Last weekend, one of the finest people I have ever met passed away. His name was Michael Altenberg. He was a master chef, owner of two restaurants, and one of the pioneers of the concept (quite amazing) that one could eat good food at home or in a restaurant. He was a true pioneer in the “Farm to Table” movement in the restaurant community. He put his ideals to the ultimate test- he would not buy food from a farm unless he had made a visit to the farm to make sure they were doing what he said they were doing, including making sure that they were treating their animals properly! The food in his main restaurant, Bistro Campagne, was all organic or locally produced (except for the seafood) down to the bread and butter! The cooking is superb, and the service is exceptional!!
But he was much, much more. My friend Ken told me at the funeral that he had to cancel a lunch meeting with Michael earlier in the week, and Michael offered to bring him Chicken soup. That was Michael, always trying to help people. Although the Bistro was pretty upscale, you could walk in in jeans and a tee shirt and be as welcome as if you were wearing a suit. (More than likely, when he came out of the kitchen to greet people, he would be wearing a really crude, funny or stupid tee shirt from the seventies).
In one special way, he was the opposite of everyone in the music business in one major way. Because he was so nice, and so into helping others, many people continually screwed him over. Unlike almost everyone I know in the music business, he would turn the other cheek, and welcome them back into the fold. I used to yell at him for not banning these people from his life. He would just laugh and say that he knew he was foolish, but couldn’t help himself!!
I am starting to think maybe he had the right idea.
Michael, rest in peace.