Last night I overcame a fear.

You might think it is a silly fear, but it was a fear none the less.

What was I afraid of ?   A fancy desert known as “Cherries Jubilee”.

Picture by James "Duckie" Webb
Picture by James “Duckie” Webb

Now on the surface this may seem like nonsense and an unreasonable fear.

But rest assured it is not.

In 1979 (when I was 8 years old) i Was growing up in Coral Gables, Florida.  My Grandfather, Eddie Stephens, Sr. owned one of the first men’s clothing store in Miami, and was pretty well known and established.  For Thanksgiving dinner, he took our entire family to the Riveria Country Club  in Coral Gables.  Coral Gables is a unique township in Miami where the streets are canopied by Banyan trees.  A fancy club in a fancy city, in the heart of South Florida.  

For desert one of the options was cherries jubilee, a flaming desert with sherry, vanilla ice cream and cherries.  The flaming part is where the trauma occurred.

I went up to the Cherries Jubilee station.  An 82 year young lady came in line behind.  Being a young gentlemen, I allowed the lady behind me to get her dessert first.  That’s when it happened…

They poured the concoction in to her bowl and it overflowed onto her dress (made of polyester).  At the time, ladies hair included significant flammable product which contributed to the events that unfolded right before me.

Her entire body immediately went up in flames.  Instead of doing what we were taught (stop, drop, roll), she ran.  I remember someone pulling the table cloth from another desert table and tackled her with it to extinguish the fire.  I specifically remember chocolate éclairs flying in the air as the tablecloth was being pulled.  Bizarre visual, I know, but I was 8.  I also remember the smell.  I have never encountered that smell since, and I pray I never do again.

So, as you can see, this is not an unjustified fear and I have had to deal with this fear ever since.

I did not have to deal with it often.   How often do you actually have an encounter with Cherries Jubilee?  For me, not often.  But, everyone once in a while, on a cruise or fancy restaurant, it would come into my range of vision.  And when it did, I had strange sensations.  Olfactory flashbacks of burnt flesh and general queasiness. So for the past 33 years I have been attempting to avoid the sight of Cherries Jubilee.

20 years ago, I was enjoying a fancy dinner at Burn’s Steakhouse in Tampa, FL.  This place is so fancy, it has a separate section of the restaurant to eat desert.  At the time I was the Florida Regional Vice President for my Fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi.  The Regional Vice President for Georgia who was dining with me was Mitch Simmons.

Over the years, Mitch has become a best friend and it was fun to watch him skyrocket to Grand President of Delta Sigma Pi.  I had the honor of serving as President and Chair of the Delta Sigma Pi Leadership Foundation during Mitch’s reign which also happened to be during our Fraternity’s 100 year anniversary.  Good times indeed.

We got a lot done during this period of time.  My favorite accomplishments include renting out the Smithsonian air and Space Museum for our 100th Birthday and raising the money to refurbish our headquarters on Oxford, OH.

For those that know Mitch, you know he will push you.  Sometimes hard, but with good intentions and for a reason.

Eddie & Mitch
Eddie & Mitch

So 20 years ago at the Burn’s desert table, Mitch order the Cherries Jubilee.  He knew something was up so I explained the story.  Even though Mitch has been torturing me (pushing me) ever since that moment by teasing me, he was nice enough to change his order that night.

For the next 20 years I felt Mitch pushing me.  Sometimes a gentle nudge,  sometimes a slam in the wall.  But as I said before, there is a method to his madness.

On August 8, 2013, when we went to another fancy dinner, Mitch turned up the heat.

After 33 years, and Mitch’s shoving me down the path, I addressed my fears, and together we ordered the Cherries Jubilee (at this restaurant it was served as a desert for two).

And guess what?  I overcame my fear.

It wasn’t hard.  Just needed a good push (shove).

So I give thanks for Mitch for being there to push me outside of my comfort zone to overcome something that was a real fear for me.

Looking back at it, I wish I had done it 20 years ago!

So I walked away from this a wiser man.  I looked a fear right in the eye, and overcame.

And…. It was delicious!


News article on original incident.



2 thoughts on “NO FEAR!

Add yours

  1. Congrats Eddie! As with most fears, once we overcome them we wish we’d done so sooner. You did so when it was right for you and that’s what matters. It takes a brave soul to admit and face their fears, never mind publicly. I’m certain you are proud and should be. May you enjoy many more Cherries Jubilee in the future!

  2. What an inspiring story! For me, alas, I have, unfortunately, never met a dessert I didn’t like. So it was a little hard for me to relate to the idea of fearing a dessert.

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