Kyle Wilson joined my oldest son John’s class at the Portland Waldorf School when he was ten years old. Many of his classmates had already been together for four or five years. He seemed to immediately slot into a position of quiet, unimposing leadership, a role he retained through graduation. It was a blessing to watch this group of individuals emerge as they trekked together through the grades. In the Waldorf school curriculum, students tackle what amounts to a crowning achievement in the twelfth grade, titled “The Senior Project.” For this, the student chooses a physical project, produces a thesis on the subject, and then makes a public presentation on both processes. Kyle chose to make an assortment desserts and host a tasting in which he served them to a group of 35 invitees. I did not attend. What I did witness was Kyle’s public presentation, wherein he told the story of the five C’s, butter creams and fallen cheesecakes.
Knowing the character of the young man and singularly impressed with his achievement, I offered him a job that day. Janet and I had just purchased (been stuck with?) a business at our current location that was once a Dinners Ready store. The recession had struck and we were in the process of reinventing ourselves almost daily in an effort to stave off total financial collapse. We didn’t have a staffing plan. Truly, we didn’t have a business. Certainly we didn’t have any capital. All we had were instincts, guts and determination. Kyle needed to return to New Zealand and then he enrolled at Oregon. Several months after making that fateful offer he called me. “Is that offer still open?” he inquired. “Uh, sure,” I replied. It was our turning point.
When he joined us at Bethany’s Table a collaboration was born between Kyle and Janet in which these two souls charted a path to form the restaurant we own today. When they worked together on the line there was no division of labor, and conversation was seldom required. When speaking was necessary, Kyle finished Janet’s sentences. It was not what you would call a complimentary relationship; they were two versions of the same set of impulses.
Over time Kyle has quietly asserted his leadership in the kitchen and Janet’s acquiescence to his creativity and hard work came naturally. As the demands of being an owner of a restaurant that continues to blossom have become more daunting, Kyle quite naturally assumed more and more responsibility – not only for the staff, but for the cuisine. Kyle has become Chef. It has become time to acknowledge that fact.
The truth is that nothing will change, except that Kyle will receive the recognition he deserves. Imagine the joy I feel in watching this fine boy become that man. I consider Kyle to be my fourth son. I couldn’t be prouder.