Sending off two local hospitality stalwarts after their recent deaths.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
While the world buzzed noisily about the biggest celebrity death in decades, Monterey County’s food and wine scene quietly lost two beloved rock stars of its own. Weekly food contributors Jeanne Howard and Paul Wetterau knew each well, and help us remember one of Rio Grill’s so-called “Three Musketeers” and the guy who made sure everybody was happy at the other Carmel institution across town, Casanova, respectively.
He was always there with extra sauce on the side, an honest recommendation (especially if you like beef), or an unasked-for split plate for sharing twosomes. On many nights, more customers requested seating in his section than there were seats.
Our hospitality biz lost a good man when Selby Henderson, a server and bartender at Rio Grill for 25 of its 25.5 years, was found dead at his home in Seaside last week. The cause of death was cardiac arrest.
A native of Malvern, England and a keyboardist and guitarist who played with three local bands (The Believers, De Facto, and one of Monterey County’s longest-gigging bands, Lovers and Strangers), Selby was beloved by many friends, customers and co-workers during his steadfast tenure slinging thousands of plates of signature smoked half chicken and Creole penne prawns.
Selby attended the London School of Economics before traveling south to Africa with his guitar, eventually making his way to Big Sur, where he worked at the Ventana Inn. Initially quite the party animal, Selby cleaned up his act and set about achieving the American Dream. He became a citizen, bought a home in Seaside, committed himself to a responsible routine that he relished, found faith, and embraced life with characteristic wit and pure kindness.
Selby is remembered as a generous, caring friend, a lively storyteller, fine cook, wine enthusiast, passionate gardener and accomplished musician. He enjoyed writing songs and lyrics, but wisely, left the singing to others. Selby was 51 and is survived by his loyal pug, Silverado (his parents and only brother passed away in recent years). At the end of many work nights, Selby could be seen carrying a take-out burger he purchased from the Rio kitchen to bring home to his buddy.
There’s already a large, empty space where many of us are used to seeing Selby. Just in case you’re still reading the Weekly, Selby, know that you’ll be missed. [JH]
The public is invited to a memorial service on Wednesday, July 8, noon to 1pm at Cypress Community Church, 681 Highway 68 (just east of San Benancio Road), Salinas.
John Lombardo, who died of cancer in his home June 16, was the face of Casanova. But he was more than that. Amongst the staff, he was the fixer. If customers were grumpy sommeliers and servers could send Lombardo over for instant smiles – “Ya know what? This would be a great photo,” he’d say. After taking a picture, he’d add, “This time, show me a little attitude.”
“He brought more than just your dry dining experience,” says operations chief Jean Hubert. “He brought humor and broke down that barrier.”
No woman, man or dog was immune to his charm. “He was like the mayor of Carmel,” says Millicent Swick, Lombardo’s girlfriend.
One of his best friends called him the Bone Man: “He knew the names of everyone’s dogs, mostly because he carried Milk Bone biscuits in his pockets.”
But the Jersey native wasn’t a complete bullshitter. He had a tell-it-like-it-is attitude. When I was a sommelier there, he’d send me home because my tie was the wrong color. Later he gave me some of his own.
He taught me: “If you can’t say it with your hands, it’s not worth saying” and that I should always walk away from a conversation on a positive note. John Lombardo left us with an endless amount of high notes. [PW]
Lombardo is survived by his daughter Danielle and his long-term girlfriend Millicent “Milly” Swick. A private service will be held for close family and friends on June 26.
The days are already getting shorter, but not at the Monterey Bay Aquarium as Evenings by the Bay returns Saturday, July 4, running through Sept. 6: Saturdays and Sundays, live jazz, special programs, beverages to buy in Marine Mammal Hall until 8pm. The Portola Cafe and Restaurant (648-4870), meanwhile, stays open until 8pm on Saturdays… Young Jack’s on the Bay has changed its name to Woody’s Bayview Grill… It’s hard to believe it’s already been a quarter century since organic superproducers Earthbound Farm started with a tiny plot of Carmel Valley Road-adjacent land. Their big earthy birthday celebration includes their patented Farm Tours with Mark Marino, Earthbound Farm bingo, gardening workshops, music by Pat Clark, cooking demos, a salad eating contest, scavenger hunts, free salad tastings, and more. 11am-3pm Saturday, July 11, 625-6219 x11… Eddison & Melrose Personal Chef Services & Fine Catering out of Sand City (601-4851) just launched its Summer Weekend Cooking Series 2009 – think Toddler Cooking Class, Baking Fun for Kids, Community Supported Agriculture Cooking, California Cooking and Local Wines… at the recent Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition, Paraiso 2007 “Estate” Pinot Noir earned a Gold Medal and Best of Class Honors. And while Paraiso Winemaker David Fleming was busy burnishing the reputation of Santa Lucia Highlands, (www.paraisovineyards.com), Cachagua’s Heller Estate Organic Vineyards received Best of Class-North Central Coast for their 2005 Dancers Meritage over at the California State Fair. www.hellerestate.com … Here’s to honoring those we’ve lost with the same generosity of spirit they gave us.