I recently attended a talk by Drew Record in San Francisco, where he spoke of something called a “well of love.” It’s a resource that all (good) hospitality professionals have inside them. It fuels them to take care of others and to be understanding and caring in the face of nastiness and inconsideration. It’s really hard to keep the well full. Matt Ragan’s Well of Love is one of the fullest wells around. It’s fuller than mine, it’s fuller than yours, it’s fuller than most of the best minds in the bar industry. It’s pretty much spilling over the top getting everywhere, making a mess on the table and the floor. It’s beautiful and it’s really funny at the same time. Sometimes it’s even frustrating, but it’s usually worth it. If you’re imaging Patch Adams, that’s hilarious, but wrong. Think more of like a wild animal trapped in a refrigerator box meets the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) meets the first kid in your neighborhood that hit puberty meets Noam Chomsky. Matt has had a long and illustrious industry career that has taken him from NYC to LA to Dallas, Texas, where he stands to be one of the more influential tastemakers of the city. His cocktails are balanced and taste awesome, but I think it’s his relentlessness that makes him a real stand out. Matt and I are friends and I asked him a few questions for fun:
You’ve been operating bars and restaurants for a long time, when did you realize how much you cared?
Oh man! Honestly, it wasn’t even behind a bar, it was when I was 15 years old in my first job at Taco Bell (don’t judge.) I started working on the line and I would make every single burrito, mexi-melt, and taco where you got the perfect bite every time. They busted my chops a ton for taking too long trying to make a masterpiece, so I said, “fine, I’ll get faster.” So I figured out how to do it perfectly, really, really fast. There was only one way to make that Bean Burrito, man, and it was with just the right amount of bean, cheese, sauce, and sour cream in every bite and just a little bit extra on the last bite for the big payoff! My GM said food cost had gone up 20% since I started but guest complaints had plummeted. Food cost won out I guess, because I got booted off the line and onto the Drive Thru. I guess I was hardwired from day one to put love into it. I loved what I made and wanted it to make people super happy WAY before I had any idea what I was doing.