I hired Justin Kurtz as our chef several months ago. I was at a crossroads with Babette’s and my own role in the restaurant. I had turned over the kitchen a couple of times over the years to people who had been on my staff and they took the role as Chef de Cuisine or as my Sous Chef. I was out of the kitchen most of the time, but I had always been responsible for the menu. These people had done a wonderful job for me
But this time I needed to hire a peer. In walks Justin. We hit it off immediately. He had come up through the ranks of the Ritz Carlton, had held a couple of executive chef positions. His references were perfect. He is friendly, cheerful, smart, funny and creative and is not afraid of the hours or the demands of the restaurant.
We talk food. I tell him what works for Babette’s, what doesn’t. I glance in the kitchen on his days off, but he doesn’t want me there. Do I miss it. Very much. But I can’t do it anymore. I’ve been cooking for 35 years and he is 35 years old. You can do the math.
I don’t have the stamina or the patience. So it’s his. I try to stay out of the way.
I’m back out front with my service staff. I visit with our guests. I do the marketing and pay the bills. I hang Christmas Lights, fix thermostats, work on events. I feel like I’m working as much as ever, but sometimes I sneak out early. I visit family that I haven’t seen in too long. I’ve been able to help my mother after an injury. I got a call from the alarm company and had to go check on the place with the police halfway through this post.
Justin has brought new energy to Babette’s, not just to the menu, but to all of us.