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Z Kitchen


BryanZ
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Avid eG participants have probably heard of my desire to open up a unique, private dining experience in the Triangle in other threads. Now that I'm back in North Carolina, I'm now in the process of making this a reality. For those who don't know, I'm a full-time student, but hopefully this project will grow and take on a life of its own.

So I have the space, the equipment, and the ideas to create a dining concept unlike anything else in the Triangle, serving hypermodern cuisine out of a private residence. My inspiration for the project came from the late and great StudioKitchen in Philadelphia.

I invite you all to check out my website, Z Kitchen, to learn more. There you will find a more detailed overview of what I'm trying to do.

Just so you have an idea, here's a menu I served last night.

gallery_28496_2870_8536.jpg

And a couple dishes not on the website.

gallery_28496_2870_482408.jpg

gallery_28496_2870_631091.jpg

I'd love to answer questions or field comments if people have them.

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Bryan:

Love what you're trying to do, but I fear for the longevity of your project with you being so "obvious" with it. With no food safety courses or chef's background running a Health Department approved kitchen, you're really begging for trouble what with the website and all your posts here.

Fly a bit lower under the radar, my friend.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I understand where you're coming from, but in all honesty I'm hosting private dinner parties.

I'd rather not talk too much about that aspect of things though.

I understand where you're coming from too, but not talking about it (or at least thinking it through very carefully in terms of what info is made public and your choice of wording) doesn't make the issue go away.

Not trying to piss in your Wheaties, dude. This is all said with great respect and good wishes for your success. I've just been around a little longer and am concerned for the welfare of your project, as well as yourself.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Strait up, you're gonna get nailed for serving food out of a non-inspected kitchen, tax evasion, selling liquor without a license (unless it's strictly BYO)... It's also shady to be operating a business out of a university campus, that's grounds to get kicked out at the very least, the university would also likely be able to take other legal actions against you. What you're doing is very illegal, especially since you're advertising it to the public.

That being said, I have experience in these kinds of matters, the #1 rule is that when you're doing something illegal, don't get caught. This means don't advertise it, make sure only trusted people know what you're doing, make sure your clients have references so you know they're trustworthy - especially since you're bringing them to your house. Ideally when doing something illegal, you don't want anyone to know who you are or where you stay, but since you've already broke those rules you need to have 100% trust in everyone else...

If I were you I'd stick to schoolwork, do a few dinner parties for you friends, cook your date dinner, and don't make a profit off any of it. Illegal activities never lead to anything good, it's best to stay legit... (too many people I grew up around learned this the hard way - thankfully I managed to avoid jailtime and for the most part stay out of trouble)

If you REALLY want a career as a chef, start up a legitimate restaurant in a mini-mall in the suburbs or something.... If you advertise right (keep the website, re-work it a bit, try to get on TV or into newspapers, make friends with industry people) you can get a decent foodie following that's willing to travel to eat unique food - and the rent is lower in the suburbs making it a good place for a first-time business. I know down here there's plenty of niche-businesses that seem to be doing pretty well.

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What I was planning on doing was to form a "club" A nominal fee gets them a membership and subscription to your newsletter.. There are also weekly meetings where food is discussed and enjoyed.. To attend the meeting there is obviously a fee..

A restaurant is totally illegal and not worth it.. But a club, a group of like minded people who gather to discuss and enjoy the arts.. Well thats what college is all about..

Also, since its your club, I only think it would be right if you became the treasurer, president, and social chair..

Edited by Daniel (log)
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Bryan,

First of all, the stuff looks awesome! And while I think that everyone so far has made very good points (all of them in the interest of you not getting into trouble), I think that you should figure out the way to keep pushing forward. I am pretty sure that it's not illegal to have people over for dinner! Correct me if I am wrong, but I don't think you are doing this for the money. So if you have people buying the groceries (or at least just covering the cost of the groceries), I think you could argue that it's not a business... I would be very cautious about charging a "fee" or "cover".

More importantly, I had some questions for you: How are you going about putting together your "menu" and how much prep time is this taking you (I am assuming you are doing this alone)? What has been the reception so far? Do people like the food? Is NC ready for this type of avant-garde cooking you are so fond of?

I wish you the best of luck!

Arley Sasson

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I know many of you are concerned about the legality of Bryan's concept. He's a big boy and based on the language of his website, he's sought counsel on this issue. I'm a lawyer who knows the laws regarding running restaurants in NC, and although I haven't spoken to Bryan about any legal aspect of what he's doing, it clearly appears he's done some things to mitigate the risk. If he's not, then he'll pay the price, but let's not dwell on those issues. Instead, let's talk about the food!

