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I'm opening a restaurant...Oh S&%T!


gfron1
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and then give up any form of social life and sleep to maintain it.

It's funny that you should say this today. For the first three years that we were in town, we were invited to so many parties and get togethers. Fairly recently we must have been bumped from the A list, and our guess is that it's because we're already at the store so much. Today I heard about a party that we always have gone to and this year we didn't even know about it. Since we're not out as much, people don't think about us, and so we don't get invited. With the restaurant, we'll be even less out and about. We enjoy our faux celebrity and have built much of our business on it, so I hope we can find a way to stay out there.

You need to push a catering menu to your friends and get paid for your social life. Then you have both. Somethng not over the top, like tasting trays. Whoops, there's more pointing people to your desserts!

Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
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Here I am at 5:30, having been awake in bed for over an hour, my mind going through the checklist for tonight's sampling.  I'll report out on that later - lot's of problems to work through related to having a kitchen handy for this meal, but I won't for the cater.

But right now I'm thinking about how my current supplier, Zanios, is charging me $2/lb for brisket - just standard brisket and Sysco is offering me Niman Ranch brisket at $1.80/lb.  That's a no-brainer, but I've also heard these companies like to suck you in with a good price, then raise the rates once they have you.  Any one have that experience?

You write the checks and as long as you keep that empowerment you can make them jump through hoops like poodles. Continue to shop it as a standard operating procedure.

Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
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Here's the dilemma on the cater tasting tonight. (recapping) The bridesmade has been my only point of contact and she worked up a very conservative menu. The bride contacted me late last week and didn't want the very conservative menu. Being inexperienced I said I would do tastings for both. I realized how foolhardy this was so I've compromised. I'll be doing a little from both menus. I figure the point is so they can see my skills - meaning they will have confidence that their food will be good, and secondly to figure out what they want. After this, I'll do menu negotiations but not another tasting (anyone disagree with this strategy?).

So for tonight, my plan is to serve them the following, in this order, to highlight what I think they'll like and leave tastes in their mouth that make sense.

BBQ chicken (dark meat only) on sweet potatoe biscuit

Spring/salad rolls (sauce already inside)

Asparagus/serrano spears with some sauce (I'm pulling out my sauce book next)

Swedish potato salad (Nod to the mom)

Bruschetta, tomato, pinon and parmesan

Traditional brisket

Fun brisket

And I'll be serving them some fun drink. It will all be served on plastic since that's how the wedding will be.

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Here's the dilemma on the cater tasting tonight.  (recapping) The bridesmade has been my only point of contact and she worked up a very conservative menu.  The bride contacted me late last week and didn't want the very conservative menu.  Being inexperienced I said I would do tastings for both.  I realized how foolhardy this was so I've compromised.  I'll be doing a little from both menus.  I figure the point is so they can see my skills - meaning they will have confidence that their food will be good, and secondly to figure out what they want.  After this, I'll do menu negotiations but not another tasting (anyone disagree with this strategy?). 

So for tonight, my plan is to serve them the following, in this order, to highlight what I think they'll like and leave tastes in their mouth that make sense.

BBQ chicken (dark meat only) on sweet potatoe biscuit

Spring/salad rolls (sauce already inside)

Asparagus/serrano spears with some sauce (I'm pulling out my sauce book next)

Swedish potato salad (Nod to the mom)

Bruschetta, tomato, pinon and parmesan

Traditional brisket

Fun brisket

And I'll be serving them some fun drink.  It will all be served on plastic since that's how the wedding will be.

You know what would be easy and right up a cowboy/biker's alley? A big ol' honkin' pot of beans.

Edited by RAHiggins1 (log)
Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
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You know what would be easy and right up a cowboy/biker's alley? A big ol' honkin' pot of beans.

Yep, it has the additional benefit of gifting the bride and groom with one complimentary bubble bath for the honeymoon.

Regarding Sysco, you just have to be firm with your rep. We had problems out of them the first time around, we dropped them, they begged, bargained and pleaded us to try again and we squeezed some pretty sweet deals out of them (mainly in the realm of fixed prices on things we use a lot of, such as mozzerella, that tend to climb more often than you can adjust for easily) before going partially on board with them again. We use a seperate supplier for our meats, I haven't had good luck with Sysco meats being what I want it to be, and we get our breads from a local bakery. I enjoy baking bread but there's just not room for doing it in house at this time. The main advice I can give you on Sysco is always check your invoices carefully, not just that everything arrived in good condition (we very rarely have a problem with quality or condition from them) but the numbers as well. All of the numbers. Make your rep waive things like minimum order charge ($25 a drop here if you order under a set amount). If he/she says they can't do that tell them yes they can. Because they can and will if they have to. Sysco is a big company with a lot of money and they know all of the fine print tricks to milk more money out of you (kinda like cell phone companies) but most of it can be bargained out of the picture if you call them on it. Just make sure to watch the invoices even after that because the reps don't always "remember" to relay that information to the billing department and it may be up to you to catch it and say nope, not paying that.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Good luck on the tasting+catering, Rob, and good luck on the restaurant! I'm surprised you have any time at all to come here and tell us about it!

