Richard Cooper is one of my investors. ”I’m having a party tonight at Rodney’s,” he said yesterday following our third Shareholder’s breakfast. “You should come.” Rodney’s? I love Rodney’s. Plus Richard’s son David is an old friend whom I haven’t seen for too long. In fact, David did Caplansky’s first website. I figured this would be a good opportunity to catch up.
What a blast! Richard’s father Sid was there. Sid, a builder and philanthropist and my Uncle Ernie Goodman, a developer, have been best friends all their long lives and one can only imagine the trouble those two caused in the day. Even in his advanced years, you get the impression that Sid is still ready to tear it up and at the same time he’s a complete gentleman. Anyway, it was a great party. It was kind of like a Rogues Gallery of the not quite ‘Alte-Kacker’ set. Kind of like the kids of the Alte-Kackers.
Funeral magnate Michael Benjamin was there and we joked that our businesses are complimentary. The Belzberg brothers Brent and Murray were there. Their affection for each other was heart warming. I saw Kenny Tannenbaum whom I travelled with in Europe when we were 19. Michael Sax came after dropping his son (Author and James Beard Award winner but most importantly my friend) David off at the airport. Myron Gottlieb was there. My cousin Dr. Teddy Shapiro was there. And then I saw Rodney.
I went over to say hello as Rodney was talking to Richard Cooper. Rodney is someone I’ve always admired. Like me he started modestly but his is the kind of business I aspire to have: the highest quality and consistently busy. We had a great chat. He told me a great story about going to Ben’s in Montreal. Ben himself was on his stool near the door and just as I was doing now, Rodney went over to ask The Man for some advice. ”My father paid a nickle more for the better beef,” Ben told him. In fact, Rodney said, “that was all he said”. Sounds Forest Gump-ish and I liked it. ”So,” I said to Rodney “what’s your advice for me?” ”It’s not about you, Caplansky” he said smiling that big East Coast grin of his, folding his big, meaty arms. ”It’s about the beef.” He said a number of other things too but that will remain between us. Suffice to say he’s as generous as he is gregarious.
And with that I hopped on my bike and rode to Enoteca Sociale for a light dinner with Tenzin. When I was the Manager of the Magic Oven Tenzin was my Assistant as well as my successor. When I opened Caplansky’s two years ago I asked him to join me but the time wasn’t right for him. He’s very loyal to our former employer so I never pushed too hard. However, the Dupont location has been taken over by a new group and Tenzin is ready for a new challenge. His timing couldn’t be better.
I told him that having him join us allows me to step back into the kitchen to implement our new menu. Dan DeMatteis and I have put together an updated card that I couldn’t be more excited about and it’ll take a lot of hard work and some new equipment to pull it off. Dan’s such an incredible talent and working with him has been a blast. As Rodney said, its all about the food and that has to be my highest priority. It is and will always be.
The scene at Enoteca was cool and the food was excellent. Although, with the oysters, lobster and jumbo shrimp I was still digesting, I didn’t have much of an appetite. The lovely Lauren Wilton greeted us at the door and I waited at the bar next to very hot Hoof server Julia (last name and telephone number unknown – hint). Old friend Ezra Braves 0f Ezra’s Pound fame and wife/lawyer Heather were dining with her partner/lawyer Joel Guberman and his gorgeous friend Jennifer. Ezra’s Pound is located next to the Magic Oven and I knew Ezra from his first days there. In fact I told the story of how Ezra helped make it happen for me.
Back then I had this wonderful smoked meat and nowhere to go. Being broke didn’t leave me too many options. I was telling Ezra about my hopes of opening my own shop and outlined my three options as I saw them. I could find a postage stamp of a place and do strictly take-out. I could see what the “Toronto a-la-carte” program offered (I’m so glad I didn’t touch that piece of shit idea with a 10 ft pole). Or I could move into the defunct kitchen on the second floor of the divey Monarch Tavern on Clinton St for little or no money. ”If you can get a kitchen for free, grab it,” Ezra said. I literally left his cafe, went to the Oven and called Louis (Prince of Darkness) Cristello at The Monarch.
The rest, as they say, is history.