Day One at Tales of the Cocktail was not much of "day" for me since I didn't get into the Hotel Monteleon until about 7pm and we went right over to Harrah's for the Opening Cocktail Party. As soon as I entered, I recognized many of my friends and acquaintences from around the country. I knew right away that this was going to be one heck of an event from the talent in that room. But the reunion I was most excited about was seeing my first mentor in the industry, Chef Duke Lociciero. Chef Duke and I met in the summer of 1986 when I was a 16 year old beach bum on Long Beach Island, NJ. Duke had just finished his degree in Hyde Park and was a New Orleans fish out of water dropped in the center of "the Shore". To this day he can't believe how many breakfasts we'd do at Ott's Sea Ketch on a daily basis. The place was insane, and Duke taught me how to handle "insane". Chef Duke taught me how to use every tool in the kitchen, how to prep and how to pair. He put me through the fire and taught me every position on the line. When I left that summer, I had a whole new perspective on what work was and what food was. The work ethic, the palate and the passion are the take aways that have stayed with me ever since, and I owe it all to Duke. So when we re-connected after all of these years, I was thrilled to be a guest in his home town, where he is no small fish in a big food pond. He introduced me to his lovely wife Kelly and invited me and Jeff Hollinger back to Cafe Giovanni to see the restaurant and have my first Sazerac of the trip. This photo is at the bar. If you ever make it to New Orleans, stop by and see Duke and Kelly, and tell them H sent you!