Brooks Bond says his job at the modern and much-celebrated Uchi sushi restaurant is a nameless amalgam of tasks designed to keep law and order on the floor. Whether he’s greeting tables, filling in the gaps for busy servers, running drinks for the bar or putting out any number of figurative fires common in even the best-run restaurants, Bond’s primary objective is clear: he just wants everyone to feel happy and at home.
Uchi can be translated from Japanese to mean “home” in English. In a town as friendly as Austin, Bond’s work to create a welcoming environment at Uchi couldn’t be more fitting. From the kitchen to the dining room, it’s clear that Bond understands the work involved in promoting an atmosphere of exceptionally good service – and it isn’t relegated to customer interactions.
“I tend to view myself as more of a mascot and positive cheerleader for the entire staff,” Bond says. “I work hard to keep the positive energy flowing and to keep everyone else’s job a bit easier.”
Bond thrives on the kinetic nature of making intricate work look easy.
“What I enjoy most about it is the action, the movement, the great energy that lives in that house,” he says.
And while he promotes a big-picture view of the life cycle of an incredible dining experience, he knows it’s the diners’ enjoyment at the heart of it all.
Dining at Uchi “is such a unique experience for customers, especially first-timers,” Bond says. “I love watching them go from cautious apprehension to straight-up joy and awe. That’s what does it for me.”
Everyone knows it’s good to have pride in your home. Working for Tyson Cole, one of Food & Wine Magazine’s best new Chefs of 2005, is a big part of Bond’s pride in Uchi.
“Working with Tyson is an honor from the standpoint of knowing his story – where he came from to where he is today. It is pretty remarkable,” Bond says. “There are times where we will be crazy busy and running around in a fun, party atmosphere. Everyone’s working hard, doing what they do best, a well-oiled, customer-pleasing machine, and I just want to grab him and say, ‘Can you believe this? Isn’t this awesome?’”
Bond speaks fondly of his childhood home, Knoxville, Tenn.
“Living and growing up in Knoxville was a great childhood,” Bond says.
But he also acknowledges the difficulties that can accompany coming out in the South, and wanderlust ultimately took hold. Initially, Bond’s insatiable curiosity saw him attend seven universities. Among a long list of intriguing projects, Bond managed a restaurant in San Francisco, was in the film “Biloxi Blues” with Matthew Broderick and Christopher Walken, worked for MCA in Nashville, Tenn., delivered furniture in the ft. Walton, Fla., heat, and, while working at the Sarah Cannon (better known as Minnie Pearl) Cancer Center, was honored with the 1993 Celebration of Life Award for contributions to excellence in cancer care and dedication to humanity.
“That is the one honor that I am most proud of,” Bond says.
The best part of a long journey is coming home, and Bond describes his newly adopted home of Austin with affection.
“When I left Tennessee to go to San Francisco, I knew I could really never go back. I had escaped the box and had no desire to return to it, even though I miss it terribly some- times,” he says.
He found Austin provided a good middle ground.
In the South, “day-to-day living and freedom to openly be myself was just too difficult, and that was one of the main reasons I came to Austin,” Bond says. “I moved to Austin in 2002, site unseen. I just pulled up and made it happen. I’d always heard great things about it and wanted to see what it was about, and now it’s my home. I love just about everything about it. Austin is the perfect fit for me. It still has a small-town feel, it’s affordable, laid-back – and no wicked winters!”
Home proper for Bond is a condo located a short walk from Uchi.
“Although I am an extrovert in public and at work, at home I am very much the mellow man – hot baths, candles, reading in bed and classical music,” Bond says, “except when I drink – then it’s classic country!”
So what’s next on the list of a man whose past has been so adventurous?
“Although I think of trying something new, career-wise, from time to time, I am exactly where I need and want to be,” Bond says, adding a few observations many people would be at home sharing. “I’m sure there is a lot to be said for goals and planning and all of that stuff, but for me, today, right now is what counts. And today I’m good. I’m employed and able to walk across the street to work. I’m happy and living in a wonderful condo. I’m healthy and pain-free, stable, safe and secure, and that’s all I really need or could ever hope for.”