Who am I?

If it’s cold hard facts that you want, here they are. My name is Melissa Yen. I have been in the restaurant business since I was 11 years when I worked at my aunt’s fast food restaurant. I remember running up to my uncle when he came home from the restaurant and burying my head in his down jacket. It had the somehow intoxicating smell of broasted chicken and English Leather cologne. Gosh, how I loved that smell!  (I swear I have become more sophisticated over the years.) Wait, we were talking about cold hard facts, weren’t we. Anyways, yes, in the restaurant business forever. I have waited tables at a slew of Chicago restaurants, a few of them no longer in existence. I have baked, I have cooked, and I have managed. Most recently I have owned a café here in Chicago. It started with a panini stand at a farmers market…and grew from there. And even more recently I have sold the cafe, but that’s another blog altogether!

When you own a restaurant you become a great multi-tasker and discover skills you never knew you had! Besides learning how to defrost a frozen walk in cooler condenser, I found out that I love to research, experiment, create & share. Along with making coffee syrups for my café, I have developed & tested recipes for other businesses.

I am someone who is absolutely passionate about food. I get so excited talking about it. I really enjoy eating out.  What I love best about it is finding someplace new & exciting. There is no thrill, to me, like the discovery of a new cafe, restaurant, section of town, etc. Then there is the excitement of sharing this “find” with friends. I have become the person, in my circle, to ask where to go out to eat, here in Chicago, or in other cities. Hence, the blog, so I can share all this excitement and information with new friends.  I could sit for hours in front of the computer searching restaurants, neighborhoods, must eat foods for a city, whether it is in Kentucky or Bangkok. I love putting together a list of places in other cities for people, culled from many sources, friends, magazines, and websites. Let me know if you need such a list. I would be happy to have a go at it.

Now, you ask, what the heck does “that’s not lettuce” mean?

Naming a blog is hard, very hard, especially when most of the good names are taken. So I was thinking and thinking and remembered a situation when I was waiting tables years ago. It was at a French bistro. One of my customers was having a hard time finding anything on the menu that she recognized. She said that she just wanted a plain salad with ranch dressing. Well, Le French Bistro (name changed to protect the innocent) didn’t have any ranch dressing.  I convinced her to get a very simple house salad of mixed greens with some type of vinaigrette. I brought the salad out and she said, in her charming Southern accent,”….that’s not lettuce!” Boy was it hard to keep a straight face. I guess, lettuce to her, was not mixed greens, not endive, not arugula…maybe romaine? Iceberg?  That phrase has stuck with me for fifteen years.  That is now the phrase I use when I see something unusual on a menu “that’s not lettuce!”

That is what this blog is about; exploring, discovering and eating new lettuces.

14 responses to “About

  1. tawannapatrice

    I love it…”Thats not lettuce!” It’s funny the things people say to you when you place a food in front of them that it out of their comfort zone.

    how about a list of places to eat in the Williamsburg, VA area… We are going in a few weeks and we loovvveee visiting the great local places to dine and shop!

    • Thanks for the comment Tawanna. Ohh, I love a project! Yes, I will start looking for the places to eat in Williamsburg, VA & see what I come up with. I’ll post what I find for you later in the week.

  2. Andrea

    You go Melissa! Your blog rocks! Love, your favorite fellow scone snob. Or am I more of a biscotti snob…
    Time to go plan a trip so you can research eats for us!

    • Thanks Andrea. I appreciate it. Yes, you are certainly a biscotti snob. have you had the ones at Southport Grocery. They look great. I would love to research any trips you may take, only if you bring me back some pastries from the great bakeries I find for you!

  3. What a beautiful and inspirational (and hilarious) story! So glad you’re blogging!

  4. Grace

    Hi Melissa: I’m going to Nashville in April and would love your excel spreadsheet of Nashville restaurants.

    I’m enjoying your blog…thank you!

  5. Oh my, you have a spreadsheet of restaurants in Nashville??? How cool is that? I am going to Nashville myself in a couple of weeks: would Loveless be on your list? just curious…

    I have stumbled upon your blog randomly. But I love how you write.

    • Thanks so much for the compliment. I really appreciate it. Loveless is on my list, but only for the fried chicken and biscuits. Did you know that that lady who has made them for decades just died? So sad. I will go check out your blog, always love reading about food!

      • I have discovered Loveless because it was featured in one of Bobby Flay’s throdown about biscuits and preserve. Bobby won, by the way! The Loveless lady took it graciously, although she complained about a yankee winning with his biscuits.

        I will let you know how it is…

      • Does Bobby Flay win all the throwdowns? Just wondering. The biscuits were excellent, as was the fried chicken, but did not like the rest of our breakfast. Think dinner might be the best choice.

  6. John

    Great blog, you wonderful foodie! Wondering if you have traveled through Utah; if so, have you any favorite/memorable eating experiances in Salt Lake City or environs.

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