Lying in bed just now, listening to Whitney Houston (It’s Not Right But It’s Okay), I was compelled to come sit down and write about my friend Dan DiMatteis. Dan isn’t with us any longer but I’m not depressed or maudlin about that. I miss the shit out of him but in so many ways he’s still with me.
Dan had urged me to do something about our knish and although it took over a year, it’s done. ”That knish is unbelievable when it’s fresh out of the oven but you need to find a way to reheat it other than the microwave,” he said. I bought three convection ovens and we killed each of them. Some died a spectacular flame out death.
Last week we finally installed a Merrychef I bought used off eBay. WTF’s a Merrychef? Need me to Google that for you? Okay, it’s a high intensity oven. 15 times faster and hotter than micorwave or conventional convection ovens. You find them in places that need to reheat or bake on the fly. Dan would be proud. If you liked my knish before, you’ll love it now. And although you won’t know or appreciate Dan’s contribution, it’s there.
In fact, if you watch my upcoming episode of Food Network’s “You Gotta Eat Here” you’ll see me make 3 of Dan DiMatteis’ dishes. Weird eh? The show producers picked my (read: “his”) fried chicken, meatloaf and The Leaning Tower of Caplansky for that show. For the record, Dan’s also responsible for my deep fried pickles, beef ribs and onion rings. Onion Rings? Yeah, bitches: ONION RINGS. It’s a secret menu item.
These last few days and weeks have been groovy. I mean that in the most literal way possible. It feels like life is happening exactly the way I’d never dared dreamed it could. In fact, earlier this evening, as we were wiping menus (me) and rolling cutlery (him) I told awesome server Michael Illiades what my original dream was. “A few days after opening in the Monarch in 2008,” I said “Tenzin came down to visit me and my new venture.” Tenzin had been my Assistant Manager at the Magic Oven as well as my friend. “I told Tenzin,” I continued, “All I needed was to sell 20 sandwiches per day to make my rent and put gas in my motorcycle.” ”Tenzin responded predictably if you know him at all,” I said. “Tenzin told me that if I sold 19 sandwiches that I should call him and he’d come and buy the 20th,” I said. ”And we both knew he would.”
The conversation started with Michael saying something about my “million dollar idea”. “It was more of a $100 idea,” I said. “Actually, it was closer to a $10 idea.” And maybe that’s the key. This has never been a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. Getting rich or famous was never my thing. I just wanted to pay my rent. I just wanted to do my own thing. I just wanted to make a great sandwich, a nice bowl of soup, some killer fries and a mean knish.
I gotta tell you: I’m really happy with the result. I don’t care that it took me this long. When you have people who care just as much as I do on the team like Dan and Tenzin (Caplansky’s General Manager and Partner) and Michael anything is possible.
It’s actually unfair to single out any single member of the team. The truth is, as a group, we are amazing. Click the link below to see a video the incredible Gina made. It was a Secret Santa gift for Therence, one of our extraordinary cooks who jokes that the rest of us can’t dance. Special thanks to Cressida for organising the Secret Santa event.
As you watch, look at the faces of our people. I couldn’t be prouder.
Merry Christmas, Dan.