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gfron1

Starting a high profile new restaurant (after closing another)

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34 minutes ago, donk79 said:

 

I am praying for healing, peace and encouragement for you.  May you be well.

This. 

 

I have been a fan since first running across you here on eG, and I count as a very good day the day you visited Jonesboro and we had a few moments to visit. I am anxious for the Covid quarantine to pass so I can visit Bulrush, as my first attempt to do so got cut short by a family emergency.

 

Hang in and hang on.

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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1 hour ago, gfron1 said:

I think in St. Louis, it comes off as cocky and lacking of humility. Is this part of "Midwest-Nice?"

 

I'm a native New Yorker (Brooklyn and Queens) who wound up in Michigan. Forty-some years later, there's a good bit of scarring on my tongue, but I still haven't completely gotten the hang of it. I wouldn't worry too much about that humility thing. 

 

1 hour ago, gfron1 said:

And yes, at some point I need to have a conversation with the critic and find out if I did something wrong or if I just don't have all the facts on the process.

 

I'd vote for the latter. When something has seemed arbitrary or irrational, I've often found there's a hidden agenda somewhere. May I ask which list it is? Is it Ian Froeb's? I see you're #11 there. Was it a return visit he was lacking?

 

Anyhow, I'm glad you're still here on eG, and I'm looking forward to seeing you again this July.

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"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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I do not see or hear bragging or shameless self promotion. I always hear passion, excitement, and a desire to inform eaters with new experiences. I have asked people way more connected and "bigger" than me in other fields why things happened and the percentage of positive wanting to inform has been good. Despite the social isolating issue we are all connected and learn in various ways from one another As my fresh greens supply dwindles I think of you and look to the open spaces and to what I can forage. Often not easy being the inspirational one. As to the idiots (as Mitch told be the other day)  "f 'em"

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I think you are taking it too personal. Which is perfectly natural, it would be worrysome if you weren't. You are putting your whole self in the restaurant, so whatever happens to the restaurant is like if it happened to your body and soul. You should learn to become a bit more detached, for the best of you and the best of things.


Haters gonna hate, no matter what you do. If you did things differently then they would say you are a wuss, a no-balls, or whatever bullshit passes on their minds. There's no way to please haters. You should worry if there were no haters, if they are there then it's totally normal.
You did the right choice on leaving the social media to your staff.


You are taking the criticism in the wrong way. Behind each critic there are personal preferences, there are sponsors and so on. They are human too. Don't think that for sure the others got a visit while you didn't. Many critics rely on a close circle of friends: it's impossible for a single person to have the grasp of a big city, not enough meals during a year if he/she wants to do a good job (meaning visiting a restaurant multiple times). Many of them rely on other trusted people (trusted by the critic), then put their name on those comments/reviews. If you did not see that peculiar person it does not mean that you were not visited, most probably it was one of those friends that fall under the name. If you confront the critic then you are going to make an enemy, it's better if you keep your head down and move on running.
You should try to think with a critic mindset. Their job is becoming more and more difficult. You are not the only new restaurant that is aiming high, with each year passing there are more and more quality restaurants. Just try to compare how many quality restaurants there were 20 years ago and how many there are now. It's impossible to keep up, and it's impossible to make trustful rankings. It's not that there is 1 restaurants deserving a 10/10 score, 2 restaurants deserving 9/10, a handful over 7/10. Now restaurants deserving 8/10 or more are a TON. How do you differentiate a 8.55 from a 8.62? When you visit a restaurant are you able to score it with such accuracy? It's simply an impossible task, a critic will always be dissatisfying many restaurants that deserved to be at the top rankings, there are way too many restaurants that deserve to be there and the criteria to differentiate are small personal details. Just think at what happened in France 50 years ago. There were way LESS quality restaurants at that time, competition was much smaller, it took MANY years for a restaurant to be rewarded 3 michelin stars. Nowadays people want to reach stardom in few months, and these people are A LOT. Which is good, because this means the average quality is skyrocketing. But you should not see this as a defeat, it's like if in the NBA there were 200 players at all-star level.

 

Consider yourself really lucky if you can go foraging. Here we have the 200 metres limit.


You should focus yourself on what really matters, which is happyness and well being. You are realizing the restaurant of your dreams, this should be more than enough to make you super happy. You succeeded in building a solid team in few months, which is no small effort. You built a loyal customer base which is being supportive, another difficult task. You were paying all the bills from the beginning, something most restaurants can only dream. You should think that the glass is 90% full, not 10% empty. It will always be 10% empty, because with time passing the glass becomes bigger and bigger, not matter how much wine you pour it will never be 100% full. And this is the big value of life, it's what keeps us moving forward.

