Friday, October 13, 2006

Goodbye Charles Condy

Aqua founder Charles Condy passed away Wednesday from pneumonia. He was 69.

I interviewed Charles for the Business Times' Executive Profile feature in April 2003, and it still ranks among my very favorite such interviews.

I have culled information and quotes from the interview for an obituary in the Business Times (free link). I quote Charles on his time in the Navy, his guiding principle, his regrets, his family and his staff. And I point out the success of his flagship restaurant, his protege Michael Mina and of former Charles Nob Hill executive chef Melissa Perello. Despite his past differences with Mina, I think their success, most recently in the Michelin Guide rankings, would have made Charles happy.

One thing I don't get into is his competition, which he spoke to me about in 2003. During our interview, I pressed Charles for his favorite restaurant, other than any of his own. He cited Perry's on Union Street.

He also cited Hubert Keller of Fleur de Lys as his most respected competitor:

(The question) is really easy: Hubert Keller at Fleur de Lys. He’s a terrific chef, and he’s in his kitchen every night. I’m not impressed by stars running all over the world and showing up in their restaraunts once a month. I’m impressed by the passion of someone who loves what he does and the way it shows and the fact that he and his wife Chantal work in the restaurant together. He’s a great guy.

The story does include my all time favorite Condy quote, which has really stuck with me. It is about getting up and just doing it, whatever "it" is.

The navy gave me a certain step-by-step logic, the basic underlying philosophy that every journey begins with a first step. So if you don't take that step, you don't get anything done. We called them "the used-tos" and "the gonnas," but they ain't doing anything right now.

If you find yourself looking to raise a toast tonight, Charles told me his favorite drink, and one of his major passions, was Glenmorangie Portwood scotch.



Maureen from New York said...

I knew Charles Condy many years ago in New York working at Xerox.
He was a kind and generous friend.
I have lived in San Francisco for 25 years and didn't realize that he too, lived here. I would like to have known about his journey and regret we didn't meet again.

November 17, 2006 2:37 PM  

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