Love for Lily: Honoring Josh Zanoff’s Life

by Charlottesville29

Not everyone may have known the name Josh Zanoff. He quietly – often invisibly – enhanced restaurant experiences all over Charlottesville for the last two decades. But, he was well known and loved by those within the industry, who will dearly miss him. While his loss will be felt by many, the biggest hole is left in the heart of his daughter Lily, who was the world to him. True to form, the industry is rallying to support Lily in Josh’s absence. Please consider giving what you can here: Love for Lily.

For a man with a heart as big as Josh’s, it seems cruel that he would lose his life to heart failure. Among the many mourning Josh’s sudden passing are Belle chef John Shanesy, who shared reflections on Josh’s example as a leader, which may resonate with many. Shanesy:

My Last Boss
A restaurant industry perspective.

Easy targets for line cook jibber jabber, smack talking and the obligatory “oh f*ck that guy,” our bosses take all forms in this industry, from all sorts of backgrounds and social classes. After the long climb up the ladder over years and years of working diligently at each job the restaurant holds, you might even find yourself being a general manager or chef or bar manager. From my perspective over the years, there is no good recipe for the origin of a great leader – someone who can simultaneously have eyes on the front door while seating guests with grace and kindness, and also gabbing with the most beautifully creative sh*t talking line cooks and chefs.

“In the weeds” is what we say while busier than we can move at a graceful steady pace. It feels a lot like at any moment catastrophe will ensue, someone will quit on the spot, and the kitchen gets so backed up that guests begin to take notice. Well we – the cooks, managers and owners who truly care and pour ourselves into this business – notice long before the guests do. And when we do notice, it takes a special person, often two or three, to hold the whole thing together.

My dear friend Josh Zanoff was one of those people. He had the ability and heart to make everyone feel that the ship wasn’t rocking, the 35 foot proverbial waves didn’t mean a thing, and we were doing exactly how we needed to be. He eased our fragile minds with the constant introspective of asking “is this good enough?” twenty times a day. I ask myself this every time I make anything at Belle. And every time, I think about him. He was truly my one great work role model. We worked together at multiple restaurants under the Ten Course umbrella, and if you’ve ever seen the World War II masterpiece Band of Brothers, you could very easily compare Josh to that of Dick Winters. A man a bit older than everyone around him but with an innate ability for gaining automatic trust from a willingness to do every job and do it exactly right.

Those qualities are very rare to combine into a restaurant manager, and he had them in spades. His restaurant legacy includes dozens of great cooks, front of house staff, and bartenders who serve this community day in and day out, dinner after dinner. So, without this man our gracious and tight knit family of restaurant brethren would be a lot less inspired and undoubtedly a lot less happy to be here. I know that without his complete belief in me, him always being the first to have my back but also give me the necessary “shut the f*ck up, chef” when I needed it, my place at Belle wouldn’t exist, and neither would a half dozen other wonderful restaurants in this city we love so dearly. We loved you dearly and we will miss you greatly.