Compliments to the chef
Billy Yates didn’t last as a dishwasher at The Inn. That was more than 50 years ago when he was still a student at Vets. It’s not that Billy couldn’t wash dishes. Rather, he was made a line cook and that changed his life.
After all those years, Billy is leaving The Inn (now Sam’s Inn) where he has worked as head chef, earning the reputation from his fellow employees – many of whom have worked at The Inn nearly as long as he – as the man who never loses his temper and never stops working.
On Tuesday night, however, he broke with the schedule and, instead of heading for the kitchen, he and his wife Gail, their three children and extended family were guests at a party in his honor.
Billy had no formal culinary training, although he remembers Chef Lonnie Wolk for taking him under his wing and serving as his mentor. Wolk learned the art of cooking in France and, while Billy remembers him as being “tough,” he was patient and a good teacher. Billy’s skills are recognized by his co-workers, who can instantly tell his red sauce from that of anyone else.
But it’s more than Billy’s cooking that impresses the owner of Sam’s Inn, Sam Khouri.
“It’s not only the work ethic. It’s the great people,” Khouri said. He said Billy and others who have worked more than 40 years at the Inn are a group who are passionate about their work and extraordinary in an industry when transition is the norm.
“I never saw him complain and he would go home and cook,” said Gloria Griffin, who has worked at The Inn for 48 years. Rita Duffy doesn’t quite have the tenure of Billy and Gloria – she’s only put in 45 years – but that’s long enough to likewise know Billy. She pointed out that he never was out sick and then corrected herself.
“One day he was out because of gall stones,” she said.
Griffin said she never saw Billy, who would come in for work at 7 a.m. and leave at 4 p.m., sit down while on the job. She questioned whether he even took time to eat.
“He’s going to be very hard to replace,” said Khouri.
Billy has generously shared his recipes and helped those filling his shoes. Billy said he enjoyed the creativity and experimentation of his job.
“I could never say I didn’t like coming to work,” he said. “The people have been wonderful.”
So, why leave the kitchen at Sam’s Inn even if it’s been 50 years?
“I have worked every holiday my whole life,” he said. “My wife has been waiting for me every weekend.”
That’s going to change. Billy plans to spend more time with Gail and his family. But the odds are he’ll be asked to do the cooking every so often.