Late last night, I was deeply saddened to learn that Tim Rooney had passed away. He's widely known as one of the founders and owners of Butcher & The Boar and 4 Bells, though he's never had the press notoriety of his chefs. But I have known him for more than 20 years.
When we were both in the Parasole world, (he was a server at Manny's while I bartended at Buca), we'd find ourselves at the same post-shift gatherings in Uptown apartments. He taught me not to shoot Courvoisier.
He is a model of what can be achieved by a restaurant worker. He took connections he made at Manny's and became a real estate player with the big dogs, bringing The Chambers Hotel to the city. There's a story out there about how the development of that site displaced some tenants, and who do you think was there helping people move their furniture? Not the banks.
But he was a resto kid in his heart and never really left the scene, partnering on Bar La Grassa and masterminding Butcher & The Boar, and then 4 Bells. I'll never forget walking through the rough B&B space with him and Jack Riebel, looking at plans in a construction zone while he described the copper glow of the penny-decked bar and the cool technique they were using to char the wall boards. He joked that he should have been gay for how much he loved design. He saw every detail and felt every nuance before there was a nail in the floor. He was an industry guy of the highest order, he knew the business in his soul. I remember hunkering down with him on that bustling patio later, as he unraveled idea after idea of restaurant concepts that he thought would work in town.
Now make no mistake, Rooney was no angel, but if you found him on a barstool at one of his places, you wouldn't be able to get away without a warm and smiling embrace, a clink of glasses, and a good old gossip session. Or maybe that was just me, and I never understood how lucky I was for it. I do know that there are many of us who are crushed at the thought of never hearing his booming laugh again.
I ran into him at another restaurant soon after he had gotten engaged, and I couldn't help laughing at how giddy and bright-eyed he seemed, truly open to the possibilities of that future. And that is how I choose to picture him from now on. As we were texting last night, Riebel called him "a creative force that will be missed" and I wholly agree, he changed the face of our dining scene and we are at a loss for what else could have come forth from his bright mind. We are lucky that he left his mark.
I will pour one out for my friend tonight, and I hope you all raise a glass in his honor too.