Michael Nahabidian watched with horror as the riots spread across his city— and into his neighborhood where he had spent decades, along with his cousin Carrie and brother Tommy building one of Chicago’s best-known names in food.
Growing up half-Greek and half-Armenian gave him a great culinary heritage to pull from for inspiration and coupled with his sense of building people and communities up— Michael built an admirable reputation in the Windy City for not only being a great restaurateur— but one of the most upstanding, decent guys around.
Together with his designer brother Tommy and his chef cousin Carrie— Michael built and operated Naha for almost two decades which quickly became one of Chicago’s go-to restaurants for foodies. The distinctions list like a who’s who for global fine-dining establishments including multiple Michelin Stars and James Beard Awards.
After Naha, the super-star team opened a French restaurant called Brindille and Kostali which both became an overnight sensations.
On the morning of May 31, when he approached the shattered window of Brindille, which is in Chicago’s River North neighborhood where he’s also lived for almost twenty years, a flurry of emotions overcame him.
“When I saw the damage to Brindille I felt more sadness for our fellow businesses and couldn’t believe that this has all come to this,” Nahabedian told The Pappas Post. “But hopefully kinder more understanding hearts will prevail from this. It’s time to get to work,” he concluded— and quickly got to work rebuilding.
An old colleague of Nahabedian’s took to Facebook to share his disbelief and the irony of the damage happening to a guy like Michael.
“My first line cook job out of culinary school was at the Green Dolphin,” said Mike Wales in a public Facebook post, sharing photos of the damage. “Michael Nahabedian ran the front. This happened to his place last night. He is kind, so inclusive and loves people for who they are, character not color. We need to do better people.”
The kindness to the Nahabedian team was also evident from the outpouring of love and support that customers, friends and neighbors have shown for a Brindille Go Fund Me page that was started before the riots to support staff that lost their jobs because of the pandemic closures.
Michael didn’t let the negativity of the moment win this battle. He did what any decent person would do and began working— as a village, as he said on Facebook, to begin cleaning up.
Not only was his first instinct to get up and move forward, but instead of showing anger at the riots— he transformed the experience into one of compassion and understanding— issuing a statement to his friends, family and customers about his solidarity with the movement for justice and reconciliation.
The icing on the fancy cake— all boarded up and preparing for their grand reopening, Michael used a drawing that his niece made to remind the people walking by that if you allow it to— love always wins.
His post on Facebook the day after the vandalism:
Thank you everyone for your kind words and well wishes. And you know what?…tomorrow…we wake up…and get to work…and make shit happen.
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