A few years ago, I was working as the chef at a small restaurant in West Hartford, Connecticut. The restaurant was basically a breakfast and lunch spot located in the upscale town center. It was situated close to a large parking lot behind several other businesses on a busy avenue.
The restaurant was somewhat off the beaten path, with mostly regular customers who worked or shopped at other nearby businesses. Most of the time I was busy prepping food or cooking orders and seldom worked the counter, or cash register.
One rainy day, I came in early to prep for a special party being held at the restaurant that day. The waitresses hadn’t arrived yet and only the owner and I were working. Because business was slow that day due to the rain, the owner had decided to go to the bank and had asked me to handle the counter while he was gone.
Aside from a couple of customers who came in for coffee to go, there was little for me to do at the counter. Approximately 20 minutes after the owner left, I heard a customer enter the restaurant as I was putting some canned goods in a supply closet.
When I turned around to greet the customer the first thing I noticed was how tall the man was. As I walked over to the cash register, I saw the man’s face and thought he looked like UCONN men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun. As soon as he said “hello,” I recognized the voice as definitely being Mr Calhoun.
For decades now, I have seen and heard Jim Calhoun on local and national television and radio sports broadcasts and have read many articles about him in print and online. Here in Connecticut, Mr. Calhoun is on the television and radio news quite often, especially during UCONN basketball season.
It was sort of a surreal experience to go from putting away canned goods one minute to be carrying on a conversation with Jim Calhoun the next minute. Stopping in my tracks, I said “You’re Jim Calhoun.” He came back right away with a humorous response. We shook hands, I introduced myself and welcomed him to the restaurant.
We had a nice little conversation, then Mr Calhoun asked me if I knew where a Hartford Courant newspaper box might be located nearby. As a matter of fact, I said, there happened to be a box situated just a few yards from the entrance to the restaurant. He also asked for change for a dollar for the newspaper, which I gave to him right away.
The reason why I knew right away where the Hartford Courant box was located was because I usually took my twice-daily cigarette break right next to the newspaper box.
There were no other customers in the restaurant so I offered to walk with Mr Calhoun to where the newspaper box was located. The rain had slowed to a light drizzle, and we walked slowly while conversing about West Hartford and food. For such a well-known, legendary sports figure, Mr Calhoun seemed to be very pleasant, almost humble. After he purchased a newspaper from the box and after I gave him directions to another business in the center, we shook hands and bid each other goodbye.
It was a pleasure to meet someone who is highly accomplished in his field yet comes across as completely down to earth. Although his celebrity status in Connecticut is almost unmatched, you wouldn’t know it by talking with Jim Calhoun. He’s a real class act.
To have UCONN men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun show up at the little restaurant when it was empty was an unusual occurence to say the least. It was definitely a memorable experience.
When the owner returned from the bank, he was incredulous when I told him who stopped in at the restaurant while he was gone. Cest la vie’
Personal experience with meeting Jim Calhoun