MORGANTOWN — Amos Zereoue knows something about first impressions.
You might remember the one he made on all of West Virginia, although it’s going to hurt when you are reminded that it occurred back in 1996.
The Mountaineers were opening the season against Backyard Brawl rival Pitt in old Pitt Stadium. Word had been circulating for quite a while that West Virginia had itself something of a phenom out of New York, but Coach Don Nehlen had done very little to hype his presence.
When the game started Nehlen called plays that didn’t involve Zereoue, waiting for the right moment to spring him the Panthers. Zereoue took the ball around right end and raced down the sideline 69 yards to a touchdown on his first collegiate carry, igniting a 34-0 romp.
By the time Zereoue decided to leave school early for the NFL he had rushed for a then-school record of 4,086 yards and 40 touchdowns. Drafted by the Steelers in the third round, Zereoue had a seven-year NFL career.
Like so many athletes, Zereoue then was faced with the most important decision he’d ever make.
Football had been his life, but now he had to head in another direction.
For a while he was caught at this fork in the road without a GPS.
Then it hit him.
Cooking had become a hobby, beginning far back in his WVU days.
Born in West Africa’s Ivory Coast, he had grown up in New York with his father, Jean Claude, who was a good cook. When Zereoue left for WVU, his diet was mostly ramen noodles, and that didn’t fit too well with Jean Claude.
“He made a special trip to Morgantown,” Zereoue remembers.
He introduced his son to the basics of cooking and it became something of hobby for Zereoue.
“I used to cook for the guys when I was with the Steelers,” Zereoue told the Charleston Daily Mail this spring.
This Famous Amos wasn’t cooking just cookies, though.
One of his favorites was Kedjenou, a chicken stew served with attieke, which is a variety of couscous, something you will find on the menu of the restaurant bearing his name.
Friends and family, who fell in love with what would come out of Zereoue’s kitchen, pressed him to open a restaurant.
Now you think it is tough making a living trying to run a football against NFL linebackers, just try making a living with a restaurant in Manhattan, which is where Zereoue decided to cast his lot. New York needed another restaurant like Phil Jackson needs another championship ring.
“The restaurant thing, it’s a very difficult business. I didn’t realize how difficult it was until I actually got into it,” he said.
But Zereoue went ahead with it, and did so with the same purpose he used to succeed on the football field.
Restaurants bearing the name of famous athletes are certainly nothing new. You can dine at Michael Jordan’s steak restaurants in New York and Chicago, at Dan Marino’s in Florida and Las Vegas. Hall of Fame hockey player Wayne Gretzky has a restaurant in Toronto and, of course, Mike Ditka has restaurants in a couple of cities.
You don’t even have to be a Hall of Famer to have a restaurant, St. Louis having had restaurants named after former baseball players Mike Shannon and Al Hrabosky, to say nothing of football player turned broadcaster Dan Dierdorf having an eatery downtown.
Even Bob Huggins had a restaurant and bar in Cincinnati.
These are mostly steak joints, but Zereoue wasn’t about to follow that mode.
He opened Zereoue’s on East 37 Street in Manhattan, a restaurant with African-French cuisine.
And unlike these other celebrity joints, you’re as likely as not to find Zereoue there in freshly pressed white linen garb, a white apron, a chef’s hat on his head and working in his own kitchen.
“I didn’t want to be that guy who put the money in someone else’s hand and watch it go to waste,” Zereoue said recently.
The restaurant has become something of an in spot in the city. This from the New York Daily News’ gossip page in March:
“Plaxico Burress checked out the world music at Zereoue’s on E. 37th Street. The healed Giant just missed Danny DeVito at the yummy French-African boite owned by Plaxico’s former Steelers teammate Amos Zereoue.”
So if you happen to be in New York and feel like having a Zereoue salad of “sliced red tomatoes, onions, ginger, shaved carrots, and black olives toss in an Ivory Coast vinegarette” along with Poisson Braise, which according to the menu is “braised Atlantic fish, smothered with diced onions and tomatoes – the Ivory Coast’s claim to fame, originating in small, open-air restaurants called ‘maquis”, then Zereoue’s is the place for you.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com.
MORGANTOWN — Amos Zereoue knows something about first impressions.
- Bob Herzel
HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 baseball tournament is about America
All of a sudden the Big 12’s annual baseball tournament is more about America and the American way than it is about baseball.
And that makes it a wonderful thing.
Musgrave to pitch WVU’s second game
West Virginia University baseball coach Randy Mazey believes that the change in format of the Big 12 Tournament will benefit his Mountaineers because it allows him to hold conference Pitcher of the Year Harrison Musgrave until the key second game of the tournament.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Bill Stewart is missed, remembered
It was Monday, the first anniversary of Bill Stewart’s sudden death while playing the 16th hole of a charity golf tournament with West Virginia University’s former athletic director and his former boss, Ed Pastilong.
WVU baseball team helps those in tornado’s path
In so many ways it was a day that called for celebration.
Randy Mazey’s West Virginia baseball team, the team that was supposed to finish last in its first Big 12 season, was sitting in third place on what should have been the eve of the conference tournament.
HERTZEL COLUMN- Catastrophes make you stop and think
The scenes have been gruesome, devastation everywhere, words flowing from the mouths of reporters that are as difficult to comprehend as are the images on the eyes.
HERTZEL COLUMN- Major delivers message: ‘Roll with the punches’
On graduation day, four or five or who knows how many years into one’s college days, you expect to put on your cap and gown and listen to words of wisdom from a commencement speaker more along the lines of Henry Kissinger or Bill Clinton, but that is not to say it is only a day for an academic elitist.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Irvin’s dreads are gone now he must rebuild reputation
A couple of days back Bruce Irvin sat down in a barber’s chair — stylist’s chair, if you prefer — and made a dramatic and what had to be traumatic move.
He had his dreadlocks removed.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Flying WV logo draws attention outside country
Sometimes you hit a nerve, as we did a while back when we wrote about the wide reach of West Virginia University’s flying WV logo.
It has meant a lot to a lot of people.
Seahawks’ Bruce Irvin suspended four games
Bruce Irvin, one of only two West Virginia University defensive linemen ever to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft, will miss the first four games of the 2014 National Football League season because of a failed test for performance-enhancing drugs.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Opportunity to see birth of greatness
Sometimes things happen and the significance of them isn’t fully grasped immediately. So it is with the approval of the TIFF financing for a baseball stadium just off I-79 here in Morgantown.
Obviously, this a boon for the West Virginia University baseball program of Randy Mazey, which gains instant creditability.
- More Bob Herzel Headlines
- HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 baseball tournament is about America