 

 


Teo

 

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Teo

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Some more things to consider, hoping you will take them as constructive.


You wonder why you did not get the recognition you were hoping for. You give the answers in that same post:
"I can think of only a small few dishes (our of the nearly 100) that we created since opening that were dogs. A few nights with complaints of over-salting, and the like."
and in another:
"This is for the base of the ganache. I'll use something much less distinguishable for the shelling."
The keys for a top class restaurant lie in the small details. A restaurant is as good as its valleys, not as its peaks.
You will never hear a top class chef saying "we served only few dogs", that's out of his mind. If something is a dog it must not go out. The primary job of the chef and the sous chef is avoiding this. He serves a dish when he is SURE about its quality and is ready to swear about this. Some dishes won't be as appreciated as he thought, but he will never refer to them as "dogs". A dish must be tried and re-tried, up to when the chef is sure the dish can't be improved (his opinion) and is worthy to be sent out (always his opinion). If not, then it does not go out. Top class restaurants can try a dish dozen of times before putting it out. Most of their tries do not even see the light of the dining room. Restaurants that work with foraged stuff don't work day after day, they work year after year. They develop a dish on year X, then serve it on year X+1. This because it takes time to develop a dish, when they finished the developing process then the season for that produce ended too. They write the results, so the next year they have a trusted dish to go out the first day they receive that produce. If a dish is a bit subpar (a "dog" is much worse than subpar) it's nevr going to be served to a guest. It's eaten by the staff, this is what family meals are meant for: you eat your failures, so you learn from them.
A chef / sous chef worth his salt would never send out an over-salted dish. He would detect it while on the pass, without tasting it. A top class chef is abl to do so using is other senses, smell primarily, but also his sight. Chefs stand at the pass not only to check the look of the dish, but also because they are able to detect these defects and send the dish back without it ever going in the dining room. The most important part of the training of a chef relies on this, on his capability of noticing if the seasoning of a dish is ok without tasting it. It takes years and years of practice. You learn this with years and years of repeating the same stuff. This is the value of the European apprenticeship system (even more for Japan). People start repeating the same menial tasks and learning to do them perfectly. First times a cook works the line he will frequently face the chef sending back one of his dishes. If the dish is oversalted, chef detects it, send it back and kicks the cook ass (literally, not metaphorically). Cook starts to learn this lesson and starts wondering "how did he detect it, does he have superpowers? I want the superpowers too".
These are leaks you have as a chef, you should start to realize this. It's normal to have these leaks, giving your background. You are self-taught, you did not go the apprenticeship way. So you never experienced what it takes to grow with someone that kicks your ass (whose ass was kicked by someone else before, so on), you never had someone showing you these things. So you do not know they exist, if you knew then writing those sentences would have never crossed your mind. Being self-taught has pros and cons. Pros are that you were able to roam freely, this helped you to develop your creativity, your sense of urgency and so on. Cons are the ones I wrote above and many others. As for everything, there are 2 sides of a coin, there is not the perfect road for something.
You want to express your creativity and value the produce you forage while it's in season. These are great qualities. But you should apply the correct sieve to your dishes. From what I read, your sieve has some holes that are bigger than others. Time ago an eGulleter visited your reastaurant and wrote something like "Rob said this dish was last night's turd". That's not the way to go. If I come to your restaurant (which is in the expensive group, not super expensive but still expensive) and you serve me a dish saying it's a "turd" or a "dog", then sorry, I get up at that same moment and go away without paying a single cent (or asking for a full refund if I paid in advance). That's not hospitality: you are saying you are serving something subpar, knowing it being subpar... not any good. First, a subpar dish should never see the light of the official menu. Second, if it escapes and is received badly by the customers, then you take it out immediately and do not serve it to any guest. You prepared a big batch and do not want to waste it? Well, you eat it yourself so you learn. You are not sure about a dish? You serve a very small serving to some guests, out of the official menu, asking if they are willing to taste a new experiment and give you constructive criticism, knowing in advance it's not refined and not the final version. Never serve something official saying it's a turd. If there is a critic in the room, then you are screwed. You will never be able to detect all critics visiting your restaurant, a critic worth his name has his ways to disguise his visit, being it personal visits (read "Garlic and Sapphires" by Ruth Reichl) or by his friends. Only way to succeed is treating every single customer as the most important critic, which means never serving a turd / dog to anyone.
As I wrote, a restaurant is as worth as its valleys, not its peaks. You are not giving enough attention to your valleys. Looking at your peaks is really important, if you don't aim high you will never reach high. But your feet should be strongly rooted on the ground, your ground is your valleys. You need to refine your sieve and do not make the mistakes above. The field of competition is not small, it's HUGE nowadays. And it's composed by tons of people with years of experience in top restaurants under their belt. People who learnt to triple check a dish before sending it out. People who can detect oversalted stuff with their smell. People with higher valleys than yours. Maybe they do not have your creativity / personality. Maybe their peaks are lower than yours. But their valleys are higher than yours, and this is the first thing to watch and consider.
To reach stardom level in these days you need many more qualities than years ago. You need high and constant quality (which means your valleys should be almost as high as your peaks). You need luck (right position at the right time). You need the correct diplomatic friendships. You need strong PR. Nowadays there are hundreds of chefs deserving the spotlight. People who worked 5+ years in 3 michelin star restaurants have developed all the necessary skills to open a restaurant at top class quality, they are not 5, they are not 50... they are in the thousands. Serving top quality food is not enough anymore. It takes much much more. Most of these people are going to be disappointed because they won't reach the spotlight they hoped for. And it won't be by their fault, they have the qualities. Simply the field is more and more full of high level restaurants. It's more and more difficult to reach the spotlight.
Think about Paul Bocuse. It took almost 10 years to him to reach 3 star level, and those were the "easy" years about competition. 10 years. Paul Bocuse. Do you think you are a better chef than Paul Bocuse?

