A REVIEW OF
The Bravo! Way
Sartoris Literary Group
Jackson’s ‘Bravo!’ book delicious fare
By Jim Ewing
Special to the Mississippi Clarion Ledger
USA TODAY NETWORK
For dining patrons, a sumptuous meal at a fine restaurant creates a pleasant memory to be savored. For the owners, it can be a challenge and a grind, but also, as “The Bravo! Way” outlines, a lifelong dream come true.
Subtitled “Building a Southern Restaurant Dynasty,” the book by first-time author Dawn Dugle is more than a simple recounting of how a local eatery and its offspring businesses came about. It’s equal parts chronology, revealing insights into the demands and challenges of creating and running a restaurant, and the biography and psychology of its creators. It also, along the way, serves as a history of sorts of Jackson’s food culture evolution since the 1990s.
As Dugle outlines, the creators of Jackson food icons Bravo!, Broad Street Baking Co., Sal & Mookies, and their catering company, under the Mangia Bene corporate label, didn’t spring full blown onto the Jackson food scene.
Running a restaurant was a dream of original owners Jeff Good and Dan Blumenthal, schoolmates who bonded at Murrah High School, and Dan’s brother, David. Eventually, Jeff and Dan bought David out of the business, but also cultivated other local food and beverage leaders such as Sal & Mookies manager Jon Pixler, local restaurateur and artisanal baker Steve Long, and sommelier Leslie McHardy.
Reading “Bravo!” makes one appreciate all that goes into a dining experience — the behind-the-scenes activity, the seeming chaos of the kitchen, the hard work, the enjoyment, the satisfaction. It’s a “must read” for anyone interested in fine dining and all that entails.
But it’s also a business manual, taking the reader through each step of building a business, from having an original idea, to fleshing it out as a business plan, trying to foresee all contingencies in getting established, locating investors and wooing them, and luring and keeping talented staff.
“Bravo!” takes the reader through all the myriad challenges that can crop up, from Jackson water shortages to coping with building foundation problems to facing stiff competition to selection of menus (and how that can affect the bottom line), even bailing workers out of jail.
All this to create food heralded by the James Beard Foundation and recognized by the Chaine des Rotisseurs, the oldest and largest food and wine society in the world, founded in Paris in the 13th century, one of the first for a restaurant in Mississippi.
Not the least of the tidbits of lore in “Bravo!” is how each got its name. Sal and Mookie, for example, are characters in the Spike Lee film “Do The Right Thing,” which is the restaurant’s guiding principle.
Dugle, creative director at SuperTalk Mississippi, does an expert job, keeping “Bravo!” both factual and entertaining, managing to keep reader interest up with suspense and points of drama. Included also are recipes for the eateries’ most popular offerings (including the scrumptious Bravo! Flourless Chocolate Torte!).
“Bravo!” the book indeed is delicious fare.
Jim Ewing, a former writer and editor at the Clarion Ledger, is the author of seven books including “Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating.”