In 2009, with the support of my wife Lindsay, the help of my father and some brave investors, I opened my dream restaurant, Recette, a 35-seater on a quaint corner in the West Village. My investors knew about my past. I think, if anything, they saw what I went through as an asset. A lot of people don't return from the depths that I visited. It's a gift and a curse. But every day, I get to make a choice to stay sober. I was in my fifth year of sobriety, approaching my sixth, when Recette opened. I don't think there was a concern about relapse. If anything, my investors were concerned about my workaholism.
The satisfaction of watching people smile when you make them something to eat that they enjoy is crazy and I just wanted it to continue. So it did. Recette received a two-star review from both The New York Times and New York Magazine. The success was invigorating. I built trusted relationships over the course of four years with my investors, my staff, and my diners. I went on to open my second and much larger restaurant, The Gander, in the Flatiron District in 2014.
Through my life experiences, I have had no choice but to rise to the occasion. My skin has been thickened and I've learned to make decisions based on facts and not let my emotions dictate my choices. That's proven to be an enormous asset in business. No decision I make is accidental or arbitrary because I've learned that every action I make has a consequence. I know how bad the bottom is, and I don't want to see it again.
I definitely have a dark story but it has a lot of light at the end of the tunnel. My restaurants and my past are intertwined; many of my dishes are interpretations of food I learned how to cook from my grandmother, or along my journey, and all of them are meticulously planned and executed.