Matt O'Keefe, Captain on the Sea of Life

October 28, 2017    » posted by: charlieredd

When Matt and Jess walked into my empty restaurant while I was tending bar solo after sending the last tender server home (even though I was finishing up a Sunday double shift) neither of us knew that it would be a major turning point in our careers. I have had the joy of working with Matt for 4 years and this weekend we say goodbye to him for another exciting step in his blossoming career path.

That cool summer evening I was behind the bar because another bad hire had failed miserably and left me the lone manager in the restaurant. I was just fine with that. I had given up on finding a manager for the front because the work ethic, skill, and experience just didn’t exist. No one wanted the job and I didn’t want them either. The term “Lazy Stupid Fucks” was a common utterance from my mouth. My kitchen was solid and I was directing everything with mild success.

As I was bartending to that empty bar on Sunday night, Matt came in with his girlfriend and we struck it up.

“Aren’t you the owner? What has you behind the bar?”

“Charlie Redd. Nice to meet you. When you’re the owner you wear all the hats. Want another beer? I’m having one.” I said with bile practically oozing around every word I spoke. I was in hour 14 of my typical Sunday and the beer was soothing the wounds.

Jess and I were having a lively conversation on parenting when I asked Matt what he did for work.

“I am a restaurant manager. Been in the business 10 years. I love craft beer. Grew up here in Rozzie. Love your place.”

The needle on the record player jumped.

“Why don’t you go lock the door and let’s talk. Hand me one of those Marlboros.” I said with a grin on my face as I threw the hidden ashtray on the bar.

We talked for an hour that night about what we were both looking for which led to more discussions and interviews the week after. As we mapped out a cockamamie plan for a movie theater behind the restaurant to satisfy a mutual interest in film oddities, we knew we were on to something.


Working for Charlie Redd is not easy. Constant challenges are asked of you like we are on a ship out to sea. All hands on deck. Yes Sir! is the only acceptable answer, or you walk the plank. Your potential is constantly being pushed as you achieve goals. New goals are being added as old ones are met. Like a maritime team, I always have your safety rope while pushing you to climb further up the mast then you knew you could.

Matt came to us frustrated, unconfident, rudderless. He was trapped in the industry. In his time here, he has taken every challenge posed to him. Every aspect of our restaurant has grown into something better because of his growth. As he accepted each new challenge in his own life and in this restaurants we sailed this ship as a team with him leading more and more. He is now one of the first mates and I’m excited to see his future conquests.

Matt came to us without a future. He now holds all the keys. This industry traps people and strangles them with booze, quick cash, and false glamour around “the life.” Who fucking cares if they know your name at a fashionable restaurant if you can’t stay healthy enough to truly enjoy it? “The Life” can be like the docks. When you come up through the ranks properly it is hard and a heavy shadow is created that can hold you back or motivate you to go further. One or the other. Matt has shed his and has turned it into a beacon of opportunity. This business is fantastic when you’re on top of it and he is clearly there and going to go further. Success is very real in the restaurant industry but you have to be tough, smart, and healthy physically and mentally to achieve it. Only then can you casually sip the best from the corners of the world around a table filled with delights. He is there now but there is further to go. I’m excited to see how far he goes and join him at that table.

Matt came to us a scrub. I spotted him at a distance for his first interview in jeans, Converse and a disheveled haircut. But he was wearing a tie. I saw an opportunity. He is now a polished, sophisticated, gentleman with charm, swagger, and confidence. He smiles constantly now with a new grill and a sense of purpose in life. He owns the room at the restaurant with ease and makes our guests feel like this is his house as well as mine. His hospitality and professionalism is absolute and I could not be prouder when I watch him run the front on a busy day like a ship captain steering our ship through a storm. It is something special to develop a captain from a deckhand. Experiencing the transformation of a person into something like that as you both work together is a special thing that I will always cherish and hope to experience again.


We will miss him greatly here. He is a vital part of what makes this place special and he cannot be replaced. We will look for the next first mate patiently with optimism and caution. We will continue to sail this ship and grow with new crew members but he will always be a part of our team. I hope that you are so lucky to have the experience that Matt O’Keefe shared with all of us the last four years. Das it.

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