A few days before the attacks on the World Trade Center, three men kicked down the front door of Rob Todd’s Perry Heights townhouse, punched him to the ground, dragged him outside, and took turns kicking and stomping him in the head. They robbed and left him for dead.

Rob survived. He survived the attack. He survived the emotional and physical injuries. He survived the painful reconstructive surgeries. He survived the rehab. He survived teaching himself to walk, again. He survived being failed by the local justice system that let his assailants go free. He adjusted to the changes. And in the 14 years since, not a single day has slipped by without a reminder of the toll surviving can take on a person.

We talk about this over coffee. Rob is one of the most successful attorneys in town. He helps disabled people get Social Security and Veteran benefits. As we chatted, I kept trying to connect dots between his experiences and that of his clients. My suggestions that being better at his job than most could be attributed to his survival seemed more distracting, to him, than anything. Rob spends every single day fighting intransigent government bureaucracies for people broken and on the brink of disaster. He just sees it as his way to help people.

He could brag.

He doesn’t.

He could use his story as a platform for himself.

He doesn’t.

He could extol his survival as something exceptional.

He doesn’t.

There aren’t huge payouts in the kind of law he practices. So, when I asked him why he invested in something as risky as a restaurant, his flat lawyerly response seemed to belie a larger significance of what it means to be a survivor. He said restaurants make people happy.

Life is fragile. Life is short. You need to do your best, to make the best of it, while you can.

— Rob Todd

Pour a cup of coffee and listen to our conversation.

Written by Ron Thompson
My passion is exploring this crossover culture of food and stage — the people who create it, love it, revel in it, and use it to make where we live a better place to be. Find Chef & Song on Facebook