Raising a child and a restaurant at the same time really is not normal. The 16 or 17-hour days and time spent with my restaurant family and customers means a lot of missed events (parties, socials, parent/teacher conferences, family get-togethers, anything on Fridays or Saturdays). My daughter, Kennedy Gayle, is now four years old; and Reef is now creeping up on two years.
Most of Kennedy’s life (well, what she remembers) and time spent with me is in some way connected to Reef. Imagine growing up not knowing any social barriers or fear of interacting with the unknown in a communal setting, that’s Kennedy. She navigates through the dining room, into the kitchen (she knows exactly where Maria keeps the fresh-baked rolls), then across the line – yelling, “Behind you!” as she walks through to say her hellos to all of the cooks-- and back out through the bar to the hostess stand where she begs Mary to let her seat a table (she has already mastered the table numbers). Believe it or not, this can and does happen at 8:30 on a Saturday night.
One of my favorite stories to tell about Kennedy happened two weeks after we opened Reef. Kennedy automatically assumed that everyone coming to the restaurant was a personal friend and she didn’t think twice about pulling up a chair, having a seat with the customers and starting a conversation about the Wiggles, Dora, “The Dude”(our dog) or her new shoes . My wife and I had to sit her down and explain that every table was here to enjoy dinner by themselves and that it was impolite to interrupt. I had barely gotten the explanation out when her eyes started to well up and she began to cry. Talk about heart-breaking.
The key to being a “Food & Beverage” Dad is quality of time (since quantity is not really an option), so Kennedy has no curfew. If I get home before 11pm, she waits up for me. She comes with me to the farmer’s market, equipment auctions, Saturday AM prep and even buying fish down at the docks. That’s just the way it is in an F & B family.
photo credit: Shannon O'Hara