In honor of Father's Day, we thought it would be neat to ask folks in the restaurant world with notable fathers also in the business to share a memorable anecdote about their dads. What follows are the stories of the daughter of Ray Vega, as well as the sons of Paul Bocuse, Larry Forgione, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Chris Canlis.
Cedric VongerichtenRestaurant: Chef de Cuisine at Perry Street, NYC
I remember being at work in the kitchen at Jean Georges Restaurant, and my father clapped his hands and told us all to quiet down. I was annoyed because I didn't think we were being noisy at all, so I turned to him and said, "You didn't have to do that, we weren't making any noise!" He replied, "You weren't yet, but you were about to." I'll never forget that, because it really marked a lesson that Jean-Georges has taught me throughout the years. He has always stressed the importance of working in a quiet kitchen, especially when it's an open kitchen, since you never want to disturb your guests.
Brian CanlisRestaurant: Owner of Canlis, Seattle
I remember when I was just starting to learn the intricacies of working the dining room floor, and my dad and I were standing at the one spot in the dining room where you can almost see every single table. He put his hand gently on my head, turned it all the way to the left and asked, "What do you see?" I listed all sorts of things: guests, food, glasses of wine, servers. He told me to keep looking. I saw a napkin that had fallen on the floor, crumbs on a tablecloth, a woman finishing the last bite of her bread. I kept listing things, and he joined in. He saw a server miss a guest's expectant eye, a young man nervously navigate a first date, a couple turn towards each other as if they did not want to be interrupted, and an older gentlemen looking unsure about whether he liked the temperature on his rack of lamb.
Then I felt his hand again, massive on my fifteen year-old neck, turn my head just ten degrees to the right. "What do you see?" We did this until we had covered the entire floor. He finished with, "You'll need to get faster." And after a quick 180-degree scan of the dining room, he quickly walked away. As a restaurant kid, that was the first moment I realized my dad was a badass.
Jérôme BocuseRestaurant: Vice president of Les Chefs de France, Epcot
I remember how one day a journalist asked him what his success was. He answered by saying that if you think you succeeded it is probably the beginning of your failure! For my father you can never reach the top and you can always do better. That sentence really helped me question myself about my work, my family, and the sports that I love. Every day I want to stay motivated, pushing the limits further, reaching new heights and never sitting back.
Marc ForgioneRestaurant: Chef/Partner at Marc Forgione, NYC
I remember being a teenager working at An American Place. I was cutting off the skin of ginger with a knife because it was easier than a peeler. Dad looked at me very calmly and said, "There is no place for shortcuts in the kitchen." At the time I don't think I really understood what he meant, but the more time I spend in my kitchen, I understand it more and more.
Christy Vega FowlerRestaurant: Vice President at Casa Vega, Los Angeles
I remember when we were installing new computers for the front of the house. My general manager got the flu, and the project was left in my lap. I worked 11 hours straight and there were still glitches. Customers and staff were annoyed and inconvenienced by the process. It was awful. I was at a breaking point, when my dad came over and told me to go home and relax. I was stunned. He said there will always be problems, and once you've done your best, go home and rest so you can start fresh in the morning. He always reminds me that business is just business and to keep things in perspective.