“Your favorite story was written for one reader.”
Last month, Stephen Tucker retired from foodservice distribution to sell fish. (We’ll get to that later…)
As an industry insider, I’m sure you also get this question a lot: So what’s YOUR favorite restaurant?
Mine is Henning’s Local, and I would guess it’s right up there for my parents too. Upon arrival at the Eldridge Preserve, about 10 miles from our home upstate, you are welcomed back in time, to a magical era when the Catskills were a bustling destination. Even in the dead of winter when our seasonal county is deserted, the rustic lodge is reliable, with country style, local food, and smiles more charming than the wishing well in the center of the dining room. Your meal starts with popovers that yearn to be cradled in two hands. A symphony of the bustling stream outside flows through your table as fresh trout arrives in large portions and with flavors of love. Happy fish, cooked by Henning himself.
A few months ago, we arrived to hear the devastating news that Henning’s was losing their lease and would be closing at the end of the month. How could this be? Could Union Square Café syndrome really have made it all the way to the back roads of Sullivan County?
Now back to my father, Stephen Tucker. At his industry retirement sendoff, Neil London, top sales person for most of Stephen’s tenure and our current sales manager, Marc Fuchs, his partner for over 30 years, Fred Singer, owner of M. Tucker, and his wife, Ellen Tucker, my stunning mother, each spoke of Stephen’s amazing accomplishments and attributes.
It is now my opportunity to tell you some valuable things I have learned from my father, mentor, best friend, and favorite storyteller.
Be a cheerleader for your people. Stephen sees you who you are: your struggles, your fears, what drives you. If you want to talk, he will listen. He will understand. He will not judge you, and he will forgive you if you judge him. Put people first…. And be early, always.
Make people remember you. Surprise them. Know more. (Be able to calculate in your head…it’s important.) Always play like an underdog. And there is always an applicable sports analogy for any situation.
People who love animals are better people. Stephen has never met a dog (or a child) he didn’t like, and didn’t love him.
Everyone wants dessert. This is our favorite family expression, and is appropriate in any situation. Picking your dessert means knowing when you deserve to be rewarded, and accepting when you know you have not given your best self. It also means, if you eat too much, you will be fat, and Stephen doesn’t like fat people.
Change is good. My father taught me to see the beauty in impermanence and accept the inevitability of change. Have the courage to fail, and stick around to try again. Stephen is not afraid… of death, and life. Stephen is not afraid of failure, or great success.
Amazing things will happen if you have the vision and strength to grow and change. Last week I inhaled the familiar scent of Henning’s popovers in their new, uniquely special location. We are still waiting on the liquor license, which is a serious problem for this family, but the renaissance has begun. I am reminded, home is where the people who love you are and for all of us, the best is yet to come.
Stephen’s reputation precedes him as the brilliant and colorful comic relief and unabashedly fearless voice of reason in every room. If you’re lucky, he has the microphone for a moment in your autobiography. It is a privilege to have him as the narrator of my story and my biggest fan.
Dad, my love letter to you could go on for novels… bigger than the ones you speed through on a weekly basis. Instead, I will tell you, the best chapter is the one we haven’t written yet. For everyone else, Stephen’s stories continue, with conviction and humor, at Scandia Seafood.
For more from Morgan, visit www.littlemtucker.com.