“My dad was a chef, and I was desperate to follow in his footsteps from a young age. He knew the low pay, long hours, and high stress of restaurants and was just as desperate for me not to get into it. He wanted me to go to college for anything else, so I majored in international relations and double-minored in Mandarin and economics at UAB. I’ve taken six years of Mandarin, three years of German, and three years of French, and I’ll never speak them again.
I worked at three restaurants in downtown Birmingham during my last year of college and loved those kitchens more than class. I dropped out of school and went for the dream. Trattoria Zaza was one of those three restaurants, and the owner later approached me about purchasing it. I knew Trattoria Zaza had been open for six years and was making money. I bought the restaurant in 2015, and we expanded it. My dad is proud as he is watching me take this to a higher level.
We have been downtown a long time, and it’s important that we care for our customers and our community. The unhoused are part of this community, and we work on different ways to support our neighbors and support our business. We have food and hand some of it out because I don’t want anyone to be hungry. I learned that if we treat people with compassion and care, we usually get it back.
My five-year-old son started kindergarten today. It was hard for me, but he was so excited that he ran out of the car. I am teaching him early about compassion and finding common ground. My advice to my son this morning was to introduce himself to someone he doesn’t know and find something in common to talk about. Give people a chance. That is good advice at any age.”
(I ordered a slice of pizza at Trattoria Zaza in Birmingham while working on a story. They gave me two slices because they didn’t think the first slice was big enough. While I was there, a homeless man came up asking for food. Bryan, the owner, came out and treated him so kindly that I had to meet him. It is good to watch humans care for one another.)