Patron pays 15-year-old debt at restaurant

Published On: May 17 2013 07:17:54 AM HST

Nearly 15 years after a customer at an Albuquerque French restaurant couldn't afford to pay his check, he returned to settle his debt.

Claus Hjortkjaer has spent decades in the kitchen of some of the best French restaurants in the city.

Back in the late 1990's, a customer at Le Cafe Miche came in for a Valentine's Day dinner. The customer was a teenager, trying to impress his date with a fancy French dinner.

When the check arrived, the teen couldn't afford to pay the bill. When his date went to the restroom, he asked for the owner and explained that he was short about $40.

Hjortkjaer gave him the money out of his own pocket, telling him to repay him one day, if possible.

"Sometimes things come back to you," Hjortkjaer said. "You shouldn't do them for that specific reason. You should just do it because it's the right time and the right place and it just felt good."

The owner forgot all about it, and eventually the restaurant closed down. But last week, Le Cafe Miche got a second chance, opening a new location downtown, and one of the first customers through the door was the old patron. In his hand was a $100 bill, which was enough to cover the bill "plus interest."

"Sometimes it pays off to be a nice guy," Hjortkjaer said. "It made me feel good. I went and bought myself a bouquet of flowers!"

Hjortkjaer doesn't know the man's name, but he would like to invite him back to the restaurant for a glass of wine on the house. 


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