On The Menu

Chapter 3


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The final installment.

Chapter 3

“Is Andy there? Tell him we just ate at Bouchon!” I screamed at my sister over my Samsung cell phone. I finally did something on the culinary checklist before my foodie sister Tina and husband Andy had a chance to do. Abby and I just had lunch at Thomas Keller’s bistro in Vegas. If you didn’t know, Thomas Keller is considered the greatest chef in America. And we ate at one of his restaurants before Tandy did. (My family has combined all my siblings and significant others into one name entities: Kthuy, Tilino, Tandy, Jerrudy, Cozy and Jabby.) Sure it was just his Parisian bistro in Vegas, but it was un-freaking-believable. This was no mere ham and cheese sandwich we just ate…I mean it had an egg on it. And the fries, oh the fries! I make some damn good French fries, but even if I made fries every night for the rest of my life I would never ever be able to make fries that were as good as Bouchon’s. We would finally make the oh so more important “in your face” move when we got to dine at Per Se before Tandy did too. (Sure they have since trumped us many times over, being served by Thomas Keller himself for some fancy dinner event…but hey, they got us on money and opportunity. We don’t mind being the poorer, better looking version of them.)

Passion. I’m a very passionate person. All my life I’ve been this way. When I find something I like, I want to make sure I know every single detail about it. Sports, comics, food, etc. I have to know who’s the leading rusher in OU history. (Billy Sims). I have to know who the original Robin is. (Dick Grayson.) I have to know what restaurants are Michelin rated. And it doesn’t stop with the basics: I need to know every minute detail there is out there. Where did the O-linemen we just recruited come from? What is the chronological order of women Batman has hooked up with? Is the chef at the new hot tapas joint really trained by Jose Andres? If I didn’t find all of this out, I wouldn’t feel like I’m a true fan. And that is key. See, this all goes back to me finding me. Basically, now that I know what defines me, I want to make sure I am no poser. I want to make sure that when someone questions me about something I love and something I have an interest in, that I know the answer. (A younger me once believed that if you didn’t show enough interest in whatever you like, then you are a fake fan. I now no longer have this close minded thinking. Who the hell am I to tell someone how to enjoy themselves? If you like a particular sports team because you grew up liking them, but couldn’t tell me who your QB even was, why should I scoff at that? Who am I to question your fandom? However, I do feel like there are some things certain fans should know. Lets face it, if you call yourself an OU fan and can’t tell me who our Heismans are or what color Little Joe’s shoes were, then I immediately throw you into the category of fake fans that just came along when Stoops was hired and decided they wanted to put up a car flag and…oh, sorry, I’m ranting again.) My friend Noah gave me one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received in my life when one drunken night he called me genuine. I’m not sure if he knew how much that actually touched me. As I have described in the previous chapters of how hard I tried to be someone else in my early life, being true to myself is all that matters.

It’s funny, growing up I wanted to be a professional basketball player. Then in college, I wanted to be the best electrical engineer ever. Now I just want to eat. Not just haute cuisine either. I see these food travel shows and I am so freaking jealous. How can I get a job where I try out all the BBQ joints in Kansas City? How can I go on a hunt for the world’s greatest hot dogs? (I’d have to say Hot Dougs in Chicago is probably the correct answer.) How can I get chosen to go to Singapore and eat at every hawker stand? There are some experiences that I do not ever want to miss out on. For example, when we went to Per Se, I dropped more money than I have ever had before (and since) on lunch. Our final bill was over $700. And it was well worth it. After we ate there some people asked us, “Who would spend that much on a meal?” I definitely would…and I did and would do it again and again and again. Now I’m not going to be a regular for the full on tasting menu at Le Bernardin, but knowing that Eric Ripert is the chef there, when I get the opportunity to get a reservation next time I’m in NYC, I’m going to shell out the bucks to do it. (As we speak, Abby and I are saving a few bucks each month to get the minimum $1000 to pay for a meal at Masa in NYC. Can that money be used for other things? Can’t we get fine dining sushi somewhere it’s not $350 a head to just walk into the door? Sure to both those question. But that just wouldn’t be the same. We aren’t loaded by any means, but the year or so it’ll take us to save up for that meal will make that moment when we actually sit down to the gorgeous wood bar in the Columbus Center all worth it.) What I’ve learned these first 30 years on planet Earth is that it took me way too long to figure out what makes me happy. I’ve been trying all these years to just fit in, to be part of the crowd, when the best part of me was just being myself. It took me a while to be comfortable having my own opinion, then even longer to voice those opinions. (Whether anyone wants to hear them is another matter…) I look back at all the missed opportunities in my life, and the missed layup in a game or the girl I never asked out aren’t the ones sticking out. It’s the fact that I didn’t try to eat oysters earlier. It’s the fact that I once walked by a Wolfgang Puck restaurant without even knowing who he was. It’s the time when I was in Vietnam with my parents and even though I ate my fill of street vendor food, I know I should have eaten more. It really is strange that all the regrets I have in my life are all related to food somehow, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way now.

I’m a very, very blessed man. I come from a very close knit family. I have no shame in saying that my brothers and sisters are my best friends. I somehow lucked out in getting a fantastic and beautiful wife. Even though I’m not always happy with it, I have a great job. Hell, I even own a condo. If I can look back at my life and the only regrets are food related, then things must be going very well for me. Lets hope the next 30 plus years can be as equally fruitful (and tasty).