My name is Arthur Robert Mullen III, born in Manchester, Connecticut, in 1983.
Twelve years of education in South Windsor public schools, including peer mediation and Future Problem Solving, was followed by a single semester of college in Chicago, majoring in Fiction Writing, after which I dropped out. I got my first restaurant job — washing dishes at the Union League Club of Chicago — when I was 19 years old.
The Union League had laid bare the fact, before they hired me, that I would be the only white guy on the team. The stewards (dishwashers) at the Union League Club of Chicago were all immigrants, coming from Mexico and other Latin American countries, hoping to make money and a better life for their families.
My managers — brothers, Cristino and Olegario — and colleagues were supportive and kind: as they taught me to speak Spanish, I told them about how I had finished high school, while my mother had suffered from worsening depression and alcoholism. Although the stewards could only dream of my privileged Connecticut upbringing, they cared for me like a second family.
A few years later, my mother, who herself had been, for decades, an inspirational middle school history teacher — the unforgettable kind — sadly passed away. I moved back East, to be closer to my aunt Judy, grandma “Happy,” and sister Kate. In the aftermath, sticking together helped our small family survive.
For most of my twenties, I worked at Chef Chris Schlesinger’s live-fire grilling restaurant — The East Coast Grill and Raw Bar — in Inman Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts. I was hired as an oyster shucker, but I did not stay an oyster shucker for too long, because I shucked too slow.
My home for almost a decade was a tiny, well-heated (right next to the building’s furnace!) basement studio apartment, on the campus of Harvard University. It was the first place where I lived completely alone and could focus on reading. The apartment became my incubator for higher learning — by way of osmosis, if nothing else!
At age thirty, I returned to Chicago, and earned a spot on the management team of Chef Rick and Deann Bayless’ restaurant empire. On culinary journeys to Mexico, we ground cacao beans into chocolate, and researched the anthropological roots of the dishes we served. I fell in love with a woman named Raven Beauty, and stayed for nearly another decade.
Even today, in Chicago, the awesome team I once played a small role on, continues to represent Mexican culture — the astonishing, ancient / modern cooking; the welcoming, warm generosity of our Southern neighbors — with pride, knowledge and enthusiasm.
As a manager, I am continuously learning how to balance the required structure of business operations with the responsibility I understand from my own life experience: that for my coworkers, the restaurant becomes a kind of second family.
In 2018, my Chicagoan better half, Raven Beauty, and I relocated to the Connecticut shoreline, to help assist my venerable aunt Judy. Also that year, I started working at the front desk of the Union League Café, in New Haven, Connecticut: absorbing (some may say, inhaling!) French cuisine from Chef Guillaume Traversaz, and the badass back of house brigade; and practicing the art of French service with Guillaume Dhoury, Christina Fitzgerald, Romain Turpault, and our amazing front of house team.
Here, at the old home site of Roger Sherman, across from the Old Campus of Yale University, my secondary education — by osmosis, at least! — continues anew.