Sam’s brother-in-law, Ashe Lockhart, to run back of house
I’m pleased to announce that my brother-in-law Ashe Lockhart will be our General Manager and Consigliere. Ashe always jokes that he is an Englishman in an Italian marriage, so it’s fun to see that he wants to be known as our consigliere – to signify his assimilation into our family (with a little help from the Borg). So here he is in his own words to tell his story.
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Dear Friends and Colleagues – as you may know, just over 3 years ago, I made a major career shift to leave the private practice of law to take an in-house position with Compass Group USA. Compass is the largest contract food service company in the world – providing dining and catering services to virtually every organization and institution you’ve ever heard of in business, healthcare, education, and sports & leisure. I went in as Assistant General Counsel to head up Compass’s tech and privacy law practice for its North American operations, and I looked forward to a 5 – 10 year run with Compass to close out my legal career with that remarkable company.
Enter COVID-19, and any food & beverage or hospitality company had to take stock of its essential functions and core contributors to survive. While technology itself will play a key role in Compass’s future, the tech law piece is really somewhat peripheral to survival, and I was furloughed. Shortly afterward, my position was eliminated, and I was laid off. I couldn’t possibly fault the company for the choices it made as it formulated a survival strategy to remain the world’s leader in corporate and institutional food service and hospitality, and I had a fantastic experience among Compass’s amazing team of talented associates and executives.
Meanwhile, my brother-in-law, Sam Diminich, had been Executive Chef at Upstream – taking the venerable Charlotte restaurant to new heights in culinary and hospitality excellence. Sam is as decent of a person as you could ever hope to know. A man of uncommon character and integrity, not to mention talent. He had just appeared on Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay (where he beat Bobby Flay) when COVID came along and he was furloughed.
The day of his furlough, he went out to Amazon to get a job, because he’s not an idle man, and Amazon was scrambling to hire. He was the last person hired that day and was told it would be 3 (long) weeks before he could start.
Driving home, before Sam got too far into self-pity over his misfortune, a farmer who provided farm-to-table produce to Upstream called to ask what he was going to do with his crops now that all the restaurants were shutting down and his accounts were closing. This farmer wasn’t just a vendor, he was a friend – Sam knew his wife and kids. So Sam decided to buy some of the farmer’s produce, and he started cooking and delivering 3-course farm-to-table meals for $30.
This is called The COVID Pivot – save yourself and everybody you can get your hands on.
As Sam’s bid for survival wobbled into existence, I offered a little help from the sidelines and coached from the bench. Then, the business began to take off and he gave it a name: Your Farms Your Table. By August, I was volunteering on a full-time basis – I guess you could say I was “the intern.” At this point, I am working as General Manager and Consigliere where my background in law, banking, technology, management, operations, and leadership has me running YFYT’s back of house, strategy, and growth.
Now we are operating out of the trendy commercial kitchens at The City Kitch – West End. We buy from over a dozen local farms and vendors, and we have about 6 people helping us who need the opportunity. Like I said, the COVID Pivot.
That’s only part of the reason why Sam was named by Charlotte Magazine as Charlottean of the Year – along with Michael Jordan, Bubba Wallace, Molly Grantham, Jeff Jackson, Taiwoo Jaiyeoba, Kass Ottley, Dr. Katie Passaretti, and the Black Lives Matter Mural downtown (it’s “downtown” for those of us who’ve been here for a while). Simply put, he’s a badass at life and in the kitchen.
So that’s what I’m doing now. Wish me luck as I join Sam doing the COVID Pivot.