through it all.

“I plan to remember your name, you know,” I smiled at him as he and Mom were leaving. “I know you’re going to be great–the next star in this city.”

“Thanks!” he smiled back, meeting my outstretched hand with a firm handshake. “Everything tonight was so great.”

Mom agreed.

As they went out the door to retrieve their car from the valet, I marveled at this kid’s complete and utter confidence, certainty and maturity–but nary a shred of arrogance. He is just a nice young man who enjoyed taking his mom out to dinner this Saturday night–even if he does understand more about what goes into our menu than any one of the FOH crew.

I hope he can hang onto all of that. And his smile.

What a gift the kid’s visit proved to be on this Saturday evening.

He helped to lift the shadow, just for a moment. And that felt so good, just for the moment.

Because this kid is a shining star on whom I pray no shadow will ever descend.

16 Comments for 'Tomorrow’s Star'

    October 22, 2006 | 9:11 am

    What a unique and wonderful experience!

    October 22, 2006 | 10:48 am

    A sweet boy who has drive, talent and loves his Mom…….kids like this give me hope for the future.

    October 22, 2006 | 5:36 pm

    that is a beautiful thing… I’m glad that you were there to witness it, to feel the glow and to write about it here, so we all get a little peek!

    I wish you many many more moments like this!

    October 22, 2006 | 8:58 pm

    Hey, any word yet about your GM?
    Loved this post… totally made me smile.

    October 23, 2006 | 12:21 pm

    A perfect concoction for a dreary Monday in Manila.

    Thank you!..:)

    October 23, 2006 | 8:52 pm

    I think I totally love this kid! We should all be so lucky as to have such a great son….

    October 24, 2006 | 2:48 pm

    Wow! My husband is a waiter in a VERY popular restaurant in the Bay Area, CA and I want to share this with him! Also, did you ever hear anything from your GM?

    October 24, 2006 | 10:04 pm

    GM was finally heard from. He is dealing with his issues.

    October 26, 2006 | 5:27 pm

    That is a great story! What a sweet kid.

    October 27, 2006 | 7:56 pm

    What a nice story. I hope that when I have a child (if I ever have a child), s/he will want to spend time with me when s/he reaches the teens.

    October 27, 2006 | 11:41 pm

    Lovely story, beautiful human. Hope to see him on the Food Channel someday soon! =)

    November 2, 2006 | 1:07 am

    oh wow, that is so great… I got teary. So good to read about the great kids there are out there instead of everyone whinging on continually about the sad state of our youth.

    November 19, 2006 | 9:32 pm

    What a lovely story. Somedays it seems like I’m surrounded by the ‘not so great’ moments so it’s so nice to read about the nice ones too.

    July 17, 2014 | 12:31 am

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    and don’t seem to get nearly anything done.

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