Amused to Death

Amused to Death is a Roger Waters song.

I’m starting Amuse in early November.  My goal was a bit earlier, but some health concerns have slowed me down.  I reported in a previous post that I weaned off Lexapro, but that did not work favorably for me.  I felt myself falling back into a depression and quite frankly had a loss of interest.  Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve readjusted to a reasonable dose and am feeling a lot better.

Also, I have been feeling physically poor and developed inflamed, swollen lymph nodes which seemed to concern my doctor.  His first reaction was to send me for additional bloodwork and chest X-rays immediately, as in right now. The markers for cancer in my blood were elevated, so that got and held my attention.  Having lost both a brother (48) and a sister (43) as well as my Dad to cancer, I was both shaken and stirred.  Last Monday night, after another recent exam and round of bloodwork I had a CT scan due to continued inflammation (a good temporary excuse for my big belly) and tenderness in my abdomen. Just after 8 am on Tuesday my doctor called and let me know my scan was clean, and that the markers that were elevated previously were now down.  That was very good news given to me, and coincidentally it was on the birthdate of my late brother and sister who were twins.  Looks like I may live.

We’ll keep an eye on my lymph nodes, and if they become swollen again, one will be removed and looked at closer.

Depression addressed and controlled can be mitigated successfully.  Ignored or mismanaged, it can be destructive.

I still need to exercise and eat less, keep away from the Bourbon, and stay on my meds as my doctor has instructed me to.

I feel much improved and look to moving forward as planned.

Amuse will be provide a food-first experience in a casual, fun, and intimate atmosphere from Wednesday-Saturday.  A key feature of Amuse will be the 8-seat interactive chef’s counter that will allow guests to speak directly to the chef and see their plates prepared, plated, and presented.  There will also be 24 seats in a small dining room with a server’s station to openly and quickly serve the guests’ needs.  Also included will be a small lounge area with comfortable couches and chairs for a more casual experience where guests can enjoy a few small plates, a local cheese from our cheese cart, and a glass of carefully selected wine or craft beer.

I don’t understand a steak knife stuck into the top of a burger.

When you credit God for your accomplishments, you sell yourself short.

One thing that makes Amuse interesting is that it’s located in a shared space with Saratoga’s Broadway Deli.  From 8:00am-4:00pm, the Jewish-style deli serves great egg sandwiches, bagels, fantastic and fresh deli sandwiches, salads, and desserts along with the traditional Joe’s chips and Dr. Brown’s sodas.

There will be a constantly changing menu at Amuse that will evolve with the seasons and as products come into and out of availability. Changes will also follow the chef’s whims.  The first week’s menu is below.  The goal at Amuse is to be inspired by the many flavors of the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea, including special homage to the beautiful array of spice blends that not only make each cuisine unique, but also ties them together with a common thread of spices and herbs.

The past week has been busy.  Aside from my scan and working on Amuse, we had to prepare our kitchen and bathroom for flooring installers who came to lay porcelain tile.  We also had new appliances delivered Saturday morning, so we have no kitchen for a few days.  I’m glad it’s warm enough outside, so we can still use the grill.

Why do people lean oddly backwards when taking a photo?

If you alter a dish on a menu, you void the warranty.

Words that should not appear on a menu:  “Ask your server.”

The name Amuse came from two things.  First is the commitment to small plates.  While not true amuse bouche in size, the plates will be small, as the goal at Amuse is to provide guests with a sampling of dishes that showcase the region’s cuisine.  The second source of the name comes from the chef’s direct interaction with guests both at the counter and in the dining room in order to engage people in discussion about the food, its origins, history, and preparation.  Amuse will also be a place to share stories, recollections, and thoughts about restaurants and restaurant life.

The opening menu, and some photos of the food can be found at amuseonbroadway.com

A reservation system and business phone number are on the way, but in the meantime, we can be reached at yawningduck@gmail.com for reservations, thoughts, and employment inquiries.

Shouldn’t your server tell you without asking?

If I need a steak knife with a burger, then it’s not a burger.

Like and stay tuned to Amuse’s Facebook page, and my page, Chef Dominic Colose for updates and a timeline.

