After many failed attempts trying to plan out a time to shadow Jeff Houck, I never lost hope. Perseverance is key, if one puts their mind to something, it will happen. On Thursday, April 25, I accompanied Mr. Houck to Red Elephant Café for a breakfast meeting. At first I walked over to The Tampa Tribune, where I met Mr. Houck, then headed over to the café where we tried numerous breakfast foods. Red Elephant Café is now opening up for breakfast starting Monday, April 29, 2013 from 7-11am on weekdays and 8-11am on weekends.
“They have only ever served lunch and dinner, but now that they’re extending their menu to breakfast, this is only going to bring in more people,” said Houck after trying the meat lovers wrap.
Everyone at the table agreed that the grilled sticky buns would be a desired breakfast item for people of all ages, and that they should add it to their dessert menu for dinner. Houck jokingly said, “Just open up a tiny breakfast restaurant next to UT with the grilled sticky buns and you would make all your money from Michelle.” Yes, everyone knew that my favorite item on the entire breakfast menu was the grilled sticky buns. Perhaps I mentioned that I would go there every day for breakfast, but if you had them you would be saying the same thing.
As the owner would walk towards us, the waiters and chef would come by the table with the food, explaining how they would make each item and what their secret is in order to keep every breakfast item unique. The grilled sticky buns consisted of three homemade cinnamon sugar buns that were made entirely from scratch. The chef had to roll the dough, bake it, roll it lightly in cinnamon sugar and grill it to perfection.
I was in shock that this is what the man does for a living. “I told you, can you believe this job? I eat food, then write reviews about the food I eat,” said Houck, “but sometimes the best you can do for a restaurant is to not write a review at all if it is somewhere you would never eat again.” Negative reviews will not come up into conversation because there will not be any. Simple.
Jeff explained to me that the area of expertise he works for, he is bound to see the same people all the time, everywhere at same event tastings where it would be terrible to get on someone’s bad side for that reason. Houck knew what he was talking about as he summed it up in one sentence, “Nobody would want me to try their food, worrying that I would not like it, write a bad review, therefore killing their business.”
After enjoying several different breakfast meals, on the ride back, we stopped off at Oxford Exchange because I have never been inside and Jeff said he couldn’t believe it with only living across the street. Jeff Houck and I were taking pictures for a competition that was posted around the place, and sat down for a moment on the second level where the seats are free. “Is this even real life?” Houck said pointing down to the middle aged women drinking coffee as if they were posing for a photo shoot.
I think that his job was one that most people wish they had, because who wouldn’t want to try foods from all over and write a review, but it can get feisty with owners demanding a day on when their restaurant would be published in the paper. The journalism trade has more to offer than I originally thought; just being able to work your way up and going for what truly makes you happy will produce the best work. Shadowing not only one, but two journalists have opened my eyes to how vastly diverse the assignments are within each person’s job title.
The best advice I would give to anyone and everyone would be: Ultimately, pursue what your passion is or your job will be hell.