The Magnitude of an Experience

You never know when one experience or conversation might change the trajectory of your life. Indeed, if you stop to think how seemingly small decisions have brought you to where you are today, the magnitude of each choice becomes breathtaking. 

In the early 1980s, a young woman named Debbie decides to embrace a cold winter day in Maine and go ice skating. A young man named Bill, who is working with radio stations in the area, happens to go ice skating that day too. 

Across the Atlantic, in Spain, a young boy listens intently as his father teaches how to first control the fire underneath the pan before attempting to make paella, a Valencian rice dish. Later, that same boy decides to join the Spanish Navy and happens to become an admiral’s chef.

That chance meeting while ice skating in Maine led to a continuing partnership in life and in business for Bill and Debbie Pasha, now the owners of The MBMI Companies, and long-time residents of Frisco. As life progressed, an unexpected conversation with a client expanded their media and marketing business into hospitality for restaurants, hotels and marinas, and today, hospitality is a large sector of their business.

The Pashas’ decision to move to Frisco also proved fortuitous. Falling in love with the city, they chose to be heavily involved in the community and became intimately familiar with its growth, character, forethought and strong roots. So, when an international client, d.ream (Doğuş Restaurant Entertainment and Management), mentioned they wanted to make an entry into the Dallas area, they knew just the city to recommend.

And the boy from Spain? His travels with the Spanish Navy exposed him to places and flavors around the world and his mind began to fill with new ideas and new concepts. His decision to come to the U.S. in 1991 and work at El Dorado Petit in New York City set him on a path filled with adventure, hard work and greatness. 

Today, Chef José Andrés has become a super star of the culinary world and beyond. After roughly a decade in the U.S., and his success with restaurants Jaleo, Zaytinya and Café Atlantico and minibar, Chef Andrés won his first James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic. He was quickly recognized in 2004 as Chef of the Year by Bon Appétit Magazine and joined Saveur Magazine’s SAVEUR 100 list.

From there, his career became a whirlwind of cookbooks, television shows, wildly successful restaurants, endearing philanthropy and teaching at George Washington University. In 2012, Chef Andrés became the dean of Spanish studies at the International Culinary Center, joined the U.S. State Department’s American Chef Corps, founded his humanitarian World Central Kitchen organization and was named as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. In 2013, Chef Andrés became a U.S. citizen, and in 2014, President Barack Obama named Chef Andrés the Outstanding American Citizen by Choice. The awards and accolades just keep coming.

So, when the Pashas recommended Frisco to d.ream for their restaurant expansion into North Texas, Chef Andrés became part of the Frisco landscape. One of Chef Andrés’ widely acclaimed restaurants, Zaytinya, partners with d.ream. Per Mr. Pasha, d.ream is “the ownership partner” and Chef Andrés’ umbrella company, ThinkFoodGroup, is the operating partner. 

The Pashas then forged connections with the Jerry Jones family and Lincoln Properties at The Star. “We started looking at places that would make sense based on the demographics,” says Mr. Pasha. “And that is how we came to The Star in Frisco. Frisco is one of America’s highest restaurant-spend cities in the U.S. We looked at the marketing prowess of The Cowboys and the experience guests were seeking and it just became a no-brainer for the Zaytinya brand.” Mrs. Pasha adds, “Kudos also to the city and school district for their long-range planning and the partnership they created because this project would not have happened without the foresight of the city, the partnership with the school district and the Jones family.”

As a result, Zaytinya’s Frisco location is currently targeted to open at The Star in September 2017. And just like that, after a long string of seemingly unconnected decisions, Zaytinya’s world-renown cuisine and Michelin-Awarded Chef Andrés have arrived in Frisco. Mr. Pasha says, “When you look at the main cities that purport to be restaurant cities, d.ream had all the choices in the world in front of them. And where did they choose? They chose Frisco, Texas. I mean this is actually a major ‘get’ for Frisco.” Mrs. Pasha explains, “Beyond the food, it is going to be a José Andrés experience. As Frisco gets to know Chef Andrés, not just from your first impression when you enter the restaurant and the care in the quality of the food, but also in understanding the man himself … the global perspective of this gentleman, who really does more than he needs to because he has a passion for overall humanity. I am excited about folks getting a chance to get to know him.”

As Chef Andrés recounts, “When I was in the Spanish Navy, I got to see the world and I got to see how people outside of Spain live. It inspired me from a young age to be engaged in the world and aware of the problems many people face. And that is why I have worked to give back as much as I can.”

Haiti’s infamous earthquake occurred while Chef Andrés was vacationing in the Cayman Islands with his family. “I decided I needed to go there and do the only thing I know how to do: feed people. I immediately fell in love with the country,” Chef Andrés explains. “I started my nonprofit organization, World Central Kitchen, there and built kitchens, a bakery and a cooking school, and I have visited the country many, many times since 2010. It remains one of my favorite places in the world.”

Chef Andrés’ travels have also greatly impacted his culinary creations. “I like to say that I do not open restaurants, I tell stories,” he explains. “I am a storyteller, and food is the best way I know how to talk about my childhood in Spain, or my travels in Mexico or the fascinating history of immigration from China and Japan to Peru.”

Chef Andres also says, “Zaytinya is a particular story inspired by the Eastern Mediterranean, which has an incredible culinary and cultural history. We are making dishes from Greece, Turkey and Lebanon. We serve mezze and small plates that use authentic ingredients and traditional techniques, but we give our own spin to each of the dishes. I love tradition, but I also am always playing with new ideas and concepts. So, at Zaytinya, my team and I like to give our own interpretations of the amazing foods of the region.”

Mr. Pasha adds, “There is really no concept that blends the kinds of cuisines and the quality of cuisine that exist in Chef Andrés’ restaurants. You will find things other restaurants would just never do.”

Local Zaytinya goers may even get a chance to see Chef Andrés at the Frisco grand opening event. “Of course, I will be there!” Chef Andrés exclaims. “I look forward to meeting the people of Frisco!”

Every person is an amalgamation of tiny decisions, random conversations and happenstance experiences over the course of their lifetime. Seemingly small decisions can lead to incredible outcomes beyond our imagination. So, if you decide to experience Zaytinya for yourself, you never know where that, too, might lead …

Amy Richmond is a writer who relishes faith, family, intriguing conversations and inspiring words. She wishes time could be saved in a bottle because one lifetime is not enough.