Faith is an invisible contract. A deal we make in our guts – not our heads. Maybe that’s why it’s so compelling. It gets twisted around in our bellies. It becomes impossible to untangle.
In 2007, Dan and Lana Wright risked everything they had to open Senate on the corner of 12th and Vine in Over-the-Rhine. Many of their friends and family members told them not to do it. (The neighborhood had too much crime. The economy was tanking. Restaurants were taking a hit.) But Dan and Lana did it anyway.
To understand why, look no further than Dan’s right forearm where the word “faith” is tattooed in lowercase letters.
Since ‘07, Senate has become one of the hottest restaurants in Cincinnati. So hot that Dan called me up last summer to talk about doing a Senate cookbook.
Having just finished co-writing Todd Kelly’s Orchids at Palm Court, I knew how difficult the project would be. Signing on with Dan would mean at least a year commitment from my team – with no guarantee of earning back our investment.
And yet, there was something about Dan. His brain was wired like a Jack Russell on Red Bull. His dialogue was articulate and unedited. Something told me that his story – above any other – was one I needed to tell.
There was only one problem. I wanted to produce the book under my own company name, which was basically unknown. Dan would have to take another leap of faith … this time on me.
One of the people that went to bat for me early on was Donna Covrett. As the dining editor of Cincinnati Magazine, Donna had a lot of street cred with chefs. Even though we had become friends over the years – and spent a lot of time bumming around together – I never really expected her to pull Dan aside, unprompted.
“No one will work harder on this cookbook than Courtney,” she said. “No one will be able to pull it together like she can.”
I thought she was right, of course. But I’ll never forget how it felt to have someone believe in me so blindly or risk their reputation so freely. Earning a person’s trust can be difficult but hers came easily, like a gift.
A couple of meetings (and a few bourbons) later, Dan and I agreed to work together on the book. He contracted his buddy, Anthony Tahlier, to take the photos (seen above) and after a few more months, I asked Donna to partner up with me.
I’m grateful she said yes. There’s no other writer or thinker I trust more. Or person I’d rather work with. So here we are: writing, bantering, editing, and eating ourselves silly – all the way up until the book’s release date later this year.
When it’s all said and done, I know most folks will see the Senate cookbook as a collection of recipes for hot dogs, poutine, and mussels charmoula (I don’t blame them). But for me, it will always be about what’s possible when people believe in something unknown. Learn to take risks. And above all, have faith.