by Steve Poses
Forty-five years. How do I make sense of a forty-five year career?
Forty-five years ago:
- Richard Nixon was President. Barack Obama was 11 years old.
- The Nixon Watergate scandal was unraveling.
- U.S. helicopters would fly from the roof of the American Embassy in Saigon in two years.
- The Exorcist was the top grossing film. My favorite, American Graffiti, was #3.
- I preferred Roberta Flack’s #3 Killing Me Softly with His Song to #1 Tony Orlando & Dawn’s Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round an Ole Oak Tree.
- Motor Trend’s Car of the Year was the muscular Chevy Monte Carlo
- Neil Patrick Harris and Kristen Wiig were newborns.
- About 60% of Americans were not yet born.
- I opened a little storefront restaurant on 16th Street named Frog.
As I write this dispatch from my at-home kitchen, forty-five years feels like a long time ago. It decidedly doesn’t feel like just yesterday, though I probably could not have predicted just how things would have turned out.
Taking stock is a little like making stock. Good stock requires purity of purpose, excellent ingredients and patience. Forty-five years of doing what I do, the purity of purpose is still the power of food served in a welcoming way to create and reinforce community. Excellent ingredients include all of the passionate people with whom I work. As for patience, well, as I often say, life, and your life’s work, is a marathon, not a sprint. So pace yourself.
Maybe Philadelphians take for granted our current extraordinary wealth of dining options and great food. It was not always this way. When I opened Frog in 1973, quiche was a daring menu item. Wines choices were mediocre “house wines” poured from jugs or a short list of overpriced bottles, until Frog introduced Philadelphia’s first wines by the glass program. We also premiered Asian-accented French food and brewed decaf in place of Sanka packs. A few years later, in 1977, the Commissary introduced a made-to-order pasta bar and sushi to Center City. Care for an espresso? Pates? House-made ice cream? Carrot Cake and Strawberry Heart Tarts? A take-out market? Welcome to The Commissary.
Together, these two restaurants laid the foundation upon which our company was founded. The day-to-day drive to innovate continues to fuel what we do today.
Of course, my job in our company has evolved. Today, when asked, I say I am “of counsel.” The reins have been turned over to my ferocious wife Christina and a team of great folks who nurture the values that have sustained Frog. I advise my wife, when asked, and continue to shine a light as we look to the future…still amazed by the power of food.
It is difficult for me to look back on a body of work over forty-five years and give myself a firm pat on the back. As I had emblazoned on the wall of our Fairmount Avenue kitchen for many years, You’re only as good as your last meal. Maybe I need to revise that to You are as good as several millions of meals served over forty-five years. Well, I am working on that issue in my spare time.
Here’s to all of you who have supported us, dined with us, and honored us by allowing us to feed your guests at special events. We look forward to many, many more meals to come.
P.S. In 2018, my son was just named Chef de Cuisine at the newly renovated Kingbird Restaurant and Watergate Hotel, 45 years after the scandal broke—more proof that life always has the capacity to surprise you.