I am encouraged by the prospect of a new vitality being restored to a la carte ("Combo Plate," April 11). It was certainly the gold standard in Lafayette catering for a long time and an icon of good food. Having worked there as a catering employee during my tenure at USL, I was always impressed at the calm and collection of Michael Doumit as he oversaw the massive undertakings of each party ' most of the time one, if not two, onsite and concurrent functions at private locations around south Louisiana.
Michael earned his place in Lafayette lore through delivery of food, drink and service when his patrons wanted to celebrate. Is there a bigger honor than being asked to handle the details of a daughter's wedding or a family's holiday celebration? And the operational detail that had to be coordinated in the gauntlet between Thanksgiving and Mardi Gras was always an exercise in delicately controlled chaos that would impress the most seasoned CEO. He delivered consistently from massive Mardi Gras balls all the way through a single serving of Eggplant Audrey for a grandmother's birthday without seeming to sweat.
These constant engagements coupled with the exceptional food he put into people's events exposed him frequently to solicitations for donations. Being in the restaurant business myself, I understand how often you do get asked to give. I truly believe that he was not able to turn away a request ' and there sometimes as many as 20 per week, all for a good cause ' of someone who had been a good customer or a better friend. His generosity may well have been his undoing. Brian Blanchard was correct in stating the misconceptions of the margins in the restaurant business and when you give of your business you truly have to take long strides to recoup that donation. If you are donating as often as Michael was, then there will certainly be a mountain to climb.
I write this letter not to defend the financial nor operational predicaments a la carte endured in recent times. We have all weathered storms of our own creation. I think the safe harbor of Brian's involvement and his expertise will refill the entire enterprise with new life; for that I am pleased for the two of them.
But I do feel as though the tone of the article could be potentially disparaging to an accomplished and seasoned businessman going through a tough time. Michael is a great citizen and a philanthropic neighbor in ways that we should all strive to be. To have his name become known as one who was made a mess of things is a travesty; I admire his contributions to all of the celebrations, gatherings and good causes in Acadiana. His class, good nature and generous spirit are his calling card and should be his legacy.
As Michael enters this chapter of his career and begins to re-build the foundations of a la carte with Brian, I wish them much success. His product has long been his reputation and that will certainly see him through.