(I'm eGullet taught too. I wonder if this is a sign of things to come for me, lol.)

Mark

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - Collaborative book reviews about food and food culture. Submit a review today! :)

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I can see it now...scrawny Rob walks up to the biggest, burliest, hairiest biker, "Excuse me m'am, are you recreational or hardcore?"

I'll have a 50/50 chance of living!

Not to belabor the point or anything like that, BUT BELIEVE ME YOU WILL be able to tell! If said biker is big and burly and hairy, they are most likely hardcore. The recreational bikers look like the guys in "Hog Wild" (the good guys, that is...) :laugh:

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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I can see it now...scrawny Rob walks up to the biggest, burliest, hairiest biker, "Excuse me m'am, are you recreational or hardcore?"

I'll have a 50/50 chance of living!

Not to belabor the point or anything like that, BUT BELIEVE ME YOU WILL be able to tell! If said biker is big and burly and hairy, they are most likely hardcore. The recreational bikers look like the guys in "Hog Wild" (the good guys, that is...) :laugh:

Real bikers are few and far between. I own a 84" Harley Shovelhead FLH Shrine, I don't consider myself hardcore, but also am no wild hog. I've been restoring my bike for way too long. I tore it completely down and life happened I'm still trying to recover. It will be ok, they are just people. Now if she says oh, they're hells angels or outlaws then you need to worry.

Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
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I'm checking in. One hour til guests come. Everything is on track. I went a bit too dark on my alternative brisket - which ended up being harissa rubbed. Still looks tasty though. I used Pam R's method to cook. My beans are a bit salty so I threw a potato in hoping that's not just a wives' tale. Biscuits are in the oven, salads done...its all looking good. I'm about to get going on spring rolls prep and a few last touches, and keeping this kitchen clean just in case they find their way back to it. Now we'll see if the family can come to agreement on a menu. BTW, I made a mayonnaise and then added morels soaked in sherry - very, very good. That will drizzle on the asparagus.

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My beans are a bit salty so I threw a potato in hoping that's not just a wives' tale. 

It is.

Hopefully they'll make it easy on you. I don't do weddings. I hate turning down income but, at least for now, I don't do weddings. Too many people sticking their opinions in and claiming to have authority to makes decisions. Too much indecision. I just don't have the patience.

Edited by Tri2Cook (log)

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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What a rush! Its over. I felt like you guys were with me. They loved everything except the salty beans - and they taught me how to make the beans. I need to clean and eat, but what a success! Thanks all - details tomorrow. Pictures coming.

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Just on the sandwich thing: you might consider offering different sizes. Here in Vancouver we have a Jewish deli that offers 'full order' and 'not so hungry' sandwiches, and a butcher's deli that uses circular foccacia and you buy a 1/4, 1/2 or whole . (A whole one can feed a small family!) They also throw in a bag of housemade potato chips.

The butcher's sandwiches are generously filled and priced very competitively and the line ups are out the door and down the street.

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What a rush!  Its over.  I felt like you guys were with me.  They loved everything except the salty beans - and they taught me how to make the beans.  I need to clean and eat, but what a success!  Thanks all - details tomorrow.  Pictures coming.

I guess brisket sandwiches will be the special this week. Mmmmm.. brisket melt.

Edited by RAHiggins1 (log)
Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
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BTW, "The Rob" is double the meat with an extra layer of bread in the center of the sandwich.  Its a big'un.

This sounds like a club sandwich. Could you add a club sandwich section to your menu for the heartier eaters? Charge $1.50 more and include potato salad or whatever extra you settle on. That way, the lighter eaters would still be able to get their smaller portions.
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Okay, here we go, starting with the food first. You'll see the influence (some very directly) of your recommendations.

I was attempting to be logical in how I presented the food so that I could give them a wow, then a less wow, and hopefully, carry emotional momentum through the whole tasting. I also was thinking all along how to provide food that can sit in a bucket or pan for hours on end and still be fresh and tasty when it comes time to serve it.

