z bar & grill! the place that made me want to be a cook!!!! good or bad? who cares? it was real and i was able to recognize it~!!!!!!
the owner was an old irish boxer who thought he was italian, but it seemed that everyone thought they were italian in providence. i owe this restaurant a tremendous dept of gratitude for what i was exposed to there. keep in mind that i was totally on my own in providence, i didn’t know a soul in new england and to top it off i was a young guy from texas who sported dreadlocks that had never been past the mason-dixon. it gave new meaning to the words “culture shock” for me, but i still say it was one of the most difficult and important time of my career and life.
providence was the first time i experienced portuguese kale soup, real quahog clam chowder, briny shellfish, a true new england lobster bake (on the beach), my first foie gras & other offal. i learned how to break down a whole salmon (i still remember the exact time and place) and it was the first city that i had ever seen a true italian neighborhood, known as federal hill. i was amazed by it! keep in mind that i’m from tomball, tx and had never really been exposed to anything like what i was experiencing in rhode island. i remember my mom (& my idol), bootsie, and i eating our first lobsters, fried clams served on deli paper and our ill experience of rhode island “tex-mex” (someone could make a ton of money up there with some authentic tex-mex).
i know what some of you are saying, but for those of you who have read, “kitchen confidential”, you are aware of tony’s provincetown expeirence. providence was where i learned the ups and downs of the culinary underbelly. it was the first time i saw the chef pass out before 8pm because the waitresses gave him straight whiskey, but he never had to ask for it! i witnessed my first sex story, downstairs in the prep room that featured our “prep machine” giving one of our bartenders the “ol high hard one”. z bar & grill was the first but not the last place where i first saw my chef, leader and at that time my idol do “gator-tails” of cocaine on the line!!! i thought it was the coolest!!! i recall hearing the names of chefs in the world that i had never heard of like charlie trotter, alain ducasse & of course the local heroes of al forno (www.alforno.com). i remember feeling the same as tony boudain when explains all his experiences, the good, bad & the really ugly. i remember being so impressed by the older and more experienced cooks, they could drink a bottle of booze between the three of them before service would start…and not even be fazed. they seemed to be monsters, similar to the way tony bourdain described tyrone, the broiler cook at mario’s. the cooks where very cool to me, i guess they saw something in me – but it seemed that all the other employees, even the owners and his wanna-be gangster friends, “walked on egg shells” around them. the waitresses loved them and that all im gonna say about that, for now…
i was 19 years old and ready to except this life as my own!!!!!!!!