“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”
I began my career like many chefs, learning from my mentors and developing the dream of one day owning my own restaurant. I didn’t have much growing up in New Orleans, but my life was abundant in love and support from my family and friends. I try to put a little of that magic in all that I do. Love and support goes a long way with people. It just so happens that I was blessed with the opportunity to own my own restaurants and catering services throughout the years. This career has allowed me to travel all over the country meeting athletes, celebrities, politicians, and travelers from all over the world. It also gave me the privilege to work with many young people side by side helping them grow into the wonderful people they have become or one day will be.
That is what this business is about: people, not just those who come in to enjoy the food and experience, but also the people that help make those magical moments happen. Many of us in this business spend more time at the restaurant than we do at home, so we’re a lot like family. There are so many different types of people in this business that I have had the pleasure of working with. You have college students, young professionals, career servers and cooks, all bringing their personalities to this business. Everyone pulls together in the busy times with the sole focus of taking care of the guests that we are so blessed to have come into the restaurant. At the end of the day, we know we may have made a couple of mistakes but we did our best to make sure that our guests left happy. The team you have in a restaurant makes all the difference.
As restaurant owners, we have such a great opportunity to make an impact with the young people today. We have the opportunity to guide them by our own experiences in the successes that we’ve had and also the mistakes that we’ve made. We’re able to work events together in our community and with charity organizations to share the feeling of giving back. There are so many things this business allows us to do and most of it involves teamwork. It is truly a blessing when one of my team members comes to me and shares their good news like a new career opportunity or a graduation. They always come back to talk to me and let me know how things are going. It lets me know that I did what I could for them at their time of need to help them move to that next step in life.
It’s hard to sum up the personal benefits of the restaurant business. I have been blessed in many ways, but it’s the little things matter the most. It’s a smile, or the simple nod you get from guests when they have just taken a bite and you ask, “How is everything this evening?” It’s the thank-you from a happy guest, a photo request, a handshake, a hug. These are the little things that bring the magic to the business. These are the reasons that we work long hours, on holidays and weekends. It is really a special feeling to provide nourishment to others.
It takes a lot of hard work to operate a restaurant. You really have to love the business, food, and people in order to truly be a success. Although I have supported my family with this business, I’m not speaking of being rich in money but rich in fulfillment. I’m a humble guy who does what I can to make sure that my guests love their food and enjoy their experience so that I have the pleasure of seeing them again soon. The smiles and conversations that my guests share with me after enjoying their meals, and the accomplishments of my restaurant “family” are the magical moments that keep me going.
Chef Gary Williams is owner of DeJaVu and Café La Roux by DeJaVu.