I started with BBQ chicken on sweet potato biscuits. The sweet potatoes were not nearly as flavorful as I wanted and it did effect the flavor of the biscuits, but they were still very popular. In fact, the family argued for a good half hour if these shouldn't be an entree instead of an appetizer. I used some bottled zesty BBQ sauce on thigh meat - I wanted a high fat content which turned out to be a good choice (and a good value). Contrary to the picture, they were served closed, not open face. I made them a bit larger than I will for the event, and I did explain that to the family.

gallery_41282_4708_882.jpg

Next were the salad rolls. These were the bride's favorite, but everyone else's least. Guess who won that battle? I explained that for the event they won't be cut because I'll get smaller wrappers. And to avoid the mess of dripping dip, we smeared the inside of the wrapper with a bit of spring roll sauce (sweet, spicy). I also suggested that these may not be as appealing in late September. The bride disagreed and who am I to argue.

gallery_41282_4708_33784.jpg

If there was anything that people wanted to lick the plate from, it was this. I made a homemade mayonnaise with sherry soaked morels. Drizzled that on lightly steamed asparagus tips, which were set on serrano ham. You don't see the serrano in the pic because three of the guests were vegetarian, so we were modifying the recipes as we plated.

gallery_41282_4708_26383.jpg

Here's that mayo:

gallery_41282_4708_17236.jpg

And the infamous parma hair bruschetta. I shared that joke with the family which they thought was very funny, but agreed with you all. Fresh tomatoes tossed in six year balsamico, fresh basil, parmesan "nests" with pinon. This also had split feelings. Everyone liked it, but they wanted more garlic. I explained that I try to light on garlic for social events like this, and they appreciated that, but we all agreed it could use a bit more flavor. Easy enough.

gallery_41282_4708_23380.jpg

And finally the entree plate. The Swedish potato salad was a huge hit. It uses white balsamico, a bit of dill relish, and a hint of dijon with celery, onion and potato. The beans were the only flop of the night, which of course is funny. I kept saying to Tyler, "I can't even boil beans. I'm such a failure." Joking of course, but apparently I can't boil beans! :sad: They were so salty that only one person finished them. The family said they would give me their recipe for the event. Their tips, salt only after taking it off the heat and add a handful of green chile. The two briskets were good, but nothing special to me. They unanimously preferred the harissa rubbed brisket to the standard recipe of garlic, salt and pepper. They debated for quite some time if they wanted brisket or a nicer cut. We ended up with brisket.

gallery_41282_4708_31628.jpg

I'll add some more notes in a second - general experiences with the event.

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Hopefully they'll make it easy on you. I don't do weddings. I hate turning down income but, at least for now, I don't do weddings. Too many people sticking their opinions in and claiming to have authority to makes decisions. Too much indecision. I just don't have the patience.

Truer words have never been typed...but I'm in my honeymoon phase with this work so every change in plans is like an angel tickling my toes.

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Just on the sandwich thing: you might consider offering different sizes. Here in Vancouver we have a Jewish deli that offers 'full order' and 'not so hungry' sandwiches, and a butcher's deli that uses circular foccacia and you buy a 1/4, 1/2 or whole . (A whole one can feed a small family!) They also throw in a bag of housemade potato chips.

The butcher's sandwiches are generously filled and priced very competitively and the line ups are out the door and down the street.

This is a great suggestion. I could charge $1 or $1.50 extra for the full which helps people understand why everything is so inexpensive. I had mentioned this whole issue to some older friends and they thought I was crazy, "I can't even finish what your cafe serves me as it is now."

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I guess brisket sandwiches will be the special this week. Mmmmm.. brisket melt.

Actually no. Immediately after, Tyler and I raced to our friends' house - the woman who is doing a tamale making workshop for the eG visitors to the Hatch Chile Festival over Labor Day weekend, and she gave us a personal lesson in making tamales dulces. So she also whipped out some homemade tortillas, and we filled them with brisket and that mayo! I hadn't eaten all day, so there's no brisket left.

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BTW, "The Rob" is double the meat with an extra layer of bread in the center of the sandwich.  Its a big'un.

This sounds like a club sandwich. Could you add a club sandwich section to your menu for the heartier eaters? Charge $1.50 more and include potato salad or whatever extra you settle on. That way, the lighter eaters would still be able to get their smaller portions.

Its better than a club - its a Rob! The fillings are slightly different.

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Alright, more thoughts.

The tasting happened after hours at my store. I set up a table in the main room, draped a gold cloth over the table, set it with plastic cutlery and napkins, "so we can make sure that everything is edible with plastic." In the center I set up a stand of these.

gallery_41282_4708_24484.jpg

This is a picture from another event. I filled the cones with Kedam Rose grape juice - good choice since there were four recovering alcoholics in the group. They all felt appropriately wined and dined, and I think it set a perfect tone for the night. I wore my chef's jacket and basically set out to make them feel special.

After the last of the seven arrived, I explained how the tasting would proceed and said that my goals were to, first, make sure that my cooking skills were consistent with their standards, and second, for us to hone in on a final menu. They appreciated me not assuming I had the job.

