Jean Claude.

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Tony died.
It was sudden, at least it was for me.
Tony was old and each time I saw him he looked older and a bit slower.
Eventually, I guess, life caught up with him.
He came to Australia a very long time ago and when we first met him he had just taken over a large old milk bar in the heart of Belgrave. He quickly turned it into a cafe by day and a restaurant by night.
He lived at the back of the cafe with his family in the way that families have done for generations.
For many years he employed a belly dancer to entertain his customers on a Saturday night.
Tony had been there for so long I was beginning to think that he might live forever. Of course he didn’t, but while he was alive he worked hard. ‘Jean Claude’s’ was open from early morning till late at night 365 days a year. On Christmas day I took the dogs for a walk to Belgrave and the only shop that was open was Jean Claude’s.
I never did ask him why he named the cafe Jean Claude. I would like to think that there is a cool story behind it about his life in a war torn part of the world, but I suspect that he just thought that it made the place sound classy.
Tony’s home country had been racked by a prolonged civil war and he had brought his family to Australia to escape the fighting. This was a long time ago. He made a life for himself here and he supported many members of his family though his cafe. We watched them grow up around this happy chef.
You could never get a small meal when Tony was the chef because he would always insist, “I cook something special for you.” And he always did. He loved my two boys from the first time we ventured into his cafe and the last time I saw him he asked me how they were getting on, he always asked. Family was very import to Tony.
When my boys were little we would sit in the window of the cafe and play ‘spot someone who you know’. One point for each recognised person. My eldest son was usually the winner but he was not above cheating.
When Tony died the cafe closed and stayed closed. It would not be the same without Tony. A little notice appeared in the window thanking people for their kind thoughts and after many months a ‘For Lease’ sign also went up. Tony owned the building and rather wisely the family has decided to lease it rather than sell it.
In an era when cafes only open during the peak earning times Tony’s cafe was always open. In recent years there was the addition of a pizza section which operated at night. More work for someone who Tony knew, probably family.
I took Tony for granted while he was with us but I hope he knew how much I admired his devotion to his family. I’ll miss his delicious food and his broad smile. We knew and liked each other and I’ll bet that wherever he is he is not letting his friends order from the menu, instead I’ll bet he is “cooking up something special.”
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You may think that this is a terrible photo, and it is, but I had to include it. Many years ago Tony paid an arm and a leg to have two huge ‘chefs’ put on top of the verandah. They drew a striking resemblance to Tony in his chef’s outfit. Unfortunately the Estate Agent put up the ‘For Lease’ signs so that it is impossible to get a clear shot of them. From what you can see, they are a bit the worse for wear after all these years with plenty of hot summers and wet winters.

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The restaurant did not have a liquor licence for outside the cafe but I can remember a few times when we sat here with red wine in take away coffee cups; an extra service which was available to regulars.

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In all the years that ‘Jean Claudes’ was there I cannot remember the menu changing.

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A few years ago the window with ‘Jean’ was broken. The window was replaced but Tony never got around to getting the ‘Jean’ sign written.

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Pick a country and Tony could cook it’s cuisine. What is Australian cuisine anyway? A hot pie with sauce?

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The main sign has taken a beating over the years.

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After having taken all the photos [because I was concerned that the building would be redeveloped] and writing the story, my wife noticed that we had this card on our fridge. I don’t remember ever picking it up and it must have been there for a long time. Life is an interesting experience, isn’t it?

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14 thoughts on “Jean Claude.

    • Thank you.
      I realised that this was a much ‘bigger’ post than I usually put up. I don’t usually include so many photos, but I wanted this to be a lasting memorial to a great bloke— a family man— he didn’t have a wife but he certainly had a family.
      Thanks for the comments.
      Terry

      Like

  1. Lovely tribute. I recently had a number of elderly relatives pass away. You know it has to happen sometime, but it’s always a shock when it does.

    BTW, have you ever tried colourising you B&W photos? Although it looks like the writing is more where your passion lies.

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    • Thank you for your kind comments.
      All my photos [in the modern era] start out as colour, but as my background is in B&W film, I’m always on the lookout for suitable shots to convert to black and white.
      Thank you for taking the time to comment, it is always appreciated.
      Terry

      Like

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