In 1989, chef Chris Ponte was working as a sous chef at The Pepper Mill Restaurant in Clearwater, Fla. One of the regulars was a retiree named John Manning who always requested simple meals, such as clear broth and unseasoned fish. Some chefs will tell you that catering to special requests can mean a lot of extra work, especially in a busy kitchen, but Ponte chose to treat this guest with kindness.“We became friends, and I started making his dinners as special as I could,” he says.Ponte’s ...

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