Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Waiter Who Amused Riordan

Eight years ago, Richard Riordan was the mayor of Los Angeles. Today he's wearing a very different hat. According to the L.A. Times:

. . . though the 78-year-old Riordan is best known as the multimillionaire former mayor of Los Angeles, he also owns two of the busiest restaurants in Southern California, the Original Pantry and Gladstone's Malibu. And in the last year he's opened three more . . .

Usually, when a really rich guy opens a new place, it's loaded with swank . . . Instead, Riordan's restaurant empire is built around a beloved, if somewhat scruffy, downtown landmark and a seaside cash machine, neither of which comes within a couple of miles of gourmet while doing spectacular business.

But this part of the article on restauranteur Riordan killed my enthusiasm for wanting to check out any of his eateries the next time I'm in L.A.:

Indeed, the Original Pantry is probably Riordan's dream restaurant -- an 84-year-old diner where nothing costs more than $20 and where a waiter once kicked him out for not eating fast enough. He liked it so much he bought it.

"When I fell in love with the Pantry, I was at breakfast, drinking coffee and I had a book I was reading," he says. "I was very relaxed and the waiter came over and said, 'If you want to read, the library's at 5th and Hope.' I fell in love with it right then."

The story's funny, but it's also telling. Riordan's restaurant appreciation runs more to businesslike efficiency than fine-dining glamour.

"The bottom line is: I'm an entrepreneur, a venture capitalist," Riordan says. "I've been investing in companies since 1962 or so, and I've invested a lot of capital, and I've done very, very well.

That story isn't funny to me. The fact that Riordan seemed to be amused by this waiter's rude behavior tells me I probably wouldn't care for the "businesslike efficiency" that underscores Riordan's approach to restaurants.

No comments: