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Restaurants close all the time, and though each shuttering plays as a tragedy for the owner, most move on without much afterthought. Chefs swing to a new kitchen. Servers disperse to surrounding restaurants. But when all 10 Here to Serve restaurants abruptly went dark overnight and left 650 employees without jobs, the industry was dumbstruck.
Tom Catherall, founder of Here To Serve Restaurants (Noche, Prime, Aja, Cantina, Goldfish, Twist, Shout, Coast, and Strip), is turning 64 in May, but he’s not slowing down anytime soon. In fact, he’s celebrating his birthday Memorial Day weekend this year with the opening of another restaurant, Smash. Located in Brookhaven in the space formerly home to Stir Crazy, Smash will be an American chophouse, likely led by former Prime executive chef John McGarry.
Talking about money is uncouth in some circles. Thomas Catherall—one of the defining forces of the Atlanta dining scene for nearly three decades, with eleven restaurants under his Here to Serve Restaurants umbrella—does it to remind me that there are things that matter more to him than the opinion of the press. During a recent conversation, I couldn’t take my eyes off his colossal watch, which I was promptly told was a Bentley and weighed a full pound. I got to hear about his identical, supercharged Range Rovers; his forty-foot sport fishing boat, the Perseverance; and his philosophy (“I want the masses, not the classes,” a more refined version of his oft-told “an ass in every chair” motto). I tried not to flinch every time he mentioned the word millionaire in rapid-fire tones.