The Restaurant of my Dreams
I often lay awake in bed, daydreaming about one day owning my own restaurant. I think about everything from each dish I would put on the menu, to who I would have on the line next to me. Sometimes these daydreams last hours and often prevent me from getting anything close to a good night of sleep. Over the last few months, I have been keeping a list of my thoughts. Some are genius, some are simple revisions to things that have been done before and some and some are plain crazy. Here is an outline to the restaurant of my future:
The overall vibe to the restaurant would be small and modern. Tan paint with some chocolate brown accent walls. Minimal artwork and mild, intimate lighting. It would need to be small, between 40 and 60 seats with a few more high-tops and stools at the bar. The tables would be dark, polished wood without tablecloths. No bullshit like candles or wine bottles on the table, maybe just a small peppermill and a vessel for salt. The music would be louder than most restaurants with a wide range of music. Everything from the Pixies and The Cure to A Tribe Called Quest and The Pharcyde. The feeling would be relaxed and unpretentious, with the focus being on the food rather than the décor.
* The kitchen would be setup in five basic stations:
1. Fish: This station would be run by the single greatest line cook I have ever worked with, Lorenzo. His station would consist of a six top range and a French top to the right that he would share with the meat station. A long salamander would be located above him and stretch the length of the line. All fish entrees, as well as hot apps would be fired on his station.
2. Meat: Owning this station would be a man I would trust on the line, no matter the circumstance. His name of Ryan, unless you are a Hispanic, which then his name becomes Bryum. His station would consist of a large charcoal grill and the other half of the French top that he shares with Lorenzo. Not only would he be responsible for all meat entrees but he would act as the saucier as well. Constantly reducing and mounting sauces on the flat top.
3. Pasta: This would be my home away from home. I would be positioned at the end of the line and act as expeditor as well. I would produce all the pasta dishes as well as veg for the other entrees.
4. Cold: The cold station would be located directly across from the hot line, creating a alley in between for food to be picked up. It would be a 2-man station ran by interns and “virgins” (the idea of virgins will be described later in the post). They would create all salads, cold apps, fried items and plating of charcuterie.
5. The Rover: In a perfect world, this station would be run by the most talented culinary mind I know, Douglas. He would be positioned in the alley between all the stations. He would see every single plate before it leaves the kitchen. He would place final garnishes and keep tickets organized, making sure the right food went to the right place. He would also know every dish on the menu and be able to hop on any station at anytime to pull people out of the weeds.
Here is a mock up of the kitchen setup:
Yes, it is drawn in crayon. And yes, my food looks better than my artwork.
Our menu would be simple and approachable. The basic menu would change four times throughout the year with the four seasons. It would always consist of 2 fish entrees, 2 grilled meat entrees, a braised meat entrée, 2 pastas, 3 cold apps, 3 hot apps as well as a few salads and various desserts. Instead of having a pastry chef, each cook would be responsible for the creation and execution of one dessert. There would also be 2 app and four entrée specials everyday. A charcuterie plate would be also be on the menu everyday. It would simply be served on a butcher block and contain a large selection of cured meats, pickled veg and plenty of condiments. It would constantly be changing as the various sausages and cured meats became ready. The theme of the menu would not be based on a certain cuisine of the world, but rather on what is fresh and available.
The Chef’s Table
I feel like the idea of having a true chef’s table has been overlooked in our society, we would change that. It would be a table with a full view of the happenings in the kitchen. You would get to see the good and the bad. No menus would be handed out, you would simply be fed what we would like to feed you and it would keep coming until you asked it to stop. The chef who created the dish would bring it to you and fully explain it to you. You would never see a server or need to order a drink. If you are a picky eater, please don’t ask for the chef’s table. Allergies would be taken into consideration, but the experience would be a lot less awesome. Eating at this table you would be treated like royalty.
Closed Mondays (meetings and menu planning would take place as needed)
Open Tuesday through Sunday 3 – 11
Happy hour from 3-5 everyday with drink specials and full menu served
Every first Sunday of the month, the last seating would be at 9, we would re-open from 11-2 for “Family Meal.” It would be a time for people in the service industry to come in and hang out. You would show your food handlers card and pay a flat fee to get in. We would have a keg and some bottles of cheap wine, as well as a few platters of charcuterie and other tasty vittles to enjoy. The music would be loud and it would just be a night full of love between fellow kitchen slaves.
The Basic Daily Routine
9:00 A.M. – I roll in and get prep lists together, finish various paperwork and get set up for the day. I figure out family meal, get the radio turned on and start rolling out pasta.
12:00 P.M. – Cooks, and externs roll in and start to get to work on their prep lists. Stations begin to get set up and orders are received and put away. Minimal talking takes place to ensure focus.
1:00 P.M. – Specials are put up in the pass and everyone gathers around to taste and discuss any changes that need to be made. We all get our final mise done and proteins pulled.
2:00 P.M. – Family meal and shit talking commence.
3:00 P.M. – Game faces on and radio turned off. We turn from relaxed and chatty to focused and quiet.
—————————- Service Commences and we Kill It ——————————–
9:00 P.M. – I hop off the line, do all of the ordering and get some office work done
11:00 P.M. – Service is done, radio is turned back on and we all rally out putting food away and cleaning up.
12:00 A.M. – Lorenzo breaks down and season’s proteins (always season proteins the night before, thanks to a Judy Rogers). Ryan works on stocks/sauces. Douglas and I make charcuterie magic. One virgin assists where prep is needed and the other one mans the dry erase board. As we work and crack a few beers, we brainstorm specials for the next day and they are all written down on the dry erase board (an extensive collection of cookbooks and reference materials would also be located in the kitchen).
1:00 A.M. – We finalize our specials based on our brainstorming session and place and final orders accordingly. From here we either go our separate ways and head home, or try and get a few cocktails at a local bar before last call.
I am referring to people that have little or no experience in a kitchen at all. These are the people we want working here. These are the people we love. We enjoy “bringing them up,” and showing them the things we have learned in our years in kitchens. They are such an important part in the operations of our kitchen. They would always be treated with respect, but also be put through the school of hard knocks. If they didn’t listen or made a stupid mistake they would be put in their place. If they needed to, they would be allowed to cry and hold their heads in shame. The next day the slate would be wiped clean and they would start fresh. I am not a fan of screaming and yelling in the kitchen, but I also feel like kitchen employees should not be coddled either.
The Front of House
I idolize Chef Michael Carlson of Schwa in Chicago. He has opened a very successful and amazing restaurant without having servers in the dining room. It is every chef’s dream to work in an operation like this, but I don’t feel like I could go that route. I feel like servers are a very important link in a restaurant. The key is hiring servers that give a shit about the food being produced. Servers in my restaurant would have to understand the food being served. Server training would involve working multiple shifts next to a chef at the pass before ever working the floor. This not only ensures that they would know and understand every dish, but it would also allow them the time to ask any possible question they might have about the food. On the other hand, I would have all new kitchen employees spend a shift trailing an experienced server and running food. This would also have them gain a respect for the servers as well as understanding the flow of the restaurant. Camaraderie between the front and the back of the house is so important to running a successful shift. I have never worked in a restaurant where this has come to fruition and I would accept nothing less.
This restaurant would be amazing. Enough said. Now……..where can I get the money to make it happen?
THE ALL STAR TEAM:
Starting on saute: The Puerto Rican Papi Chulo
Starting On Grill : Bryum Culito
Starting on Pasta: Coby Coby Na Na Na
Starting at Rover: Doug the Enforcer