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Bryan, please talk about a few things. How was the flatware? Do you like it in action? How many people did you serve? What do your dishes look like? What was the cost of ingredients, and who came? And, how long did the prep take? More about the nuts and bolts of doing this, please!

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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How are you going about putting together your "menu" and how much prep time is this taking you (I am assuming you are doing this alone)? What has been the reception so far? Do people like the food? Is NC ready for this type of avant-garde cooking you are so fond of?

I'm cooking the food I like to cook. This is a learning experience so my menus are a direct result of my ideas and the ideas of others who I respect.

Reception has been quite good if a little bit surprised that I'd be undertaking just a project. I honestly just want to cook for people and help them think about food in a new way. I'm not sure if these people will be people I meet on campus or through other avenues.

Which brings me to your very pertinent question, is NC ready for this style of food. To be honest, I don't know of anyone in the area who cooks the way I do with the exception of Sean Brock. Not that I'm putting myself in any sort of league with him and his achievements, but I guess you could say he's the only person in the area doing what I want to do. I'm pretty bored with New Southern cuisine, even New American in general save for a few top notch chefs, so this is my way to kind of blaze my own path.

In my heart of hearts, I don't think NC is ready for this type of food (many would argue even NYC isn't), but I'm going to go at it anyway because my goal here is to share with people my ideas and passion. I'd love to be shown that people will flock to this style of cooking, but I'm not sure I see it.

Bryan, you didn't make the cheese, did you?? How do you procure your food items?

All sorts of puveyors. This is my biggest problem, sourcing. I'm wasting so much time and expense on getting the stuff I want that shopping for one meal could take several hours spread out over several trips and days.

Bryan, please talk about a few things.  How was the flatware?  Do you like it in action?  How many people did you serve?  What do your dishes look like?  What was the cost of ingredients, and who came?  And, how long did the prep take?  More about the nuts and bolts of doing this, please!

I'm proud to say the flatware worked quite well. I have three different sets now, thanks to my roommates, so that angle is covered. I'm still a bit short on china and have no proper stemware. This last fact depresses me, as I've wasted hours searching for stuff cheap enough and not-ugly enough. For this first meal I cooked for five, that included myself, three friends, and a friend's father. Cost is hard to compute right now but I will try to keep better tabs of that. Staple items like oils, vinegars, spices, boxed stocks, are difficult to compute since they're used in small quantities over all types of cooking.

Nuts and bolts operations will be documented somewhere, I'm just not sure where yet.

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I'm proud to say the flatware worked quite well.  I have three different sets now, thanks to my roommates, so that angle is covered.  I'm still a bit short on china and have no proper stemware.  This last fact depresses me, as I've wasted hours searching for stuff cheap enough and not-ugly enough. 

riedel makes a line of stemware for restaurant use that is nicely shaped, nice and thin and yet hard to break--i think it's their R series. runs about $5 a stem. i had a friend in the biz hook me up with a case and i love them.

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Expenses track easily in Excel. Its also good for generating shopping lists and keeping inventory.

Put in the cost of the new bottle of oil. when it runs out, its easy to divide across the meals prepared since it was purchased.

More pix pls!

Maybe there can be an eGullet glassware charity drive. I'd send you some, but its all cheap stuff etched with the names of various wineries, which is probably not what you have in mind.

good luck, have fun.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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First -- best wishes for your endeavor! When I think of what my husband did in his Duke residence ... oy. Having friends in for dinner was the least of it, and he was one of the less-rowdy types. Anyway, this is the type of thing I've always wanted to do myself, and I'm enjoying watching yours take off.

Staple items like oils, vinegars, spices, boxed stocks, are difficult to compute since they're used in small quantities over all types of cooking.

I've always used a standard percentage or cost per portion for this stuff, depending on the volume and type of food.

As long as Tarheels don't get arrested for indigestion from eating dinner on the Duke Dook campus, it doesn't bother me.
:laugh::laugh::laugh::cool: I like this sentence best of all when it looks like this.
"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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Expenses track easily in Excel. Its also good for generating shopping lists and keeping inventory.

Put in the cost of the new bottle of oil. when it runs out, its easy to divide across the meals prepared since it was purchased.

