On Growth

It’s not often I feel compelled to stop a business owner as he walks by and gush about the positive changes at his establishment. Recently, however, I did.

Lloyd Stephenson is the GM at Tin Roof. Last time I saw him, I wanted him to know that lots of food-focused people in the community have noticed a change. Tin Roof’s pastry chef, Terri Moore, is producing more beautiful pastries all the time; her creativity is being noticed, let out of the bag, and into customer’s bags. Pastries at the Roof are more consistent in quality and color, more lovely visually, and all around more appealing than they were just a year ago.

I was at a pre-Halloween/Giants game party where my friends ate the heck out of a Toast of Chico cake from Tin Roof. Even those who pronounced themselves non-cake-people were happily indulging, noting the rich chocolate flavors mingled with homemade caramel buttercream. On Halloween day, a toast of chico cake sat proudly in the display case. It was part homage to our World Series Champs and gave a simultaneous nod to All Hallow’s Eve, a chocolate # sign accompanied a marzipan finger with a “bloody” almond nail, sickeningly displaying the fact that the Giants are indeed, #1. That’s a fun pastry chef.

Even though a friend of mine recently ate at the cafe and was disappointed with their caesar salad, it wasn’t enough to stop me from feeling the need to compliment the owner. I’ve had great potato salads with grainy mustard and dill (a standard American lunch offering that’s rarely done well), and I’ve seen local farmers delivering tomato orders in the peak of summer. The staff is totally and completely receptive to product reviews. They often ask, “How was that macaron? That gazpacho? That slice of cake?” They listen, pass information to the back of house staff, and learn.

Every organization that understands growth, understands constant evolution is required. Arrival connotes the end of a path. When any person, restaurant, or establishment grows cold, decides they’re going to do it their way – fuck input from anyone else – they’ve thrown in the towel. Refusal to change is refusal to continue in relationship. It’s like loudly proclaiming, “This is the way I am, take it or leave it!”

When I said to Lloyd, “Whatever you’re doing, it’s working.” He replied, “I don’t micro-manage. My managers are great at what they do. I figure I’ll let them be great at what they do.”

Smart man.

Let the bread makers make bread. Let the chef’s talent shine. Let the front of the house manage the front. Let the baristas play. It’s a good lesson for all of us; a reminder that there’s a delicate dance required in leadership. Good leaders recognize talent and offer freedom while gently steering the boat into harbor – meeting goals, weathering storms, and encouraging crews. Way to go, Tin Roof.

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Jen Cartier misses Chico! However, she has taken to the great beyond (er...The Bay Area) to be some kind of chocolate maven while simultaneously figuring out how the hell to navigate her long-ass work commute, and still kick ass at raising three munchkins, loving one soon-to-be husband, and keeping one rascally Brittany Spaniel in the damned yard. She loves Nutella, red wine, and American Spirits. She takes her dog along on runs to wear him out (sometimes he shits in someone else's yard - bonus!) and also to balance her own general consumption of all the fine tasty things life offers, ciggys included. Follow her blog at riceflourmemoirs.com


  1. Pam says:

    Thanks ladies.One ceommnt to those who would use my list as a jumping-off point: check with me before you try it. Just because I’ve read it doesn’t mean I’d necessarily recommend it. Even if it’s a part of a series, and I’ve read the whole series, don’t go by that. I’m a bit OCD. I may not like something about the books, but I’m compelled to tough it out anyway for some reason. Like watching a train wreck, you know? No reason for you to go through it, though.