My office at the time was at Tower Place in Buckhead. Across the street Hotel InterContinental had opened with a French restaurant called Au Pied de Cochon. I approached Executive Chef Bixente Pery about an internship. He said flatly, "We do not have an internship program here and on top of that we do not hire lawyers." I said, "If you change your mind let me know."
About two weeks later he called and said he'd changed his mind and could I come in and start as a line chef under Chef de Cuisine Max Kiem. I began working March 29, 2006, on the line as first a prep chef, then a line chef working hot apps and then cold apps. After eight weeks and an "A" grade for the internship, Chef Bixente said he liked my work ethic and asked me to stay on.
Do you know why he changed his mind about lawyers?
He told me later that he had an internship as a novice chef in his home country, Spain. He recalled being turned down at first and then the "old man" chef changed his mind because he remembered the same thing happening to him in his youth. And so it goes, the door opens a little when we remember how we got where we are.
You did that while still practicing law. How did you manage your time?
Au Pied de Cochon was open 24/7. I ended up working there for three years on the line from 5:30 p.m. to midnight two nights a week. This was difficult to juggle because I could not afford to miss work at the restaurant. But the life of a trial lawyer has no fixed schedule. I managed never to miss a day of work in the restaurant and I was late only once or twice. Some days I was so exhausted I rested on a bench on Peachtree Street before heading to my car in the Tower Place parking lot. I loved every minute of it.
Why did you leave?
When the Great Recession hit Buckhead and some high-end restaurants were hurting, I volunteered to be laid off in 2010 instead of a regular chef losing his job.
What spurred your interest in wines?
During my work at Au Pied de Cochon I audited every wine course taught by wine educator Ophelia Santos at the culinary school. I passed with honors the WSET [Wine and Spirits Education Trust] intermediate and advanced exams. These exams are highly technical about wine knowledge and consist of a written exam and a blind wine tasting.
I was asked to teach the intermediate and advanced wine course for WSET students at the culinary school and did this for a couple years after working at Au Pied de Cochon.
I have continued to serve as a wine judge once a year at the Atlanta VinoChallenge, an international wine competition. I love tasting and learning about all types of wine. I have a small cellar in my home. I have become a close friend of Ophelia Santos, and she serves as the wine expert of Table One.
Why did you start Table One?
I started Table One to continue my fascination with fine dining and wine.
How do the dinners work?
Table One tries to create the highest culinary experience. We serve only fresh, locally grown, certified organic food, free from growth hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. We endeavor to avoid foods from factory farms and producers who utilize inhuman grazing and slaughtering techniques. Our guiding principle is flavor, health and sustainability.