Grand opening of strano

through the eyes of Chef Josh’s mother

By Nancy Otis Steiner

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Have you ever felt so much pride for your child that it actually brings tears to your eyes? This is how I felt watching my son at his Grand Opening of Strano by Chef Josh on Friday. I looked around to see if anyone would notice the tears welling in my eyes and I was overcome by all of the faces in the crowd. Some I recognized like the headmaster of his preschool at the MJCC, Adriane Weissman, and the mother that used to carpool with us every day in grade school.

Josh was a charming little boy that was easy to love, and he has grown into a charismatic adult that is also easy to love. You have children and it’s a scary thing. You want to be a good mom in all the ways that matter. Sometimes you fail, sometimes you succeed.

You just want your children to grow up to be a positive influence in the world (and call you every day). It’s the proudest moment for a mom to be able to see their child’s successes and that are really making a difference in the world. I thank Josh for giving me that opportunity. Standing there watching him cut the ribbon to his new restaurant and seeing all of the glowing and smiling faces of the crowds pouring into my son’s restaurant does a mother’s heart good.

 

welcome to strano by chef josh

I appreciate the city commissioner, Heidi Shafer, and all of the media for coming to participate in and cover Josh’s opening and to share their support by helping to get the word out.

The entire bar was standing room only full of people there that want to show support for my son’s restaurant. I noticed people from all walks of life coming together to enjoy drinks and good food and celebrate.

In our family, cooking for someone is an expression of love and I know how it touches Josh every time someone chooses to spend their hard-earned money and their precious time in his restaurant. Memphis is so good about supporting local, small business owners. The team that works with Josh are part of our extended family as are the friends and neighbors that come to dine with us.

 

I also see clear evidence of Josh’s commitment to use the best organic, local and sustainable products in his kitchen. Gardens are behind the bar for fresh herbs in the hand-crafted cocktails. There is a “living garden wall” with special lighting in the hallway. Then, behind the restaurant, wrapped around a parking garage and an alley, is another huge garden growing everything this season can provide. I like to think that his love of gardening initiated on the farm he grew up on as a child. The farm also supplements the restaurant with the groves of fruit trees and blueberry bushes and rows of everything from fresh tomatoes to unearthed potatoes. Quite literally, Josh’s hard work and love are on every plate.

 

He insists on fresh sustainable seafood, so he pays the purveyors to have it flown in daily via FedEx as Memphis is landlocked. The meat is free range and cruelty-free. I like to think this comes from his upbringing as respect for all living things.

I have to share credit with this village in Memphis that helped us raise him, the exceptional and committed staff at the Memphis JCC, Bornblum Solomon Schecter Day School, and Lausanne Collegiate School. All of the teachers and coaches and administrators have been gracious enough to dine in his restaurant and to wish him well. Do staff and coaches at other schools in other cities keep up with and support their students like they do in Memphis? How could Josh fail in his endeavors with this circle of support and encouragement?

The life lessons of being honest, working hard, always doing your best, being persistent, being confident, being humble, being grateful, being open to criticism, to keep growing as a person, to respect rules, to lead but also to be part of a team, to be able to learn from your mistakes, to be generous with your heart and you time, to give back. These are the lessons that have made Josh who he is.

 

grand opening

We always set the bar very high for our kids. We appreciate each child’s unique gifts and talents and hope that they will discover their passion. Josh found the kitchen and that is where his unique gifts, talents, and passions dwell. He thinks outside of the box and he is blessed with a very sensitive palate. Most of our family recipes lack any precise instructions for seasoning and herbs. It’s all done old country style, to taste. It is a wonder to watch Josh taste a recipe and dissect and distinguish every flavor in that bite. That is the palate of a Chef that can’t be taught. You either have it or you don’t. It skipped my generation. I don’t have a palate like his, but my mother did, and I recognize the skill set. I know my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents would be so proud to see Josh using the basics from these old-world family recipes and elevating them with his own contemporary twist.

When I eat at Strano, food memories from my mother’s and grandmother’s tables come flooding back into my mind. It’s the comfort food that soothes me and brings me to a place of unconditional love. It’s funny how food and breaking bread can hold so much meaning. I look around my table opening night surround by all of my children, my husband and special friends and I am so grateful for this moment and this feeling. I look at the rest of the dining room and every table reveals smiling, happy groups of diners enjoying the food that my little boy created using the recipes from the culture of my ancestors and I am in utter bliss.

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