Yeah, I have a rough inventory set up on Excel of the equipment and stuff I have here. Let's just say that I'm more or less guaranteed to be operating at a loss even if I was charging a lot of money. From an investment standpoint, this is hardly viable. It's a good thing I'm not doing it to make money.

Here's a picture of my luxurious kitchen pre-unpacking. It's long and narrow, but actually better than I thought it would be. The lack of light is what I've found to be most challenging right now.

gallery_28496_2870_193146.jpg

I'll post pictures of the living/dining area later.

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Is NC ready for this? Is NYC ready for this? Using avant garde techniques for the sake of using avant garde techniques sake is why this type of food isn't getting translated and taken in very well. Ferran Adria without a doubt started this and continues to do it better than anyone else. Not because he's the innovator, but because he takes something and although makes it magical, keeps it simple. I haven't looked at every single avant garde menu put out, but his food remains the simplest in terms of flavor. Keep it simple....stupid. Have fun with your dinner parties.

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I honestly just want to cook for people and help them think about food in a new way.

I wish you the very best of luck .. you have passion and talent and, hopefully, like my friend Richard Blais, you will find something which best fits your skills!

Blais at BartonG in Miami

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Is NC ready for this?  Is NYC ready for this?  Using avant garde techniques for the sake of using avant garde techniques sake is why this type of food isn't getting translated and taken in very well.

As I've said, I'm not sure if NC is ready for this. I would love to be shown that it is.

I'd say about all of my food is not "avant garde" as an end in itself. It does taste good, and the techniques I most frequently use simply allow me to fabricate better food. This is in no way clearer than in my love of cooking meat proteins sous vide. The results are great and highly repeatable and have almost zero chance of error. The same can be said for my usage of xanthan; it creates great and interesting results.

Yes, I mess around with other stuff, Activa, alginate, etc, but fundamentally I sincerely believe my food tastes good. It's creative in theory, yes, but also tasty in reality. The latter is what ultimately counts the most and what I hope will attract guests.

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So far I've only had one. Others are in the works. I'm kind of in soft-opening now.

Once I start receiving guests I'll have more to show. Once I've settled into school, I'll start experimenting more and revitalize my blog. The problem with this experimentation is that it costs money, which I don't have a ton due to the expenses of getting this off the ground.

Again, obviously this is not how one would run a proper business. Good thing this isn't one.

In the interim, I have several hurdles to clear.

1) Can't advertise traditionally due to cost and other issues

2) Community of students on site does not have disposable income

3) Immediate area is not exactly affluent or into food

4) Surrounding area has money, but I have no way to reach them (see #1) and they are not used to this kind of food and not all that experimental in their tastes

These are the most pressing issues. I'm doing what I can to spread the word, but it's a fine line, so to speak.

Ideally my menus change everytime because this is the way I want to cook. If however repitition is called for, then I might have to do that. It's all about trade-offs.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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that asparagus/poached egg photo is both a gorgeous photo and tasty-looking~! :wub:

but yeah, your food may be "too hip for the house"--meaning it just goes over peoples' heads. but i hope not, because your enthusiasm is infectious... :smile:

edit to add: picky minor point, but you should change that seriffy font on your website to sans-serif and make it larger. i have 30/20 vision and i can barely read it.

Edited by gus_tatory (log)

"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the ocean."

--Isak Dinesen

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I've been having some problems with the design in terms of getting it to work on a variety of computers. On my and my webmaster's Macs running OSX 10.3.9 and 10.4, using Firefox 1.5, it looks about right. Outside of that, the guessing game starts. I find this to be quite annoying.

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I think you might be underestimating the adventurousness of diners in this area. Of course, you aren't going to get anyone with a strip-mall dining preference beating down your door, but I think if you somehow find the right channels to tap into the 'foodie' community... and trust me, it's bigger and broader than you think... you will find many willing patrons. Will they be repeat customers? I don't know, but lots of my non-industry friends are game to new and exciting food concepts.

"Godspeed all the bakers at dawn... may they all cut their thumbs and bleed into their buns til they melt away..."

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"4) Surrounding area has money, but I have no way to reach them (see #1) and they are not used to this kind of food and not all that experimental in their tastes"

As a resident of the surrounding area that is both into food and experimental in my taste, I must say I am somewhat offended by your assessment of the area. We have had incredible what you would call "experimental " dishes multiple times in other city's and in other people's homes locally. However, speaking for myself, the main reason I would not jump to frequent a place like yours is that I have no desire to return to a college dorm/apartment to do it!

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