Inn and Out Snippets

I was minding my own business, enjoying the summer with my children and working in my garden when I was summoned to The Inn at Erlowest to handle an emergency.

My plan was to open Amuse on Broadway on September 19th, but the call for help has pushed that back some, with a target date in late October.  See, the chef left on very short notice, the sous chef and line cook were set to depart only a week later.  That’s the whole kitchen.  The banquet kitchen is solid, and was intact, but is not capable of running the dining room kitchen as well due to the demands for their services.

Frank Dittrich, a partner at Erlowest, and its General Manager is a good guy, the kind of person that when in trouble, you drop some stuff to try and help.  So, my summer ended abruptly, and I found myself in the kitchen, often alone, keeping business going in the dining room.

I think a good life is a balance of pleasurable work, enjoyable play, and rest.  That’s my goal as I look to at turning 56 in December.

I worked for almost three weeks without a day off, often alone.  I put a menu in place that I could execute, and quite frankly would give me the opportunity to try some recipes and plates I have in mind for Amuse.

I really do not subscribe to the continued use of microgreens. Why are we growing food in order to decorate our food?  Besides, most cooks use them poorly.

I recently purchased 2 beautiful knives from JJ Faiola, who makes chef’s (and other) knives without the use of machinery.  They are hand-forged, hand-honed, and attached to gorgeous custom-made handles.  If you want something special, look him up on FB.

If you don’t know what FB is, you don’t deserve new knives.

If you order something like knives, or any hand-crafted item that takes significant time and labor, then renege on the deal for no other reason than you just don’t feel like purchasing the item, then that’s just dirty play at life.  Yes, someone did that to a fine bladesmith recently.  You may read this, and you know who you are.

Too many people are on too many meds.

American like more cheese, more bacon, extra sauce, a side of fries, and double meat, and no gluten.

Music that says 30 something, but a menu that says 60 something.

Can we not do zigzags on plates with squeeze bottles?

I will not be playing to the crowd.

Crayola crayons are superior to all others.

Why is it that a great line cook is like a trained Ninja  assassin in the kitchen, but can barely survive on the outside?

Not every sandwich needs tomato and lettuce.

Is pprayer saying God might have a flawed plan and you might know better? That’s up to you I suppose.

Not showing up for a scheduled interview makes employers not want commit time to interviews.  That ruins it for the people who care and want a job.

Large plates of food that cannot be finished in one sitting are obnoxious and wasteful.  If your criteria for choosing a restaurant is based on portion size, then Amuse may not be for you.

Watching people decide where to sit in a coffee shop can be entertaining.

While at Erlowest I checked in a late afternoon delivery from Driscoll Foods that was left on the truck from the morning delivery, when no one was there to check it in.  The drivers wear shirts that say Delivery Specialists.

I (and others) carefully explained to a Sysco rep that the lobsters we were ordering were for a dinner for a Make-a Wish sponsored dinner.  The little girl wanted lobster, and that this was the most important part of the order.  I (and others) were sure we had made it clear to her the significance of the lobsters.  The delivery came.  No lobsters.  She forgot.  Her remedy should have been “I’ll get in my car and pick up lobsters at Price Chopper (Hannaford, or wherever).” The reality was “I’ll see if I can get a van up there later today.”

Earlier in my tenure at Erlowest she asked me why I dislike Sysco so much.

Hungry for Snippets

Apparently people are hungry for snippets.  Here you go.

I tried to not write on this blog anymore while moving my thoughts to Facebook and ultimately to my new website.  The problem, as it was pointed out to me by several readers via email that FB has algorithms,  so things I write get missed by a lot of people, so here I am again.

I have not been drinking Bourbon.

I do drink between one and three beers when I get home from work.

I’ve weaned myself of Lexapro, it seems to be going well.

Server: “Chef, what’s wrong with this half and half?”

Chef:  “That’s a carton of egg whites.

Server: Eye roll, and likely thinking “Chef’s an asshole.”

Chef: (thinking) “reading is fundamental.”

