After a week of discussion about “Hattie Mae Williams Called Me Captain,” the proposed name for Gray Brooks’ new downtown Durham restaurant, the chef announced today that he will indeed change the name before the place opens early next year. He told the INDY he was considering such an option during our Wednesday interview with him.
“I was wrong. I want people to know that I know that,” he said in a press release offered through the Durham News Service Friday afternoon. “To everyone who I offended in any way with the name, please accept this notice as my sincerest apology. The name was indicative of my love for someone I intend to memorialize in my life.”
Many have suggested he simply go with Hattie Mae’s, though the Pizzeria Toro owner did not offer a potential new name—or if it will be shorter than a sentence—in his open letter. He could not be reached immediately for comment Friday afternoon. You can, however, read his full statement below.
Open Letter from Gray Brooks regarding the proposed name of his new Durham restaurant:
After listening to the feedback from the Durham community, my fellow owners and I would like everyone to know that we hear their message, and that we take their words and implications to heart. As such, we will not name our new restaurant “Hattie Mae Williams called me captain.”
I was wrong. I want people to know that I know that. To everyone who I offended in any way with the name, please accept this notice as my sincerest apology. The name was indicative of my love for someone I intend to memorialize in my life. She played an important part in making me the person I am today, and she taught me many things – humility chief among them. In my haste to honor her, I failed to consider all of the various aspects and implications inherent in the name. Blinded by my desire to dedicate a slice of my passion, profession, and life to her, I ignored a complicated social dynamic and upset many people.
As a Durham native, I care deeply about this city. I moved my family across the country to return to my roots here, and my business partners followed suit because they saw the same strength in this community about which I had always told them. I have the utmost respect and affection for the people who make Durham what it is. I live here, as do my business partners, and we are investing further in this place. It is important to us and we would never forsake it; we will be more careful and attentive as we grow.
One of the things that I have always loved about this place is the honesty and candor with which this community is willing to take on challenging issues. Much of the conversation around the naming of our new restaurant over the past few days has been difficult for me to hear, but I have taken it all to heart. I appreciate the discourse, the debate, the enlightenment, the education, and the engagement of the community to tell us openly and honestly that we had gone awry; I have learned a lot. I am forever thankful to be in a place so confident, strong, and willing to share.
We look forward to continuing to serve, and give back to, Durham. Thanks to all who make it a special place I am proud to call my home.