Those there were by the restaurant's phone invitation to the special dinner. Each knew only that it was something unique and they were all in for it. They saw no menu and knew no details in advance about the evening of September 14th. That's quite a testament to the brand and reputation of the restaurant.
It was somewhat an experiment for this new location for a national chain of prestigious eateries. All guests were steady, big spenders at the restaurant's previous location in Dallas. The lucky ones who were called and invited to drop $1600. per plate were to experience a phantasmagoria of extraordinary food and drink at a sparkling new location that opened in May at Legacy West. It's an area that is sure to become the center of the universe with what's happening and what corporations are moving there. It's at the southwest corner of The Dallas North Tollway and the Sam Rayburn Tollway in Collin County, just about 30 miles north of Dallas.
It was just another evening out for these folks. No tuxes or long dresses. Casual dress for everyone. One guest stood out in his black T-shirt with some message about motorcycles silk-screened in the back. Wearing denims and a gimme cap, he took his place at one of the two tables in the private, glass-enclosed dining area in the front section of the restaurant. Those 15 guests were visible to everyone in that part of the dining area. There was no fanfare other than a really-red carpet from the valet parking podium to the front door of Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House in Plano, TX.
My being asked to come and engrave bottles and glasses evolved from a job I did almost exactly 20 years ago for the sommelier at Pappa Bros. Steakhouse in Dallas. Near the beginning of my engraving career, we had dinner there one evening. I gave the wine guy my card. A few days later he called me to come get two 3 liter wine bottles he wanted engraved. The total value of the two bottles: $8500.! I did the job. He was delighted. Never heard from him again, though later, one of his two sons, also in the business, had me do bottles for him on several occasions.
Last month I got a call from the wine manager at Del Frisco's. He told me he knew of my work from some previous event, he didn't recall exactly where. It was actually from his brother, whom I never met, that he got my name. He briefly outlined his idea for a special evening at the restaurant. After the call, I engraved a bottle with one of my signature verses, noting the occasion, boxed it up, and sent it FedEx to him at the restaurant. The day he got it, I got a call. He was probably already 'in the bag' for my being there. I think the bottle cinched that for sure.
A few days later we set a time to meet at the location. He quickly took me to the locked wine room where my bottle was on display in the center of the room. My $10.58 bottle of Riesling stood by a $1200. bottle of red. I was more that pleased.
He told me what he wanted at the dinner and we struck a deal. I came the evening before to set up my equipment and do a 'dry run' for guests in the area where I was, just across the aisle from the glassed-in room. I did a bucket of SmileStones for guests and the wait staff in my area. All went perfectly.
The next evening was the big dinner. I took my place and began personalizing wine glasses for the special guests. The name of the guest, the restaurant name, city, and year were all engraved on the base of each. The bowls of RIEDEL glasses will NOT take the drill.
Soon after I was underway, a gentleman came to my table and introduced himself as he handed me his business card. "You remember me? I'm Victor; I was the wine guy at Pappa's Bros. Steak House in 1997 when I had you do the two 3 liter wine bottles." Well...I was thrilled to see the old boy and in disbelief we had connected again at such a grand occasion. He now works for a major winery in Napa, California, and he was engaged to speak to the 15 guests who would be drinking some high-class, expensive wines; he would give them the flowery details of each 2 ounce sample as they sipped.
As we visited briefly, I glanced down at his card. His last name matched the last name of the wine guy at Del Frisco's....Steve, who hired me for the event. Victor is his father! What a surprise that was! Even Steve didn't immediately realize the connection. I was totally astonished at this unlikely, unexpected connection. We had a great, though brief, visit between wine glasses I was engraving.
Although it was routine work for me, the evening was a genuine highlight in the past years of my work in public. The restaurant promises more, similar events that we'll tweak to maximize what I can add to the evening with a few personalized mementos.
Here are a few more pictures.
These were the glasses given in a gift bag as guests left the dinner.
I occupied a u-shaped booth that would seat about 4 guests.
Victor, the Pappas Bros. sommelier I met in 1997, where the steps to this event began. Victor is Steve's father.
A sneak peek at one table of guests from my table across the aisle, and 'outside the glass box.'
This particular bottle has some special significance; it caught my eye as special since it was dated my year of high school graduation. Heard it was quite valuable.
This is the back side of the '59 bottle that had 5 names of the party who brought it to the dinner....a practice not allowed in every day restaurant service.
This was just outside in valet parking. Someone in the group had a pretty good ride to the dinner. A close estimate is that it would take the tab of about 190 of these dinners to buy one. Excluding the tip of course. Chump change.
Get to be good at what you do.
Spread the word.
Invest in ideas that may not work. Because they may!
Send personalized gifts to impress your prospects.
Nurture your skill with practice and innovative ideas.
Come to my Engraving Workshop to discover the guts of all this. You're not getting any younger.
No guts no glory.
Leap and the net will appear.
You can do this.
Next Workshop is in January.
Nobody's doing it in your neighborhood.
You could use the money!
-Ken • 214.250.6958