The Winding Road to Contentment

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By Kimberly Horg | Photography by Meli Czerwiak

A fifth teacher noticed one of her students struggling with reading, falling farther behind his other classmates. Unbeknownst to Ted Balestreri II, who was blindly managing his dyslexia by memorizing stories, the dots suddenly became connected as he entered into a new school.

The young boy attended the first class ever taught at Chartwell School in Seaside, one of eight students in the school designed for children with dyslexia. Veered away from traditional teaching models, he thrived pushing himself along the way to learn differently.

Seeing the world as a variant was an advantage that Balestreri considers one of his biggest assets. Although getting from point A to point B without following a straight line was more of a challenge, it is something he has always embraced.

“It is one of the best things to happen to me,” says Balestreri. “I learned at an early age that there are a million different ways to solve a problem if you think outside the box.”

Decades ago, the school was nothing more than an old building with great teachers, but now it serves many throughout the community with learning disabilities. One person under a shade tree who changes the world is how Balestreri defines a good teacher.

The Monterey native later went on to attend a boarding school in Santa Barbara. Frequent visits by his dad, Ted Balestreri, Sr., to see his son’s games and track meets, made a lasting impression for years to come. The busy owner of Cannery Row taught his sons the importance of family. Teaching by example, he now works alongside his dad and his brother, Vincent, in asset management for local hotels.

Heavily involved in community outreach, he believes it is important to be a strong part of the community and give back. As the immediate past chair for the state’s California Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, he saw firsthand how young adults benefit from its ProStart and FIT Programs which help high school students enter into culinary programs.

To reach out and touch those most in need is what keeps him going strong. An inner city Los Angeles student attending a rough gated school excelled in ProStart, went to college against all the odds, and now works in the culinary industry. Trips to schools such as these are his favorite because building confidence, hope, and boosting a child’s self esteem, similar to the teachers who stood before him, is intensely gratifying for him.

There is no greater feeling for him than to help school kids who are struggling and teach them life skills. A person can’t ask for more in life than to change lives.

President of the Monterey Peninsula Sunrise Rotary Club, he also assists with ventures including Project Helping Hand and WAPI, which provides clean drinking water to third world countries.

Besides his dad, his other hero is Chuck Yeager, the test pilot who broke the sound barrier. With hopes to fly with the greats, he just started taking flying lessons and is in the process of getting his pilot’s license.

A love for travel stems back to his childhood, favorite memories traveling alongside his dad seeking knowledge and curiosity about the world around him.

“I remember when I was little he took me back to Brooklyn to see his old neighborhood, he made the wrong turn and we heard gun shots,” he says. “It was a bonding experience.”

Considering himself the luckiest guy in the world to be linked to organizations that directly impact lives, Balestreri would still like to see a shift in which people slow down and dine versus simply eating out.

As technology changes the way individuals interact, Balestreri believes that restaurants play a vital role in allowing people to reconnect for a memorable evening out. To him, restaurants are a place to rediscover humanity.

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