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gfron1

Starting a high profile new restaurant (after closing another)

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1 hour ago, gfron1 said:

And yet we're still looking into what damn coup is acceptable!

 

I had to grin when I read this. I recently starting making a couple of cocktails that just wouldn't be the same in something other than a coupe. After my typical relentless research, I wound up with the prosaic but very practical 5.5 oz Luminarc, from BB&B. It survives our dishwasher very nicely and is the perfect size for my current (and probably future) favorite, a Corpse Reviver #2.

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Great adventure. I think you can BREATHE and know your food is great. Fermentation - such a trend as in Noma and lots of US places. .My best suggestion is to remember folks are in your restaurant for a meal that tastes great and to be offerd excellent welcoming service. 

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19 hours ago, gfron1 said:

The next day we went to Cleveland to see my buddy Jeremy Umanski who has become the kind of koji here in the US. He's doing so many amazing ferments and cures...and the day before got a JBF nomination!

 

Some more comments about this would be more than welcome, thanks!

 

 

 

Teo

 

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@teonzo, what would you like me to talk more about?

 

With only eight days until we take possession, now I can share the part of the story that I haven't been able to talk about, and the one that has cost me so many sleepless nights. Money.

 

With the Curious Kumquat we had virtually no start-up money, no private business experience and only a few years equity in our home to use as collateral. Yet somehow that was enough for the local bank to give us a start-up loan for the CK (which started as a grocery not a restaurant). A few years later they trusted us enough to do a full SBA loan to buy a $250k building to expand into. Both loans were relatively fast and easy. And then, of course, we had a strong business run that lasted a decade. 

 

Coming to St Louis I thought, "They loaned us the money last time with nothing but a pretty business plan, so this should be easy." I even found a lender in the first month back in town who looked over the new business plan and agreed that it should be easy. Fast forward two and a half years later (the time it took for us to find the right building and landlord), and we finally had a lease back in September which allowed us to officially apply for the loan. I updated our business plan with the correct expenses related to the lease, and submitted the application to the lender. I felt confident because we brought about 25% cash to the deal, along with $200k equity in our New Mexico building, plus a strong track record of success, lots of media hype...I thought it was a super solid application! And the lender agreed.

 

But then his underwriters stepped in. They took nearly three months to decline me because they don't loan to startup restaurants. I wish I would have known that earlier so I didn't just waste three months (I was into December at that point). So I scrambled and put together a few applications for other SBA lenders. In all I applied to nine banks, some local, some national, some large, some small...all on the SBA list of lenders. With every single one of them a loan officer or VP for lending or some other such title would say, "This is a really strong application. We shouldn't have any trouble." And yet They would take a few weeks and ultimately deny because we were a start-up, or the collateral was out of state and they don't take out of state collateral (I knew I should have bought a mobile home.)

 

I learned quickly and painfully that even when you see VP under the name of the person who is saying, "This should be easy," they don't have any power over the underwriters. All of the explaining and selling and shmoozing only get you through the first gate. The second gate is all about mathematic formulas and check boxes, and subjectivity is mostly tossed out the window. And I've learned that these guys are ultimately just sales people. They want the deal so they get the commission, so they'll say what they need to to get you to apply in the hopes that you'll get approved. I do not think kindly of this tier of bank employee anymore as you might guess.

 

In one of my most severe moments of panic (because I was at about six weeks to opening) I asked for coffee meetings with some of the big money players in the business district that we're going to be in, with the goal of either securing them as a private investor, or a referral to someone who could help. Basic networking. This gave me the ability to call a bank that I hadn't even heard of, and to drop a few names of clients of theirs who referred me. This bank offered a creative solution which split the loan into two different loans - one being a home equity line of credit, and the other a traditional business loan. No SBA loan at all. The only reason this worked was they had just (the week prior) purchased a bank in New Mexico...and voila! my property was in-state collateral!

 

So to do the math for you...We take possession of the finished building on 3/18. The first loan closed 3/8. The second loan closes 3/15. I could not have cut this any closer!

 

From day one my real estate broker, the landlord's broker, my insurance agent, the contractors...they all said, "Don't worry, it always comes through in the end." None of them knew just how close this came to not happening, and I only just started sharing this story last week for fear of spooking any of the players (and my employees). I can tell you that last Friday Tyler and I went out for a nice dinner and I finally had a decent night's sleep after six months of stressing over funding. Now I only lose sleep because I actually have to start cooking good food!

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That's a lot of sleepless nights! Happy it's all coming together albeit so late in the game.

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13 minutes ago, Kerry Beal said:

That's a lot of sleepless nights! Happy it's all coming together albeit so late in the game.

I seriously said to Tyler about two weeks ago, "We still have enough we could move to Mexico and disappear." That's how scared i was. 

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1 hour ago, gfron1 said:

I seriously said to Tyler about two weeks ago, "We still have enough we could move to Mexico and disappear." That's how scared i was. 

What an awful feeling. I know the early days of EZtemper were sleepless. The costs were far higher than I was led to believe and I wasn’t sharing the info with the hubby. I hope you see a profit quicker than I seem to be.

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1 hour ago, gfron1 said:

I seriously said to Tyler about two weeks ago, "We still have enough we could move to Mexico and disappear." That's how scared i was. 

I am laughing because I don’t really ever believe you would give up and do that. It’s not in your DNA. 

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It will all be worth it when we get you that James Beard award

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That's brutal...a clear example of how the fallacious "restaurants are inherently riskier than other startups" narrative becomes self-fulfilling.

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21 hours ago, gfron1 said:

@teonzo, what would you like me to talk more about?

