Roads Taken & Not Taken - Peter Hochman '75
Editor's Note: This piece is part of our ongoing "Roads Taken & Not Taken" series. Haverford grads who want to share their own story of roads taken (or not taken) since graduation should drop us a line.
It was the tenth morning of the New York City transit strike of 1980. I walked from the just cleaned kitchens of Windows on the World into the dining room, and watched as the sun came up over Brooklyn and Queens. I had been relegated to night steward, overseeing the cleaning crews, tens of which converged on the restaurant at midnight to restore and replenish it for the next day. My usual job was expediting by means of a microphone and my hands the firing and picking up of up to 1,200 dinners on a busy night from a line of cooks, and transferring these plates to servers, who carried the meals to waiting guests. I had broken my left wrist in a roller skating mishap on the second day of the transit strike while making my way to work, and so, found myself spending my nights and early mornings on the 107th floor in the north tower of the World Trade Center. I remember softly saying as I looked out the expansive windows, “Top o’ the world, Ma!” and thinking that this was a far cry from where I was supposed to end up.
I graduated from Haverford in 1975, armed with a degree in psychology and the full gamut of premed coursework. I did not get into med school on my first try, and subsequently took post grad courses in biochem at Columbia and George Washington Universities. I had spent summers working as an emergency room technician, suturing lacerations, taking histories, and assisting the orthopods. My father is a doctor as is his brother. Dad’s father was a plastic surgeon, and from an early age, it was clear that I was expected to follow family tradition and to become an MD.
Throughout my time at Haverford, I enjoyed seeking out new dining experiences in Philadelphia and its environs, and I have fond memories of Frog and Le Bec Fin. While living in D.C. I took my first job in the restaurant industry as a waiter at a swanky dinner spot off DuPont Circle; and I fell in love. The din of a crowded dining room intoxicated me. The clamor of sauté pans on the grill simply sparked my adrenalin, and as I’ve come to say many times, “There’s little difference between a crowded restaurant on a busy Saturday night and a packed ER on a full moon. Hopefully, no blood is spilled in the former.” Deciding to pursue a career in the hospitality industry was one of several I made within several years of leaving Haverford. I broke my engagement to be married and moved to Provincetown, where I came out of the closet and sought to embrace my true self. My parents and I didn’t speak for the better part of the next year. I really don’t know which was more difficult for them to grapple with: my deciding not to be a doctor or the fact that I was gay.
I have never looked back, though. The restaurant biz has been a wonderful and fulfilling experience. My career has taken me from NYC to San Francisco, Las Vegas, Canada and most lately to Portland, Oregon, where I opened my own place, Alberta Street Oyster Bar & Grill. I operated it for two years, garnering local and national accolades, and sold it several months ago. I am presently looking for a new project—anyone want to buy a building with me and open a bar?
Peter Hochman ’75 lives in Portland, Ore. and is actively seeking his next endeavor in the food industry.