Orien Reid Finds Another Channel For Her Efforts

Posted: February 05, 1999

Orien Reid remembers walking away from her job as consumer reporter at Channel 10, and chuckles at the reaction of her colleagues. Reid chuckles a lot these days.

``They asked me if I'd lost my ever-lovin' mind,'' Reid recalled, during a joyful lunch at the Chestnut Grill. ``I didn't have lots of money, but I knew I wasn't going to starve. I've always believed, if you do things for the right reason, you're going to be OK.''

Lost? Not with the moral compass Reid mastered as a child. ``I was an only child,'' she explained, ``and my mother told me you can do whatever you want to do, told me nothing was forever. She was one of those people who really said, `If life hands you lemons, make lemonade.' ''

Reid did 25 years of hard time in local television, first at Channel 3, then at 10. She looks terrific these days and there's an aura of happiness about her, warm enough to make French toast.

``I always wanted to have my own business,'' she said proudly. ``I always wanted to be in charge of my life.''

Her business is called Consumer Connection, and she is a media consultant/spokesperson for the Private Industry Council's Welfare-to-Work program, for Glazier Supermarkets and for Electric Choice.

She is a senior vice president on the board of the Alzheimer's Association. It was her increasing involvement in that organization that prompted her to walk away from Channel 10 after NBC took over from CBS.

To dine this day, she picked Chestnut Grill, in the quaint Chestnut Hill Hotel, because it's close to her home-office in Laverock and because it's a ``friendly place with good food, moderate prices and good service.''

We had lunch downstairs, the no-smoking section, seated in a comfortable booth, the brick walls decorated with ``for sale'' nature photographs by Gary San Pietro. She needed about 30 seconds to decide what she wanted.

``I love the New Orleans catfish fingers,'' she said. ``And I'll have the portobello mushroom salad.''

I chose the soup special, a vegetable chowder ($4.50) thick enough to hold the spoon upright, crammed with corn, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots and red pepper pieces.

Reid's farm-raised catfish fingers ($4.95) were gently grilled, and came with Cajun aioli, which seemed like a remoulade sauce with extra kick.

Her portobello mushroom was sliced, fanned, and accompanied by a colorful tangle of baby greens and two squares of polenta cake ($7.50). The mushroom was moist, its earthy flavor intact.

My main course, a Mendocino grilled chicken salad ($7.95) was a sprawling plate of romaine lettuce, topped with red cabbage strips, hard-boiled egg, crumbled blue cheese, smoked bacon, a couple of avocado slices and strips of grilled chicken.

I probably chose the wrong dressing, a too-thick balsamic vinegar, and I lost interest halfway through the salad.

Service was efficient without being intrusive. And no one seemed to mind the parade of friends that came to hug Reid, a group that included Channel 10 broadcaster Cherie Bank.

We shared a delicious apple crisp a la mode ($4.75) that included raisins and cinnamon and had a jumbled home-made look about it.

Reid cooks most nights, for herself and companion Charlie Nix. Her daughter Traci is studying for a degree in fashion design while working full time. Wonder where she got her work ethic from?

There is a stark sense of urgency in Reid's voice when she talks about the Welfare-to-Work program. ``On March 3,'' she said ominously, ``25,000 people will come off welfare, lose their cash benefits, if they're not working 20 hours a week.

``It's scary. The entire community is going to feel the impact. Did you know that 67 percent of the people in the welfare system live in Philadelphia? Our program helps people find a job, it matches a good worker with a business that needs workers. It's a win-win proposition.''

Does she ever look back on the television career she abandoned while still young enough and popular enough to be a key player on the local scene?

``Few people,'' she said, ``have the courage to do what their heart tells them to do.''

Chestnut Grill

Grade: B

What: Straightforward

Where: 8229 Germantown Ave.

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Friday & Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday.

Details: Wheelchair access to upstairs smoking area, steps to downstairs dining room. All major credit cards.

Phone: 215-247-7570

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