Shift notes with Larry Carrino

Where Miami restaurant professionals speak their truth

Photo by: DUNE

REAL STORIES ABOUT KITCHEN REALITIES

Shift Notes is a digital space on The Hungry Post’s platform for hospitality professionals to vent and speak their truth about the past, present and future of our industry. It’s unfiltered and real. So far we’ve heard from Chef Michael Beltran & Chef Michelle Bernstein. Next up is Larry Carrino.

OUR THIRD GUEST

We’ve known Larry for a very long time, even before we knew what The Hungry Post was or what it could be. He was one of the first to believe in us before Instagram was even a thing.

It gets us pretty emotional thinking back to the moment we first met and although we can’t recall how the day or night played out, we knew that Larry would be more than just an amazing publicist in Miami. Larry would become a friend and someone that we could count on. Whether it was for advice, a random rant, or literally just to shoot the shit.

With Larry, we’ve built more than a business relationship. Anyone one that knows him would agree with us when we say that Larry is a one of kind character.

We have the fondest memories of him and are lucky to have met him along The Hungry Post ride. We admire him and his ability to be completely relatable and simultaneously shine when he enters a room. Not craving attention at all but just being the sort of person that everyone wants to spend time with. He can talk to anyone from all walks of life and he truly loves what he does.

When thinking about our next guest to write Shift Notes, Larry was an obvious choice. He comes from a different perspective as the president of Brustman Carrino Public Relations Company. He doesn’t own restaurants but has been in the business for 25 years so he’s seen how the food & beverage industry in Miami has evolved. These are the restaurants that have brought us so much life and moments that we won’t ever forget. Whether you know him or not, Larry is a part of these moments.

We don’t know anyone that would have anything negative to say about him and frankly if there is someone out there, they’re probably not to be trusted. In the same way, you should never trust someone that doesn’t love dogs. Larry, do you like dogs?

When we attend media dinners we jump at the chance to sit next to him. We’ll talk and talk about food but also about Arcade Fire, his obsession with Halloween and his love for My Morning Jacket.

We’ve read his “Shift Notes” several times and what Larry writes is raw, real and resonates with us. It’s a thoughtful piece and we hope you can take it in and understand the complexities of what it takes to be part of the Food & Beverage industry. Larry gets it.

Larry, save us a seat next time we dine out. Until then.

The lights at Brustman Carrino PR are still on, figuratively speaking, but the office has been dark since March 13. The first indicator that we were crossing the Rubicon was when Ultra got canceled. I was sitting with a client when the announcement went public and we both looked at each other and raised our eyebrows. We didn’t say much but I remember thinking: Fuck. That one word signified what I had hoped would be just a scare and not a reality. The virus, whether it would take root in South Florida (or New Orleans or New York or any other place for that matter), was sending a ripple through the business world; that business, in my case, being hotels, food & beverage and events. That day, the Ultra day seems very long ago but it wasn’t. Just like April was only 30 days but felt like suspended animation.

We made it through March, a unified team, separate but together, and it occurs to me now that when we said goodbye on March 13, we didn’t realize we literally would not be seeing each other, in person, for a very long time. April 1st arrived and it was a horror show; the worst day for the company (and not just monetarily) in my memory. We had been working remotely, like everyone in our industry, so I began a painful and protracted series of phone calls – furloughing employees while reassuring them that we would be back, we’d all be back. Just no idea when. Phone calls with clients about billing, renegotiations, pauses in service, forgiveness and charity. And all of these things came in abundance in the wake of April 1st as spring blossomed and people struggled to apply for loans and business owners watched years or decades of work seem to evaporate overnight and people started, inexplicably, to become banana bread bakers and become compelled to film themselves doing time-lapse yoga. I am not sure how long I will live but April 2020 will likely always exist in my mind as a sort of fever dream, unpredictable and incomprehensible but, yes, it did happen.

Boia De – BCPR Clients

Thursdays are the hardest. That’s not to say that any day is particularly easy these days. Some hurt just a little bit less or seem just a little less packed with things to do. Thursdays are when, between my two sons, we have the most Zoom sessions and the most schooling to attend to. But before all that, breakfast followed by checking homework then off we go with my youngest, who is autistic, participating (or doing his best to participate) in digital “circle time” with his class. Some days it goes well, others the connection glitches, he becomes apoplectic and I end up holding him, soothing him, and telling him, as much as I try to tell myself, that everything will be ok. And not sure if it will be.

The stresses of parenthood are augmented by quarantine and the uncertainty of my company’s future and the futures of the places and people I rose every day to represent. Finding your client list decimated in such a short amount of time is like a sudden, unexpected death. You blinked and what you knew, what you counted on was gone and with them the routines built around them. Before COVID-19 kneecapped the industries I loved and made it impossible to make a living as I had been, it never occurred to me how intertwined routine and purpose are. Shatter the former and the latter becomes debatable. In a life turned upside down with routines upended, leaving the vacuum for something new and terrifying, my wife and I are trying to find purpose every day while figuring out how to keep the lights on.

I have had what seems like thousands of conversations with friends, family, business associates and clients and read so many think pieces that all of it is knotted together in my brain, every talk or bit of punditry screaming for retention. From where will I gleam that vital wisdom that will help me see the coming months through, ensuring the survival of the company that I have been at for a quarter-century and bore my name for a decade? Is it possible to take care of my people, the amazing team I miss so much and so enjoy working with while being a “good businessman” and doing “what needs to be done” to ensure the agency’s survival? So many questions these days and so little ability to answer them with any certainty as we are all forced by circumstance to play jazz, no sheet music as a guide, simply keeping the beat as it speeds up and slows down around us. A lot of people ponder what the restaurant and hotel industries look like when they can reopen again. Sleep is tough to find now or more to the point, sound sleep. I find it fine but can’t hold onto it ’til morning. And one of the things I wake to is not so much what it will be like but what will we be like.

LoKal – BCPR clients

Who will we be when we reemerge from this state of suspended isolation? As a business owner will I be able to look my staff in the eye and know I did what was best for the company while being mindful of what was least damaging to them? After all, I might be the name on the door but what is a company without a team to bring it to life and make it viable? So, we wait for the word to come down that we can reopen and what reopening even means. We work remotely and try to stay on a routine of some kind and be useful to our clients and friends and hope that anything we do helps them and ourselves. And that is what I hope for, on the other side of this. Beyond going back to work with my people and being in a restaurant again or enjoying the hum of a busy hotel, that we remember the kindnesses we received and from where they came. There was, is and will still be plenty of ugliness in the world and in our industry. After all, we are who we are and humanity has a very short memory. And if the news has taught me anything is how good we are at convincing ourselves of things, regardless of what looks or sounds like truth. But maybe we can carry some of the kindnesses of the last few months forward, past the shutdown. We’ll see. We have to get back first.

 

LARRY CARRINO