One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for March 22, 2015.
My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.
On Friday night March 20, 2015 after my meetings in Asheville, NC my wife and I decided we would walk from our hotel into the Biltmore Village. It was about a ten minute walk to get to the village located at the entrance to the Biltmore Estate. We stopped at the Grand Bohemian Hotel located on the corner of Biltmore Avenue and Boston Way. We went inside to the hotel bar called the Red Stag Grill for a drink before we headed off to dinner. If you ever have a chance to get near this hotel the bar is very grand and the decor is outstanding.
After one drink we headed out of the hotel and made our way down Boston Way to a restaurant that we had received great reviews on from friends. The name of the place is the Corner Kitchen and it is located on 3 Boston Way.
The restaurant is actually an old house that was 108 years old when it was converted into a restaurant.The house was built to support the Biltmore Estate.
For those of you that like to eat where a President dined-President Obama and the first lady Michelle Obama were there in 2010.
Great read on that night below:
Video tour of the Corner Kitchen is found below:
Sometimes it takes a lifetime to develop a friendship and sometimes it takes a second. My wife Mira and I felt like on Friday night we made a new friend in that split second. Our new friend’s name is Joe Bly. When I first saw him I realized he had to be some type of “rock star” in Asheville based on the reactions of others had when he entered the Corner Kitchen. I soon found out I was correct.
When we got to the restaurant we didn’t have reservations something we were warned about. We walked in and the Maître d’asked if we would consider sitting at the Chef’s Bar because they were full. We saw four seats located right in front of the kitchen and not three steps to the left of the front door. We said yes and were immediately seated. We got to watch the chef along with his kitchen staff take orders and cook each meal. Good stuff.
We ordered an unbelievable corn fried oysters appetizer and Creole Style Grouper in Smoked Tomato Broth with Icy Blue Mussels, Andouille and Grits entrée. This meal was fantastic but it was what happened before our meal arrived that was the highlight of the night for both of us. We met a new friend. That friend introduced us to his friends at the restaurant which were many.
As we sat at the Chef’s Bar (by the way they don’t have this available on Saturday) I noticed a man walk in the front door and every head in the place turned to look his way especially the Corner Kitchen staff. The wait staff helped him hang his coat by the front door, the chef mentioned Joe was in the house, and he was greeted by everyone and headed to the seat next to me at the Chef’s Bar liked he owned it. As soon as he sat down I said my name is Dan Kenney and I don’t know who you are but you are apparently a “rock star” in this place. He told me his name was Joe Bly and that he was 87 years young.
Joe Bly and I sitting at the Chef’s Bar in the Corner Kitchen.
For the next 75 minutes over corn fried oysters, one or two Green Man Porters, and unbelievable grouper and mussels dish Joe Bly entertained me in between spoonfuls of his soup. Joe didn’t even have to order the chef just fixed him up. Joe told us this was his seat and this was his favorite restaurant. Hearing that I knew we were on to something good.
Over the evening here is what I learned about Joe Bly. The man cares about education. He is a retired postal worker but gets his rock star status because of several special abilities that all occured after he got retired.
One; he is the face of mountain music to many in Western North Carolina and beyond. Joe Bly was the emcee for Asheville’s Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, Shindig on the Green and events all over Western North Carolina for more than 33 years. In September 2014 after appearances at more than 700 mountain music shows, Joe decided that emceeing and hosting competitions would end.
Two; he is a public humorist and I got to hear some good material during dinner. He had been at speaker at national conferences that featured some of America’s best including Zig Ziglar, Jeanne Robertson, and many others.
Three; he has a zest for life and at the age of 87 is embarking on a new career that features a mini archaeological dig in his backyard. Recent rains according to Joe have given him some new finds at his home in the Kenilworth neighborhood of Asheville.
During our meal one of the Ioe’s many friends was introduced us to us and he was the co-owner of the Corner Kitchen, Kevin Westmoreland.
The Friend-Joe Bly
The Friend of the Friend-Kevin Westmoreland
Leadership at work in a restaurant
The moment I walked into the Corner Kitchen I was impressed with the friendliness of the entire staff. Joe Bly even told us that was the case. Joe also shared that the two owners were Joe Scully & Kevin Westmoreland. Joe was the maestro with the food and menu and Kevin handled the customer service aspects that were so apparent to my wife and I.
When I interacted with Kevin Westmoreland during our dinner I asked him about the great attitude his staff displayed and he said that getting that quality right was part of their hiring strategy.
It was apparent that creating a great customer experience was a core value in Kevin’s business model. I shared with him that I was a former coach and that having people on any team that were self-motivated was usually a sign that winning or success will follow that team. At Corner Kitchen they have a championship team and deliver a championship experience.
Kevin also shared his background with me and it included him working in one of the largest for-profit home care agencies in the country and running an internal Information Technology support structure that took calls from all 50 states. That didn’t seem like a natural bridge to be a restaurant owner except he understands the importance of the customer experience. I can tell you I had a great experience, a great meal, and met a new friend in Joe Bly at the Corner Kitchen.
If you are a foodie get to the Corner Kitchen and sit at the Chef’s Bar. Keep checking the front door and hope the “Rock Star” Joe Bly will walk in and sits down next to you.
Even if Joe doesn’t show up his friend Kevin Westmoreland and his staff will make you feel like a “rock star”.