Curtis Duffy hovered over plates inside the gleaming white kitchen of his new restaurant, Grace. Of closing your eyes and hoping your problems disappear.
But he chose p.m., the last table of the night, when they could have the whole restaurant to themselves. One day, Curtis announced he was leaving the family — this time, forever. It ended with a contrite Curtis in his mother’s embrace. couple of years later, in 1987, when Curtis was 12, his father, Robert “Bear” Duffy, gathered his wife and three kids for a family meeting. In Colorado, Curtis had his skateboard, his friends, his own bedroom, a big backyard to run around. Bear, a Vietnam War veteran given his nickname by his biker friends, pulled in decent money at his father-in-law’s tire retreading company. They believed Bear saw a convenient escape: Move closer to his family near Columbus. At one point, he was even an officer in the town’s small police force. Still, the Duffys went from a five-bedroom house in Colorado to a two-bedroom apartment in Johnstown.He’d been under the impression the business would go to him when his father-in-law retired. There weren’t enough beds for Curtis to claim one, so for a while he slept on the floor of a walk-in closet.Get your hands in the dough, give a damn about something, and watch results bubbling from the oven 12 minutes later. In Curtis she saw a boy who put on a hard exterior but behind it was sullen and painfully shy, a student still adjusting from being uprooted.He was all nervous tics, fingers constantly inside his mouth, nails emerging chewed down, arms crossed in a defensive posture.After baseball and wrestling practice, Curtis went there and washed dishes for four hours, and was paid cash.
Menial tasks became a game to him, and a game was something into which he could channel his angst.There Curtis sat, choosing a table as far back as possible in Room 12 of Adams Middle School. It was an attitude she had seen in many other adolescent boys with machismo to burn.And that is where the switch flipped for him, the filament glowed and the bulb flickered on. In her first lesson, Snider promised the officially sanctioned food of 12-year-olds.His high school cooking teacher, Kathy Zay, connected him with her restaurant-industry contacts.Curtis took a job at a country club in New Albany, an affluent Columbus suburb, that altered his concept of food.“My brother and I weren’t the easiest kids,” Curtis said. They used fists, hammers, even their skulls as weapons, Curtis said: One time he pummeled a kid’s face so badly the boy was later fitted with braces.