Tarczon, who died Saturday at age 44, even nicknamed a waiter who broke 45 plates in one fateful shift “Nate The Plate.”
“I literally destroyed half the plates in his restaurant,” said Nate Kulleck, a friend of more than 15 years. “But he was the kind of guy if you totally screwed something up, he would just tease you about it. He wouldn’t dress you down.”
Tarczon owned Joseph’s at 3123 W. 111th St. since 2011. The cause of his death was not disclosed.
He is survived by his wife, Janine, and their two children Brandon, 9, and Emma, 6. Funeral services are pending.
“He was such a wonderful guy — always willing to help and participate in anything. He will be greatly missed,” said Mary Gill, executive director of the Mount Greenwood Community And Business Association.
Kulleck began working with Tarczon when he was a chef at the restaurant, then known as Richie’s. He returned five years ago when Tarczon purchased the business and rebranded it as Joseph’s.
Tarczon’s restaurant serves sandwiches, classic Italian dishes, steaks, chops and more. While waiting tables, Kulleck met his girlfriend, Brittney Chalmers. The waiter and the bartender now have a one-year-old daughter, Sawyer.
Tarczon, a native of suburban Oak Lawn, hosted a baby shower for the couple that met at his restaurant. He served 70 people and only charged the employees for drinks.
“He was awesome. It’s a huge loss,” said Kulleck, who said the fate of the restaurant is unknown in the wake of Tarczon’s death.
Despite being a South Sider, Tarczon was a fan of the Chicago Cubs and had a neon “W” sign at the restaurant given to him by a customer. He feared jinxing the team last year and would often call in to be sure the sign was turned off if the Cubs lost, Kulleck said.
He also said that it was Tarczon’s tradition to treat employees and regulars to a shot of Wild Turkey on their birthday. He’d even send a shot with a delivery driver on occasion and required photographic evidence of the often unwanted gift being accepted.
On Saturday night, the somber staff at Joseph’s gathered just ahead of closing. In what seemed like an appropriate sendoff, they all did a shot of Wild Turkey.
“It was Jay’s dream,” Kulleck said of the restaurant.
The staff of Joseph’s Restaurant and Bar in Mount Greenwood lost their founder, Jay Tarczon, Saturday. Tarczon (wearing the Chicago Cubs sweater) died, leaving behind his wife Janine, and their two children Brandon, 9, and Emma, 6.