 

My spontaneous answer would be "everything" but I suppose you would kill me, hahahaha.

The thing I'm more interested about is the vegetable charcuterie, if you can tell something about how it tastes and how it's made, then it would be great, thanks.

 

 

 

Teo

 

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Be strong, because these will not be the last troubles you'll have to face, especially in the first years of a new business.

I would suggest you to look for the best ways to dissolve your stress. Between the long hours of kitchen jobs and the big pressure you are putting yourself into, then there will be a lot of stress coming your way. Better trying to keep it at manageable levels, both for the quality of life and your performances (the more stressed a person is, the worst he/she performs).

From what you write you seem at high stress levels in this moment, better taking precautions.

 

 

 

Teo

 

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1 hour ago, teonzo said:

My spontaneous answer would be "everything" but I suppose you would kill me, hahahaha.

The thing I'm more interested about is the vegetable charcuterie, if you can tell something about how it tastes and how it's made, then it would be great, thanks.

Jeremy simply washes the whole, unpeeled beets, turnips, carrots, etc and coats them in koji spores. I'm not sure which specific type, but I know he buys them directly from Japan. Then they go a week or until he gets the proper pH level. That's it. Into the case and sliced thin. The taste is similar to any cured salami but the basis is a bit sweeter. The texture is similar as well including the gritty outside.

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Thanks! There's so much to explore with fermentation. Makes me think we are like in the Middle Food Ages.

 

 

 

Teo

 

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I don't know what it says, but to be on the short list with Coi is good enough for me! (Seriously though, this is from a fine dining magazine in Korea that reached out to us for a foraged fine dining story.)

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Tourism!  Who knows...

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Yesterday I squeaked in another trip to the Ozarks, this time to the Missouri bootheel, to visit the sorghum producer I'm hoping to use. Sorghum has oddly been a challenge because I wanted someone in the Ozarks, not in Mississippi or Kentucky, and certainly not one who cuts their syrup with corn syrup. The latter really is problematic once you start talking to people in the field and learn about the rampant fraud to occurs to cut costs. Hence my visit - I needed to look around and see how things were done. 

 

This particular producer has some really cool stuff going on including that he has built all of his own equipment, and bought parts from the Steen Family who produces a delicious burnt sugar syrup. These gears and flywheel were purchased from them and are over 100 years old. The flywheel is 12' tall to give yo perspective.

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This farmer grows three types of sweet sorghum, one growing upwards of 20'. Once the juice is pressed out there's mountains of spent stalk which he hopes to convert to bio-fuel.

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But inside was the good stuff. Barrel after barrel of syrup, most of it intended for other uses (alcohol or vinegar), but he keeps a few special barrels for himself...letting me dip my finger in for a taste.

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Then we wen to his next barn where he's stilling vodka and whiskey...more tastes...

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I can tell you I really like sorghum and hope to introduce or reintroduce folks to the taste. Its nothing like molasses, and depending on the varietal the flavor can go from grassy and bright to citrusy to umami and chocolatey. @kayb is the one who introduced me to the concept of freshness, and I've already talked to this farmer about being there when he boils down this fall so I can taste the difference. I want to try something similar to a Beaujolais release party, except with the sorghum syrup.

 

When I was done I headed over to a small river town and found some roadside BBQ.

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And then headed back up I-55 pulling off for some fried pies!

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5 hours ago, gfron1 said:

This farmer grows three types of sweet sorghum, one growing upwards of 20'. Once the juice is pressed out there's mountains of spent stalk which he hopes to convert to bio-fuel.

 

This is really interesting! I used sorghum flour, but never heard about any edible use for the stalks. Stalks were used mostly for making brooms or for compost. Next time I'll talk with a farmer that cultivates sorghum I'll try to ask if he is interested in trying to make this syrup.

Can you suggest some reliable sources for the production method please? Thanks!

 

 

 

5 hours ago, gfron1 said:

Barrel after barrel of syrup, most of it intended for other uses (alcohol or vinegar)

 

Alcohol in the sense that this sorghum syrup is distilled like for making rum? Or fermented like for beer / cider? Can you describe the final result please?

 

 

 

Teo

 

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11 minutes ago, teonzo said:

Alcohol in the sense that this sorghum syrup is distilled like for making rum? Or fermented like for beer / cider? Can you describe the final result please?

You'll see above the picture of the barrels of whiskey and vodka.

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1 hour ago, gfron1 said:

You'll see above the picture of the barrels of whiskey and vodka.

 

I thought they were made the standard way, not with sorghum, sorry.

 

 

 

Teo

 

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Ahhhhhh, new sorghum. With crackling cornbread, slab bacon, and tomatoes, please.

 

I'd be perfectly happy with that as my last meal.

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Here's a BBC article about pokeweed. Will it be finding its way onto your menu?

 

Quote

Pokeweed was a dietary staple throughout Appalachia for generations. “It was a food that you ate mostly because you were poor, and that’s not necessarily something that everyone wanted to embrace,” said Mike Costello, chef and farmer at Lost Creek Farm in West Virginia. As subsequent generations became more financially successful than their parents’, the need to forage wild foods dwindled.

 

“Most narratives about foods like poke sallet are associated with shame, poverty or desperation – but to me, the story is more about ingenuity and resourcefulness,” Costello said. “Those are things that people can be proud of.”

 

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31 minutes ago, Alex said:

Here's a BBC article about pokeweed. Will it be finding its way onto your menu?

But of course :)

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We're really there now...the subcontractors are disappearing daily because they've finished their work. Buying donuts this morning for the remaining workers. I won't be posting any more pics until we open because these finishing touches are so gorgeous. 

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