 

 

 

Teo

 


Teo

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On 4/13/2020 at 9:17 PM, kayb said:

 

Hang in and hang on.

 

I'm coming, too.  Just as soon as I can get there.

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48 minutes ago, SLB said:

 

I'm coming, too.  Just as soon as I can get there.

Me too!  Can’t wait to try your food.

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48 minutes ago, SLB said:

 

I'm coming, too.  Just as soon as I can get there.

 

SLB, have you read about this year's anticipated StL gathering?


"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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On 4/13/2020 at 7:07 PM, gfron1 said:

most of you don't even know me let alone like me or care about me since for most of you I'm just a screen name


I don't know you outside of a screen... but that's the only part of that line that would be accurate for me. You have no idea how much of an influence you were on what I was doing in my early days here. That was probably the most creative period of my entire life and it was largely fueled by our interactions here. I've never had a problem with ideas, I still don't. What you did without even realizing it was push me to get off my butt and make those ideas happen. You were also completely willing to question things that needed to be questioned. That's important. It's not as easy as people think to get someone to say what they really think instead of just gushing politely over everything while shaking their head inside. You've moved forward and are now more an inspiration to me than an influence because we're working in entirely different settings. But I'm still influenced in a lot of ways. Particularly in the areas of localism and food ethics. Life's twists and turns have made us less interactive online friends than we once were but you'll never be "just a screen name" as far as I'm concerned.
 

On 4/13/2020 at 7:07 PM, gfron1 said:

I'm currently operating under the thought that I don't have the skills or maturity to understand the nuance of "informing" and "lacking humility,"


I'm thinking you should at least consider the distinct possibility of the opposite. That they lack the skills and maturity to understand that particular nuance.
 

On 4/13/2020 at 7:07 PM, gfron1 said:

A couple of weeks before the semi-finalist announcements I was interviewing a new PR firm and was told directly that we wouldn't get consideration because the foundation has encouraged its committees to focus on diversity.


I'm not going to say much on that subject other than to say that, while I'm completely onboard with insisting people are given fair consideration in the interest of diversity, I am not ok with people being intentionally excluded for that reason.
 

On 4/13/2020 at 7:07 PM, gfron1 said:

And finally we get to COVID.


Yes we do. And I have no doubt you'll come out of the other end of this like you were shot from a cannon. It's obvious from what you've shared that you still have things to prove (maybe accomplish would be a better word) for your own happiness and peace of mind. Given what I've watched you accomplish over the time I've known you, it's going to take a lot more than a global pandemic to put the brakes on that.

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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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17 hours ago, Alex said:

 

SLB, have you read about this year's anticipated StL gathering?

 

I'll check it out!  Along with a pandemic prayer.

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