Nashville has lost a legend.
Patti Myint, who was a longtime staple of the International Market and Restaurant, died on Saturday.
Harrison Baldwin and I approached Myint about a month ago to ask if we could make sushi at PM for the latest edition of our Five Minute Expert series. It is pretty standard for people to tell us no or to give us the simplest of tasks to get us in and out as quickly as possible.
That wasn’t the case with Myint.
Instead, she quickly convinced us to stay with her and make dumplings at International Market. Making dumplings then became learning to prepare the entire steam table.
We were expecting to be an inconvenience, but Myint saw us as two college boys taking an interest in her life’s work and she was eager to teach us.
“Save your energy… you have to be fast and quick quick,” she said. “You want me in the camera?”
Of course we did.
Many members of the International Market staff are Myint’s family, and those who aren’t are soon welcomed into it. Within minutes, Myint not only made us feel like regulars in her restaurant, but part of the Myint clan.
“Any time when you wake up lonely, nothing to do, just come here,” she told us.
She would crack a joke and laugh, then look at me laughing, making it impossible for me to do what is normally my job: be invisible with the camera. Myint wanted me to be just as much involved as Baldwin was, including when he was tasting the gizzards he had just fried.
“Let him have one,” she said to Baldwin. “What about him? Open your mouth and stick it in his mouth!”
She genuinely wanted to share her culture and food with us.
“We are a small business. I care about my customers. I want them to come back and enjoy and know what the food tastes like,” Myint said.
Her attitude toward us was simple. Every time Baldwin would mess up and apologize, Myint would smile her signature smile and tell him, “No don’t sorry! You do a great job! Come tomorrow, could be better!”
That was Myint. Even though the International Market was set to close, Myint was optimistic. She joked about Belmont creating a cooking school and hiring her to cook. She joked about Baldwin opening his own restaurant one day so that she could come work for him.
A month ago, we had no idea that our days with Myint were numbered, but we will forever be grateful for the legacy and wisdom that she shared with us.
When we parted Myint for the last time, she left us wishing us nothing but luck.
“So that’s the way our business here. Customers, people might like it, they don’t like it, it doesn’t matter. I just want to do the right thing. I want you to enjoy my food. Okay? So good luck for what you do.”