Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Growing up Restaurant November Edition

When last we spoke for those of you who seem to enjoy these stories I had just left the Fan Club on the coast of Maine. There will be more stories about this location as I would return and purchase the restaurant about 4-5 years later. It was 1974 and it became apparent that I would not return to Law School the plan when I graduated in 72. Instead my Journey into the world of restaurants would continue.
After that summer in Maine my friend PK and I would pack our cars and follow the snow out west. PK and I had been inseparable from little league through college, we attended the same college and drove home every weekend and taught skiing at Killington. We didn’t go to the same middle school but meet in a little league all-star game, probably about 1963. Turns out our mothers were friends and introduced us that day PK however was the opposing pitcher. Seems to me I hit a base clearing triple off him to win the game, but then again this is my story and my recollection, from that day forward we were we were tight as thieves.

Our journey out west landed us in separate places, me in Aspen Colorado and PK in Sun Valley Idaho. PK still lives out there and has stayed in the ski industry all these years. Well it is hard to even start a dialog about that year and half I spent in Aspen. The town was filled with the rich and famous, arrogant and opulent skullduggery was the town’s mindset and you couldn’t avoid it. I was fortunate to land a job at the newly remodeled Arya Restaurant located in the Aspen Inn at the foot of Ajax Mountain. 
The restaurant was the epitome of opulence seven private dining rooms each one lavishly decorated in the motif of the country depicted. Spain, France, England and the American room; where Clint Eastwood always insisted on sitting. The real money was spent on the Persian Room, imported mosaic tile fountains, and pillows from Persia and a cuisine all its own. The owners were Persian and it seems that one of the partners was an architect on the Superdome in New Orleans and that’s where the money came from at least that’s what we were told.
I was hired as a waiter there a coveted position at the time I was hired because I did a bold thing. When it was announced that the restaurant was hiring and taking applications on a certain day I showed up. No exaggeration there were 100 plus people standing in line going half way across the parking lot. Each person filled out an application and was standing in line like cattle waiting for sixty seconds with the single interview person Mahir. I thought to myself this guy won’t remember his own name at the end of this day. So I took my completed application and waltzed up to the front of line and handed to Mahir and simply said maybe you will remember me tomorrow the guy who wouldn’t stand in this line. 
He hired me and before the season ended I was Maitre’ d and breakfast manager 3 mornings a week. The restaurant catered to the who’s who that holidayed in Aspen. There was not a service staff at the restaurant but a service team. Each guest was served by a team of seven. It started with the Maitre’d and Sommelier followed by a separate waitress just for cocktails, a captain for each room, a front waiter and back waiter and bus person. You never wanted for a thing. The best job in the building however was the coat check girl who actually paid the restaurant to lease the space. Everybody had a fur and paid handsomely to have them taken care of like a valet with your new sports car. 
The guest list could be quite intimating the one person everybody ran and hid from was Lucille Ball a bitch on wheels, bless her heart! All Aspen waiters would keep a keen eye out for John Denver the town’s favorite son. John was the biggest tipper I have ever seen including Vinny (Steve Martin) from the movie My Blue Heaven. One thousand dollar tips when he was celebrating were legendary. Then there was Jill. 

Jill St John an Aspen local was at the time dating Rich Head our wine steward. Jill had a beautiful home on Red Mountain and for those of you reading this too  young to remember Jill she was a sultry sex symbol and rose to fame as Sean Connery’s love interest Tiffiany Case in Diamonds are Forever. Jill sat at our bar as a regular usually waiting for Rick, I remember she had one bad habit I helped break her of; eating the red dyed cherries by the handful and in those days it was common knowledge they put formaldehyde in them to preserve them.
Jill through a party up there on Red Mountain one that I will never forget I think I was 24 or so and had not ever seen anything like it. Her house sat at the top of a very steep hill so we were all bussed up the hill in four wheel drive vehicles. On entering the house my eyes were drawn to the massive hot tub in the center of her living room fitted with towels for her guests. At that moment I felt like a farmer from Vermont, lord have mercy I came to Aspen to follow the snow and to find the love of my life and I landed smack dab in the middle of Sodom and Gomorra at least that was my first impression. I adapted.  
Oh yeah, the other reason for going to Aspen other than the skiing and the reason I probably didn’t go with PK to Sun Valley was the woman who stole my heart and would become the mother of my children. I meet her while I was teaching skiing at Killington right after college. She will be the first to tell you that I was with PK and as all the women did back then she was focused on him but said I just wouldn’t shut up, it was in-fact love at first sight for me. I searched her out in Aspen we had not spoken or been in touch in any way since we had dated a year earlier. After some investigative work I found her. She was working as a 3 day off 3 day on maid and cook for Keith Hefner, Hugh’s brother. The guest at the house that week was none other than the widely popular Linda Lovelace…I rest my case.

Peter Ryan

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