It was nearing the end of my last day and I could not believe my luck. The busiest man I had ever met, Mr. Shmooze, had invited me to dinner, alone, and I was on the way to meet him where it all started—the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
By now I knew everyone at the hotel and was a member of the family: Rudy, the car attendant; Joe, the doorman; and Susan, the hostess. Tonight, however, was the first time I was going to eat upstairs at the famous Ritz Restaurant. I was really pumped up. At the entranceway, I was welcomed by a very dignified-looking maître d'.
"Ah, you must be Robert, the young man Mr. Shmooze is waiting for. Follow me." As we wound our way through the beautiful restaurant, serene music played in the background and people talked quietly. I scanned the best tables looking for Mr. Shmooze. My eyes had not yet adjusted to the lowered lighting, and I could not make him out at any of the likely locations. Finally, we reached the back of the majestic room and the maître d' opened a swinging door.
"After you, sir," he said.
As the door swung closed behind us, I was suddenly bombarded by the most raucous combination of light, noise, energy, and activity I had ever seen. What a scene! We were in the kitchen! And in the middle of the mêlée, apron and all, stood Mr. Shmooze, busily chopping onions.
"Hey, kid, over here! We're cooking tonight!" With that, I felt an arm around me, walking me toward the chopping block and taking off my coat. It was Joseph, the ...