A Letter from GGRA’s Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, Pete Sittnick
November 17, 2016
Dear Esteemed Restaurant Industry Colleagues:
I wanted to be able to express my sincere gratitude from Monday night’s Lifetime Achievement Award at The Saucy Awards from the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. After spending a day receiving multitudes of congratulations from friends and colleagues, I am overwhelmed by the expression of joy in recognition of my work and career in the restaurant industry. My personal and professional path from Michigan to San Francisco has been guided with the help and support of many individuals who have helped me realize my true passion as a restaurateur.
First to all, I would like to thank the Golden Gate Restaurant Association-Executive Director Gwyneth Borden and staff members Donnalyn Murphy, Jenais Zarlin, and Samantha Higgins-for the dedicated efforts towards promoting and bettering the Bay Area restaurant community. It seems unreal that Monday’s Saucy Awards was the first ever specific Bay Area event honoring restaurant professionals, but it was brought about by their commitment to recognizing and encouraging this spirit. In addition, I would like to acknowledge the work of the GGRA Board of Directors, both current and past members, which I can count myself as one. Their time is given freely to this cause, and time is a highly prized commodity when it comes to restaurant work. San Francisco simply has to be the most challenging environment and locale for operating a restaurant and the GGRA has been a champion towards making it the best that it can be.
I would like to personally recognize and thank the other nominees in the Lifetime Achievement category-Nancy Oakes, Mariann Costello and JoAnne Weir. I am honored to have been nominated with these esteemed and dedicated individuals, and my own career has been enhanced by knowing and working with them. They are truly iconic representatives of our industry.
Additionally, I would like to thank my partners, managers, chefs and employees at Waterbar and EPIC Steak. Together with Pat Kuleto, Mark Franz, Jan Birnbaum and Parke Ulrich, we have created two very special San Francisco restaurants. Our managers and chefs work diligently handling the multi-faceted and high volume demands of the restaurants, and truly nothing could get done without the dedication of the staff from dishwashers to cooks to hosts to servers. It is the ability to collaborate and work side-by-side with these passionate employees that makes coming to work every day a joy.
Over my career, I have had many mentors and coaches who have helped show me the way and believed in me through ups and downs. Quite frankly, I consider anyone whom I have worked with as a contributor to my own development and growth in restaurants. A few of these mentors were quite significant in my career-Phil Hickey in the early Houlihan’s days, Bill Kimpton with Kuleto’s and the Kimpton Group, Bob Helstrom whom I worked with for 12 years at Kuleto’s and my partner Pat Kuleto, going back to 1988 at Kuleto’s through numerous other ventures and adventures.
When I start thinking about a “lifetime” in the restaurant industry, I think about a whole bunch of people that I have worked together. I don’t even want to try to come up a number. It is these relationships and the mutual contribution to our lives’ paths that makes me the most proud. It is so emotionally satisfying to be able to see how people have grown both in and out of the restaurant business. Many of these people have gone on to great success in the industry, and others have credited their restaurant experience as being influential to their own lives. Personally, I know that my success is defined by the people I have worked with. It is an honor to strive for excellence with other passionate individuals and pursue the mission of “Together Everyone Achieves Memories”.
I very much cherish the relationships that I have been able to be a part of over my years in the industry. The professional partnerships with vendors and purveyors have always been special as we are mutually able to enjoy success and sustainability in a fair and equitable fashion. And, we could not do any of this without our guests whom we are aligned with in the pursuit of great food, wine, service and hospitality. There is nothing more special than hearing “we had a great time” and recognizing familiar faces when they return. I am sincerely grateful for the support and patronage that we have received from guests at all of our restaurants.
The “life” of a restaurant professional is a much different dynamic than any other and our work in and of itself is categorized as a “lifestyle”. There is the demanding physical schedule of being open all the time that is coupled with the mentally draining need to be available 24/7. This creates challenges for supporting a healthy family life and I am grateful to my own family members, especially my wife Kathy, who have allowed me the flexibility to spend more time in the restaurants than at home.
I am humbled to have been chosen for this first annual “Lifetime Achievement” award. As a restaurateur, every day presents a different challenge dealing with the dynamic operations of the business. I am honored and grateful to contribute to the positive energy of the restaurant industry.
In Love and Light,