9/05/2012 04:22:00 PM

Michael Klein: Why I Discouraged My Daughter From Opening a Restaurant

Daughter and father Rachel and Michael Klein, at Miss Rachel's Pantry
This week, we’ve invited bloggers from around the Philadelphia food community to contribute a post on zagat.com.

Michael Klein is editor/producer of Philly.com/food and writes the "Table Talk" column for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He has edited the Philadelphia Zagat Survey since 1993.

It's human nature to defy your parents.

My daughter did just that. Not by taking drugs, or by smoking, or by late-night carousing.

She opened a restaurant.

I'm the son of restaurateurs, proud people who shuffled off to their luncheonette, The Pantry, before dawn and dragged themselves through the door at night, exhausted, full of tales of demanding customers, indifferent suppliers and a byzantine city bureaucracy.

Though I worked my way through college at a restaurant, I vowed not to follow my parents' career path. I love the restaurant business and its players, mind you, but not the daily headaches. For 20 years as a food writer, I've managed to learn the business while holding it at arm's length.

Not Rachel's approach.

Vegetarian since age five - "I won't eat anything with a face" - she cooked for herself as a kid. About 15 years ago, she tagged along with me on an interview with a guy named Rich Landau, who was cooking with vegetables at his cafe in Willow Grove. That was life-changing. She began talking about opening a restaurant. My dad's been gone for years, so it was up to my mother to join me in explaining the realities.

Not a chance, especially when Rachel told my mother that the name would include "Pantry." There was no turning back when she started working with Rich, who has enjoyed tremendous success and now owns Vedge, one of the best restaurants in Philadelphia and a vegan destination besides.

Rachel hustled - renting kitchens to cook for catering events, procuring staff, sourcing ingredients. Unsatisfied with the vegan cheese and mayo she was buying, she learned to make those staples herself.

Early this summer in South Philadelphia, she opened Miss Rachel's Pantry, a vegan cafe that also is the base of her catering.

I have not meddled in her affairs - except for one time a few years ago when she was truly stuck for staff at a big wedding. I stood out of sight in a field kitchen at a kettle for two solid hours making risotto. (No butter, no cheese.)

From my stove, I heard the toasts from the dining room. When they got to "Chef Rachel!" and I heard cheers from the 200 guests, I stood there and cried.

I may question my daughter's choice of profession - and my own profession may not help her - but I could not be prouder of her for defying me.

Editor's Note: We love dads and their daughters, but we'd never let this (or any personal relationship) affect the ratings and reviews of Zagat scores, which are decided by you, the readers. 


  1. Loved this and Rachel and her food is the best, such a professional and you can tell she enjoys what she does.

  2. We've tried Rachel's Lunch Delivery...her food is so good!

  3. Absolutely love Rachel's Pantry. Absolutely love this article. I respect the parents that let their children follow their dreams. They will love you forever for it.