The building that houses The Wine Bar is for sale.  If you’ve got those kind of funds, I can tell you that it’s been meticulously maintained.

I’ve got tons of mixed emotions about it, I introduced 21 seasonal menus from the kitchen, and went through some real highs and lows there.  It has been a big part of my career and life.

I think my doctor reads this goofy blog and now he knows I’ve weaned of my meds.  If it makes you feel any better, I did it very slowly.

If you think the “best supporting actor/actress” Oscar is silly, work in a restaurant.  The supporting cast is very important to the success of the lead characters.  Sometimes more important.

I checked out the ingredient list of the miracle burger, that’s the name of it, right?  Well, lets think about the shipping involved.  What’s involved in getting all the components to the fake food factory, the manufacturing process, and the shipping to wholesalers, then to retail outlets.  That’s some carbon footprint.  Think about the footprint left by locally raised beef.

My wife calls me a non-compliant patient.

Beef burger, with salt and pepper, three naturally occurring ingredients.  Impossible burger has eighteen, mostly processed ingredients.

I do love sandwiches.

The first table wasn’t until 7:00, the servers come in at 4:30.  When the first order comes in and chef is preparing amuse, directing the kitchen the server comes to the pass and admits “I haven’t looked at the menu, but can you tell me what comes on the lamb?”  In my head I’m thinking “You could actually read the menu I put some effort into.” Instead I explained what I was on the lamb.  That’s surprising since I’m off Lexapro.

The Mindy Project is a horrible show.  My wife likes it however, so I watch it, begrudgingly.

At the same time, server number two, looking on the white board, starts to ask questions about the list of desserts I wrote up there at 3:30.  These are desserts I worked on during the day.   I’ve learned to be more patient, but I delivered “listen you two, I have no idea what you’ve been doing for the last two and a half hours, but now that I have orders in, it’s not the time to start asking questions you should have asked earlier.”  This is unfortunately the common server behavior I’ve witnessed over the years.

Google.

My focus on, and command of dinner service is not always seen in a positive light by those unfamiliar with normal protocol.  It’s also looked upon with eye rolls by those with little interest in doing a stellar job.

Do not brag about your 30 years in a job if you’re still in the same position you started in.

Due to Stella’s dairy allergy, and a peanut allergy in the class, the rule made by the teacher is that snack can only be fresh fruits and vegetables.  There is one parent so upset by this that she’s been arguing on Facebook all day.  Her concern is that her son plays a lot of soccer and has 4% body fat (like most active eight-year-olds) and needs calorie-rich snacks throughout the day to survive.

Apparently, he has no need for fresh fruits and vegetables.

In past years, Stella has eaten lunch alone.  She has friends who insist on having a dairy-free lunch so they can eat with her.  Those kids are being raised with empathy and compassion.  Some kids however are not.

Parents fighting against fresh fruits and vegetables.  America, where fresh food is inconvenient.

Horses love fresh fruits and vegetables.

I’ve eaten horse.

Good night.

 

 

 

 

Mental Health Progress Needs More Than Luck

I’m trying to move this blog to my facebook page, Chef Dominic Colose, but the response is pretty low.  Therefore, I’ll keep posting here until I can get enough readers to make the switch to either that location or to my website which is being completed.

Mental health is an important issue for me, as my long time blog readers know. I will always be dealing with my own demons and difficulties.
This past week Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts retired from professional football, citing that the rigors of rehabbing from constant injuries has taken a toll in him and he wasn’t able to do it any longer.
My take is that physically the man is superior, and gifted, so the mental and emotional aspects of life in the NFL were too much, so he took control of his mental well-being and decided to do what was best for him. For that, fans booed him as he left the field for the last time. That was such a selfish and appalling act. If Andrew Luck had become so distraught and committed suicide, the response would have been “why didn’t he say something?” Well, he did. Nice going sports fans, way to truly support your team and it’s players. It’s clear that sports fans do not see their heroes as people, but as ?
In my business, mental health, alcohol and substance abuse are big issues, with serious consequences. In just the past few years I have known or worked with at least 5 chefs and cooks that have committed suicide or died from drug overdoses.
If you’re in or near the game, realize that the people who entertain you with sports, television or cooking are human beings with real issues. We are not here solely here for your entertainment, and you will survive without us. Be gentle, be kind, and be caring. Most of all, be what humans should be.

