Kitchen manager Brendan Green was ready to grab a jackhammer and get to work.
“Yeah, whatever is needed. Whatever gets us open faster,” he said with a smile. “Whatever is needed.”
Once Suegra Tequila Cantina opens, sometime near the end of February, Tampa Bay will get to experience first-hand what Green has gotten to see with his own eyes for the last two months, working alongside one of the best chefs in the country.
“He says what’s on his mind,” said Green of his new boss.
Back in the kitchen, Chef Todd Hall daintily placed a shishito pepper atop a sauce next to a beautiful cube of watermelon.
It's simply a lifestyle for Hall.
“I’m seriously in the shower thinking about these little red sprouts and if I can get them to stick on that cucumber,” he said. “It’s artwork for sure.”
The environment at Suegra mirrors the life of the man in the chef coat.
“When he first started he gave the whole staff a whole speech and told us to google him,” said Green. “So, I went home and googled him and read up and learned a lot.”
There’s good and bad on Google when you type in ‘Chef Todd Hall’. The good includes countless awards, like his two James Beard Foundation honors, for Best Hotel Chef in America and Nominated Rising Star Chef of the Year.
The bad is really bad.
“I started getting all these awards and started being a big shot and my head got ahead of me,” said Hall. “I used drugs recreationally.”
That led to a drug deal gone wrong that ended with him being shot. He nearly died. This after he lost the youngest of his four children to a drowning in his backyard pool. Later in life, his 29-year old son overdosed on heroin and died.
“After 10 or 15 years it went from recreational to something I needed to do,” he said. “It got out of control.”
Then, he turned it around.
Hall decided to write. He wrote every day during Lent, 40 days for hours, putting his life’s story on paper. He recalled his tragedies. He recalled his drug use. He described his passion for food.
The resulting book, 'Trampled Under Foot', based on the bible verse Matthew 5:13, is set to be published in this year. It’s the chronological journey from where Hall was to where he wants to be.
It’s exactly what Suegra represents in Oldsmar.
“I think he’s learned from his past and he’s looking forward to a bright future and some change,” said Green.
His boss agrees.
“It means I survived,” he said. “I’m so happy. I couldn’t be happier. You know how excited I am about that? Because I’m going to do something.”
Suegra is expected to open at the end of February. His book, published by ClearSky Publishing, is expected out shortly afterward.