The Record—BERGEN COUNTY, N.J.—August 19, 2007
Antonio Goodman comes through the kitchen door and limps into the dining room of Fat Kat, his Little Ferry restaurant, wearing a chef's coat and an ever-present Mets baseball cap. He steps gingerly, neither leg appearing capable of supporting the rest of his body, and neither foot planted firmly on the floor.
The Fat Kat is his life, he says, pointing to frame after frame of recent history. The reviews from The Record, The New York Times and Zagat. The thank-you mementos from charities his restaurant has helped. The magazine cover autographed by Mets manager Willie Randolph. The little photo of his not-so-little cat -- "that's my fat cat, Pumpkin -- 29 pounds" -- who inspired the restaurant's name.
He carefully lowers his sturdy frame onto the cushions of the banquette along the restaurant's front windows, whose colorful murals cast cheer onto Little Ferry's small downtown. "Look at me; I can't do this anymore," he says.
Goodman told his most loyal customers first, sending 100 letters that explained how osteoarthritis had rendered his knees unusable. He needed surgery within six weeks, he told them. And since he could no longer meet his own expectations, he'd made a difficult decision. The chef-owner would close the Fat Kat on Aug. 24, and at just 45 years old, he'd be a chef without a kitchen.