The first time he said it I thought it was a passing comment, the sort of thing young boys sometimes say to satisfy a mother’s never ending need to be appreciated. The second time he said it, I paused to register the genuineness of the idea until Mother Practicality piped up to gently enumerate all the reasons it wasn’t possible.
At twelve, a child knows all our Mother voices, and can discern the ones that are weighted down with an overprotectiveness of the downside. And so before I could finish, he interrupted:
“But Mom, wouldn’t it be fun to open a restaurant together? You’d be the chef and I’d be the one who talks to the customers. And did you hear me? It’s only a brunch place. Maybe even a food stall. So we don’t have to work nights.”
If “a great leader has a presence that make other people bigger” and “if we have the possibility to always be growing” then his question was my cue to act like a Great Mom by allowing the idea to percolate. He wasn’t asking me to make a cash investment on the spot, he was simply asking me to dream a dream with him. Not just any dream but a dream where Mom has a starring role!
“Yes, it would be fun!” I answered with feeling. “Good,” he said with possibility, “because I already know what my signature dish is going to be.”
Over Christmas break my partner worked on his signature dish: toasted sourdough toast with eggs fried to your liking in a cast iron skillet, grilled pancetta (or halloumi cheese) infused with fennel seeds, topped with smashed avocado and arugula. He made some variation of it most mornings for his brothers, enough days in a row to experience the fatigue of satisfying hungry customers every 24 hours, some with very precise ideas of over easy, medium, and hard.
No doubt inspired by his signature dish and our visit to France, my partner ruminated that the name of our restaurant should be: l'œuf. A nod to both the French word for egg and his first initial. And from a design aesthetic, the name should be all lower case and the “oe” mashed together as it is in French.
After New Years, we had a fun lunch at a restaurant back in London called Le Bab. (The “Le” bit being a total coincidence.) Le Bab is a modern twist on the kebab - I imagine what happened to the humble hamburger years ago — and the food is delicious. Better yet was the long conversation we had with one of the charming owners, made possible because we were their last lunch table of the day. The owner treated us to a free sample of their signature dish which we failed to order (the Paneer Kebab with beetroot chutney, crispy onion, picked celery and curry mayo - amazebabs!) and many stories of the restaurant’s beginnings and ongoing expansion. He’s dreaming about starting one in Los Angeles … though it’s a long shot …
Recognising a kindred spirt, Lawton shared his plans for l'œuf. With flourish. His animated description, along with his seriously battered and beet-rooted up napkin, were maybe not evidence of a fully baked business plan but they certainly communicated a passion for food. As a practical, though woken up, Mother would hope, the owner - without any dumbing down for him being pint sized - offered some advice and wished him luck.
Post Le Bab, Lawton got working on fresh juice menu ideas. It’s likely that plans may stall now that we are back to school, but I will continue doing my part to develop dishes that one day might be worthy of l'œuf.
Some days are over easy, others are medium and some are hard but isn’t batting around a dream — with someone you love — a sure recipe for delight.