Archive for June 24th, 2010

35 years at the Ringside: Frank Byrnes

June 24th, 2010

What kind of employee grows, harvests, and brings flowers to work with him to place on the central mantle 5 days a week for 35 years?  Someone who is in love, not only with his job, but with his life.  Businesses need these kind of people.   No good service business is successful without passionate people.  People who imbue every movement with consciousness, strength of will, and integrity. Introducing Frank Byrnes.

Frank started scrubbing pans and peeling carrots when he was 12 years old.  The Meadowlark Country Club in Huntington, California was a popular enough place to put Frank through school…when he was 18 he moved to Portland, Oregon.

Frank’s second job was in Beaverton at a restaurant called Grandma’s Table.  Grandma’s Table was known for the chicken and dumplings in the 1970s.

Wes and Bev Peterson, the owners of the Ringside, were dining at Grandma’s and Wes approached Frank.   He told Frank that he liked his style and wanted to hire him.  Frank bought a tuxedo and showed up on Tuesday.  This was his third job.

I will skip the stories of the famed who dined at the Ringside, ranging from Kareem Abdul Jabbar to Liberace…the Ringside has long been Portland’s celebrity house…and ask the important question.

What is the best thing about your time at the Ringside?  Without pause, he said, “friendships with the other employees.  Spending time with these people through out the years has been a blessing to me.”

Frank spent thirty five years celebrating one of the historic Oregon restaurants; perhaps the historic Portland restaurant.  Yet he focuses not on the celebrity, nor the good living, but on the people with whom he shared the Ringside experience.

“The families that I’ve gotten to know…serving at the Ringside…catering in their homes, is one of the great joys of my life.  Especially catering.  Being invited into someones home is such an act of trust and love that it is truly special for me to have been able to cater so many parties for so many wonderful people.”  Frank has owned Elite Catering since 1981.

“I’m on my fourth generation of knowing certain families through the Ringside, and on my second generation of knowing folks from my catering. ”

Portland  is not only filled with small farms and ranches, but also overflowing with restaurants celebrating the bountiful earth.

When you dine out, the beautiful food materializes before you.  The entire system, from the farm to the distriubutor to the chef’s kitchen, is unseen.  Oftentimes, in varying degrees, you place as much or more emphasis on the last leg of the food delivery system…your waiter.  The warmth, sincerity, grace of a good server eases folks into the gentle relaxation that dining can sometimes afford.  A few good restaurants throughout the United States have a staff of professionals who view food service as not only a discipline, but also a medium to share the joy of good food with people.  Frank Byrnes is one of these people.

Why the same restaurant for 35 years?

“I have fun every day I come to work, and I have pride in the product,” Frank says.  When I mention the onion rings, he nods and then launches into the beef.   “Craig (Peterson) makes diligent effort to research where the beef is from.”  He is really proud of the Tasmanian Rib eye.  “We can follow it from day 1 to harvest, and it is beautiful.”  Craig is aso a great boss, but that’s another chapter in the life of the Ringside.

Frank has 2-3  request parties a night, 5 nights a week, 50 weeks of the year.  So if you want to get to know Frank, and you really ought to, you better call ahead.  Frank is one of the many reasons the Ringside is Portland’s premier steakhouse.  The Ringside