Hallmarks of Goodwill and Resiliency: Locals help buoy the restaurant community

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, June 2020

Written by Gail G. Collins

Finding stories of goodwill during such tentative times has not been difficult as communities have been supporting each other in newfound ways during the COVID-19 pandemic. The people behind these good deeds, however, have proven a little more difficult to pin down.  They are busy, making positive strides in any way they can. When they sit down to share stories of comfort and compassion, they talk about others. Jamie Thousand, owner of Satchmo’s BBQ, is fond of saying, “No one loves Flagstaff more than Flagstaff.”   That’s a strong statement about the real character of our mountain community.

Like many of his fellow small business owners, he received endless encouragement from others in the midst of lockdown. Weekly customers, who had forgone logging into Yelp when business was thriving, wrote rave reviews and hopeful messages.

“There has been a challenge around every corner and curve balls thrown at us,” Thousand said, “and we adapt as quickly as possible.”

With owners nowhere near in the clear yet, and the hopeful summer boom ahead, the waters are uncharted. Planning is tenuous and preparation is dynamic. More processes, more space, but less confidence.

Along the way, Zoom conference calls and text strands buoyed and informed restauranteurs. State, city and chamber members exchanged ideas on how to interpret loose re-opening guidelines and implement safe practices, like face shields over face masks to counter asthma or a hearing deficit to continue lip reading. Scores of accepted human behaviors no one had previously second-guessed needed to be considered, such as the potential risks of a self-serve soda station.

John Conley, owner of Salsa Brava and Fats Olives, coordinated a multi-party Zoom call to share ideas and exchange information on new protocols. Tinderbox Kitchen’s Kevin Heinonen, Oregano’s David Kennedy and Thousand began a discussion of vital topics, among those the issue of liability.

“Never before in my 32 years of cooking in this amazing mountain town have I witnessed such unification, a fellowship of sorts,” Conley said, “where restaurants united and embraced one another, when a true sense of ‘no one is left behind’ prevailed.”

The crisis brought forth clear priorities.

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Cajun Cuisine Cruising

Satchmo’s and Roux 66 Bring the Bayou Flavors to Town

Northern AZ’s Mountain Living Magazine, March 2017

Written by Gail Collins

Although Mardi Gras may be a revelry in our rear view mirrors, the vision remains vivid. Fat Tuesday, so called for its excess, marks the last merriment before 40 days of piety. The intricate iron balconies of New Orleans are draped in rich purple, green and gold; the gumbo and jambalaya are spicy; the jazz is syncopated; and the bawdiness of Bourbon Street contrast with genteel colonial mansions. The whole of it creates an intoxicating experience. This cradle of culture at the mouth of the Mississippi River blends Native American, African, French and Spanish influences among others. It is especially evident in their language of food, where you can savor sugar-dusted beignets or pork and rice boudin.  Mostly, one senses a party—whether it’s a backyard crawfish boil or festival fun—is always just around the corner.

Our olfactory-driven memories are the strongest, and all of this hit me at the door of Satchmo’s. The spicy smells of Creole cooking took me straight back to our days in New Orleans. And I grinned ear to ear. Owner Jamie Thousand is quick to say a Louisianan might turn up his nose to a batch of Satchmo gumbo offered on their turf. Family recipes are strongly respected and guarded. Thousand honors the Holy Trinity of onion, green pepper and celery in his dishes, but they are also wholly his own.

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