It’s coming up on noon at Bar Americain, and Bobby’s energy matches that of the dining room, which is filled with hungry, pressed-for-time suits. He zips over to a deep fryer: “These chips are getting too dark!” he yells to no one in particular. Next, he’s stirring a pot of bubbling cranberries, then he’s standing at the raw bar in front of the open kitchen like a captain at the prow of a ship, rolling up his sleeves so he can shuck some oysters. Orders start spewing out of the computer at a somewhat alarming rate, and soon dishes are flying out of the kitchen: sweet Vidalia onion soup topped with aged Vermont cheddar; panko-crusted chicken blanketed with California triple cream cheese and slices of country ham. A couple of tourists approach, and Bobby smiles quickly for their cameras, then turns to pluck a slice of ham off a lobster club and nudge it back toward the kitchen. “This ham isn’t crispy enough,” he says.
Bobby is always looking to make improvements, but he knows that his battalion of chefs and servers has the booming lunch service under control. The kitchen is where he wants to be more than anything (yes, more than in front of the camera), but it’s time for him to go. He signs a few cookbooks, then heads out the door to get ready for his trip. His other life awaits.