All is fair in love and food

Tim strolled into his Advanced Placement Literature classroom, where he was about take his last high school exam, as his teacher instructed the students to pull out a pen and paper.

“I’m going to write one word on the board, and you are going to write a one page essay,” she said. “That’s your final.”

The teacher turned to face the board, wrote the word “freedom,” then returned to her desk. Tim gave the essay some thought for almost a full second, and then put down his pen. He picked up his bare sheet of paper and strutted to her desk.

“Hillary. Freedom to me is an opportunity to make choices, and I am exercising my freedom by opting to not write this paper,” he said. Tim handed her the blank page and walked out. His grade on the final: 100 percent.

Tim Green is no longer a high school senior, but he is still the same outspoken, steadfast, fun-loving man, especially when working as a waiter at Penne Pomodoro. He is the epitome of Southern hospitality, but he’s no local. Before moving to Texas, Green lived in Boston where he grew up with his two older brothers and younger sister. He and his siblings were close; four kids living under one roof created lots of memories and definitely a little mischief. When Green was a child, he and his older brother shared a bedroom. Every night for a few weeks, his brother would scare him with a clown doll tied to a fishing line—his brother would yank on the line so that the doll would come out from under Green’s bed just enough for the clown face to stare at him. “To this day I won’t go to the circus. Oh, and then like five years later, my brother and his friends tied me to a chair and made me watch ‘It’ by Stephen King, and I literally urinated on myself,” he says. Green tries to stay in touch with his siblings, who now live in Austin and College Station, but they aren’t as close as he would like them to be.

His father’s military career brought the family to Dallas when he was 13, and he has been here ever since. Five days a week, Green meanders into the cozy restaurant he has called home for four years now. He has been in the University Park area for a while, but prior to Penne, Green worked in several different restaurants, with a variety of cuisines, and in numerous positions. “I think I’m a good manager,” he said. “But I know I’m a great waiter.” His experiences in the restaurant business taught him two things: he loves food, and he loves people. Typically dressed in blue jeans and a white button down, Green gives his jeans a little tug and slides into a booth to take his customers’ orders.

Green believes that, in this business, 99 percent of the customers are amazing, and 1 percent are difficult—and that is only sometimes. “One of his strong suits is his personality. He is adaptable and finds a way to get along with everybody,” Rich Moon, his boss, said. Green is very lucky in that he has more regular customers than most waiters—ranging from the wealthy couples who tip generously to college students who tip sparingly. “For me, I feel good when I go some place and they know my name and say ‘Hey, it’s good to see you, welcome back,’” he said, and so, he prides himself on knowing all of his regulars by name. “Tim isn’t an overly bubbly waiter, especially when you get to know him, which is what makes him so great and funny,” said Claire Kelley, a regular customer. “He’s so accommodating. If you want something that isn’t on the menu, he’ll make sure you get it.” One of his favorite things to do for his regulars is assemble special orders. He rolls up the sleeves of his button down and his eyes light up as he maps out several food combinations for each customer. Every so often, Green does have an off day at work, but he emphasizes that the customers are never at fault. “I am the best waiter in Dallas because I have the best customers,” he said.

When he’s the customer, Green has a few specific spots he prefers. Both of his favorite restaurants, Hattie’s in Dallas and Chez Zee in Austin, specialize in American cuisine, which he has a passion for cooking. “If I had thought about it back in college, I probably would have become a chef,” he said. After graduating from Texas A&M; with a degree in journalism, he found his love of food when he took a then-temporary job at an upscale steakhouse. Thoughts about opening up a restaurant of his own have also crossed his mind. “If it were in this neighborhood it would be called Mustang Diner. I would do really big, comfort food, you know, like French toast in the mornings and some peanut butter mousse,” he said.

If he were not working full time, Green would be traveling. “I’d buy a mobile home and just hit diners, hit bars, hit the Grand Canyon,” he said. Independent, regional food, and “mom and pop” restaurants are among his favorites to explore. One day, he would like to trek across the nation and attend food festivals all over. Because he works full time, Green gets his dose of adventure when visiting friends and family in other states and collecting magnets that his customers have given him from all over the world. His magnet collection developed as his relationships with customers developed. “I wanted something to remember these people by,” he said. “Now, my fridge is so full, I have a piece of metal in my bedroom. I can look up and see them and say ‘Okay, that’s her, that’s her, that’s him.’” Green’s sincerity and devotion to serving the community have rewarded him with many new relationships. “Tim is a great server and a good friend,” said Armando Benegas, his colleague.

Green is constantly shuffling from table to table talking to customers and coworkers—making sure everything is satisfactory. He reaches over the counter of the open-aired kitchen to grab a few plates, and strategically lines them up on his arm before making way to the table. His lifestyle is a very busy one, and his career has not made it easy for him to settle down. He was almost married once—so he is quite cautious with commitment now. He cherishes the time he spends with his nieces and nephews, but does not have any children of his own. If he met a woman with children, he would definitely marry into her family. He would love to be a father, but doesn’t want his own kids right now. Not having kids will not stop Green from leaving a legacy behind. He said, “I want people to come into the restaurant to have a really good meal and a really good time. And, when they think of me, I want them to be happy. It’s all about what’s in your heart.”

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