It always takes me a little while to get situated at my tables at the Napoleon House. Being the first customer inside on Saturday morning; I knew that there was no contest for table choice. When it's available and I'm alone with a project, I always choose the tiny, tucked away alcove in the back of the front room.
Fidgeting with my back-pack, I noticed a man standing in the archway beside the bar. He said good morning and asked how I was. In no time he was at my table, introducing himself. I didn't give him half a chance. He'd only gotten out the "Chris" and I got to finish the "Montero". I'd read about him.
Until Saturday's meeting, I'd considered Chris Montero the Brennan's man at the Napoleon House who was slated to become the new head chef. I told him I'd been coming to the Napoleon House since 1976, and that I was very worried about what was going to happen to this place that has woven itself into my heart and soul.
I invited him to sit, which he was able to do since his appointment hadn't yet arrived. You know how these conversations go, strangers meeting for the first time who only have one thing in common. For us it was the Napoleon House. We talked about: the changing of the guard from one family to another; the introduction of a few "new" items to the menu; utlizing the upstairs space more; and, what that means.
I shared the special events I'd attended upstairs, as well has having rented one of the apartments one year for a special Valentine's Day evening. And there was: "So you know exactly what I'm talking about." And, I did. It sounded to me that change is coming to underutilized space ABOVE the first floor. In my book, (other than bringing more crowds ) that is a good thing.
Conversation turned to our love of New Orleans. Chris shared being born and raised here, living in Mid-City, and, his family's life here during and after Katrina. Through our shared stories I could see that we were on the same page. He was politically subtle and so on target. I sat with a man who had the opportunity to leave New Orleans after the storm and stayed. I had my home in Cadrieu and I chose to go there. We know about difficult choices.
By the time Chris's appointment arrived; my French Pinot Noir and shrimp stuffed avocado salad had arrived, as well. He left me in the hands of "Jordan" who had waited on me in the past. Jordan had been the waiter who I'd asked about my friend/waiter Larry, who it turned out had passed away while was in France.
The thing I've always loved most about the Napoleon House is the feeling that I belong there. I'm known, safe, and always have somewhere to go if I'm out on my own in the Quarter and something doesn't feel right. I've known most of the waiters, Sal and the rest of the Impastatos, and my pal "Mack".
As Chris got up to leave he said: "Don't forget to ask for me whenever you come in." I won't forget. I'll be coming back in on Wednesday with my friends Ann and Marty Rudegair who will be in from out of town.
I would say that Chris Montero is going to be
"our" man at the Napoleon House.