William C. Watts Jr.
Restaurant General Manager
From landscape designer to restaurant manager, William Watts wove an interlocking journey in a career that he loved for 37 years. Growing up in New Jersey, William spent a lot of time with his grandmother cooking and gardening. “I loved cooking and gardening with her,” he said in a recent interview. “She bought me my own rose bush when I was five years old!” These activities became the foundations of his career and life.
As a teenager, William worked in construction, as a landscaper, and for a florist until he was drafted into the army at 20. When he returned from his two-year military stint in Germany, he took up political science first at a local community college in New Jersey, and then finished his bachelor’s degree in political science at American University. Through college, William worked full time at the White House, Bureau of the Budget, and as the head gardener at the Center for Hellenic Studies. In 1973, he was accepted to a Master’s program in landscape architecture at the University of Virginia as well as at Harvard. In need of money, William picked up a part-time job as a host at Clyde’s restaurant; his first exposure to the restaurant business. Shortly thereafter, he was offered a full-time position by Clyde’s owner John Laytham beginning his long relationship with Clyde’s Restaurant Group.
In 1975, William was promoted to a manager, put through their 30-day management training program, and worked his way up in the business. In 1985, Clyde’s purchased the fine-dining, iconic Georgetown restaurant, 1789 Restaurant, and became general manager. William retired in 2010, after 37 years with Clyde’s Restaurant Group, but continues to consult with the restaurant, and to decorate the interior and exterior of 1789, Clyde’s, and The Tombs restaurants for the Christmas season, a creative task he has enjoyed for 40 years.
What was it like to work at a very busy, expensive restaurant where the likes of the Clintons and other famous people dine regularly? William says he loved the social aspect of the job the most, meeting interesting people daily from all walks of life, making life-long friends. The position provided William the great privilege of mentoring many employees and Georgetown students. “It was very rewarding to see these employees grow into productive adults,” he says. Many attributed their time working under William’s guidance in the restaurant as to be very valuable to their professional life. He also loved that every day was different, and he was able to be immersed in cooking, fine wine and even aspects of gardening.
“You can’t have an hourly mentality in the restaurant business as a manager, chef or owner,” William advises. It is an all-encompassing way of life and he was hands on 24/7, in and out of the restaurant day and night, weekends, and holidays. “It is a hard life for a family,” he said. “I have a life partner, but never had children. People do it, but you have to compromise and understand the expectations from the start.”