At one point they said they wished they had pictures. I laughed since they didn't know they were dealing with an eGulleter! Of course I have pictures. I sent them the link to my blog.

We talked tables, coverings, plates, etc., outlets, where my food would be in relation to the cake, food allergies...you name it, I think we covered it. The mom, who started off being the coldest of the group, after the third dish started whispering in my ear things like, "You are so great. Thank you." and "This is perfect." I think they were ready to deal with someone who could guide them, but also treat them as people and not just customers. For anyone who knows me from eG, you know that I'm not a phony. I just am who I am. I say stupid things regularly. I make an ass of myself occasionally. But I don't try to fake it. And at least with this family, that paid off, especially when those nasty beans came out. Their bond to me grew as the night went on. It was very fun.

The facility is going to offer some unique challenges. Its a 140 year old ranch house saloon/compound. Old adobe. But up to code. I'm going to have to go visit and see what it looks like pretty soon.

Whatever other thoughts I had last night are long gone, so that's it for now. In a related twist of fate...I just got off the phone with a former employee (from my job running drug treatment centers), and she asked if I knew a caterer. Ha! She didn't know what was going on, but she remember the types of food I made. I told her about my changes and she has a job next Friday for 50 people for a tropical themed re-marry/one-year anniversary. Apparently she eloped and her family has nagged her ever since. So I'm working on another menu. My paying job should have just sent me home with pay...

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Alright, more thoughts.

The tasting happened after hours at my store.  I set up a table in the main room, draped a gold cloth over the table, set it with plastic cutlery and napkins, "so we can make sure that everything is edible with plastic."  In the center I set up a stand of these.

gallery_41282_4708_24484.jpg

This is a picture from another event.  I filled the cones with Kedam Rose grape juice - good choice since there were four recovering alcoholics in the group.  They all felt appropriately wined and dined, and I think it set a perfect tone for the night.  I wore my chef's jacket and basically set out to make them feel special. 

After the last of the seven arrived, I explained how the tasting would proceed and said that my goals were to, first, make sure that my cooking skills were consistent with their standards, and second, for us to hone in on a final menu.  They appreciated me not assuming I had the job. 

At one point they said they wished they had pictures.  I laughed since they didn't know they were dealing with an eGulleter!  Of course I have pictures.  I sent them the link to my blog.

We talked tables, coverings, plates, etc., outlets, where my food would be in relation to the cake, food allergies...you name it, I think we covered it.  The mom, who started off being the coldest of the group, after the third dish started whispering in my ear things like, "You are so great.  Thank you."  and "This is perfect."  I think they were ready to deal with someone who could guide them, but also treat them as people and not just customers.  For anyone who knows me from eG, you know that I'm not a phony.  I just am who I am.  I say stupid things regularly.   I make an ass of myself occasionally.  But I don't try to fake it.  And at least with this family, that paid off, especially when those nasty beans came out.  Their bond to me grew as the night went on.  It was very fun.

The facility is going to offer some unique challenges.  Its a 140 year old ranch house saloon/compound.  Old adobe.  But up to code.  I'm going to have to go visit and see what it looks like pretty soon.

Whatever other thoughts I had last night are long gone, so that's it for now.  In a related twist of fate...I just got off the phone with a former employee (from my job running drug treatment centers), and she asked if I knew a caterer.  Ha!  She didn't know what was going on, but she remember the types of food I made.  I told her about my changes and she has a job next Friday for 50 people for a tropical themed re-marry/one-year anniversary.  Apparently she eloped and her family has nagged her ever since.  So I'm working on another menu.  My paying job should have just sent me home with pay...

Tropical themed eh? Polynesian or Carribean? Don Ho or Jimmy Buffet... I doubt most people would be willing to dip their fingers in communal bowl of Poi, but I've already thought up making Taro chips with Poi as a dip. They are both the same thing and you could call it Poi-Poi.. A play on cheesburger in paradise would be fun as well...

Edited by RAHiggins1 (log)
Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
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She'll be here any minute, and I think she is going for Caribbean. I'm thinking jerk chicken skewers, maybe I can do some meat pies, I'll try to talk her into some goat stew (since I still have some), and she better let me make desserts - coconut cheese cake with passionfruit salsa.

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She'll be here any minute, and I think she is going for Caribbean.  I'm thinking jerk chicken skewers, maybe I can do some meat pies, I'll try to talk her into some goat stew (since I still have some), and she better let me make desserts - coconut cheese cake with passionfruit salsa.

Try Escovitch for an appetizer. Red snapper with pickled vegetables.

A nice center piece from the Dutch Antilles is Baked Edam with Shrimp Stuffing.

A Haitian dish I think you would like is "Griots", pork loin braised and glazed in orange and lime juices and served with fried sweet potatoes and bananas.

Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
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