Trimming My Social Media

This is my next-to-Last post. My next post will detail my new project called Amuse on Broadway.  There are a few details to work out still, but you should be reading about it before week’s end.  This post, however, announces (for real this time) the end of chefsday in this form.  I will be eliminating the site, along with some other changes to make my life a little easier.

I’m making the changes in order to streamline my social media which will save myself some time, give more access to information about what I’m up to as a chef, and encourage me to create shorter and more culinarily focused blog posts several times per week.

I am creating a new Facebook page, Chef Dominic Colose that will encompass all I do as a professional chef including Amuse on Broadway, a Mediterranean focused chef’s counter and dining lounge (opening September 19th), The Yawning Duck Culinary Services catering and consulting, Chefs 4 Chefs, a BOH support system of mentoring, intervention, and fund raising, and finally chefsday, this blog about the daily life of a chef.

The Yawning Duck and the Chefs 4 Chefs pages will be coming down, and all content related to those two entities will be found on the new page along with what’s happening at Amuse. I am also considering removing (at least for a trial period) my personal FB page as it’s a time-suck, and a hotbed of silly and uninformed political rhetoric that I too easily get caught up in.  I’ll certainly keep my Instagram to promote my work and I’ll check out some other social media platforms.  The bottom line is, I want to focus on my work, and its promotion.

I really don’t believe that most people are interested that I’m watching TV and eating popcorn, or that I’m at the movies, or just checked in to Hoffman car wash. My personal life is mostly dull, and while I’m proud of my kids, I know that almost all parents are proud of their kids.  I love Piper the dog that lives at our house, and she’s adorable, but she’s a dog.  We’ve all seen dogs and cats.   They also don’t care that I dislike Trump, and that I like funny religious memes since I’m an atheist.  I’ll leave all the political bickering, fun-making, and ranting to everyone else.  Let’s make the internet fun again.

I will be eliminating chefsday on wordpress.com. My posts will be on my new FB page, and on my developing website only.  I will try to write almost every day, kind of as a diary of my life as a chef. I will have shorter posts with more focus on my current culinary activities, thoughts, and general food and restaurant related goings on.  I’ve always tried to write a minimum of 500 words, but typically compile 800-1000.  Not novel worthy, but long enough to make an evening project out of it.  I want to reduce to 250 or so and be more in-the-moment.

Not only will it be easier for my, it will make it easier for you to catch up on what this recovering depressive chef is up to, what I’m planning, and what’s happening at Amuse, which will have limited seating, a new menu every two weeks.

I hope you like it as I think you will.  My rebuilt website will be up soon, so stay tuned for that.  In the meantime, follow Chef Dominic Colose on Facebook, and feel free to send me a friend request as well.

Naked Feelings

I Oughta Bare My Naked Feelings

I haven’t felt like writing lately as followers of this goofy blog probably noticed.  The truth is that I haven’t felt like doing much in recent weeks.

Depression, anxiety, and self-doubt are not cured by taking antidepressants.  Symptoms can be controlled, but without therapy these mental disorders are not going to be minimized for too long.  I had a therapist, but I got tired of his dozing off during my sessions.  I know my life’s not overly exciting, but a little enthusiasm for the $110 per hour would be nice.  Perhaps if I threw in  “I had sex with the neighbor’s dog yesterday” when I noticed his eyes at half-mast, he would have shown more interest in what I was saying.

The other issue I cannot seem to get away from is alcohol.  I can quit for a few weeks or so, but I always find myself justifying having a glass of wine or being convinced I’ve earned a cold beer. Then comes whiskey.

So, I need another therapist, ideally one with a good background in alcohol related issues.  I cannot quit on my own, so it’s time for professional help.

I often (sometimes too openly) write what I’m thinking, and sometimes what I’m feeling.  I’ve concluded that it’s too much of the former and not enough of the latter. While writing a blog is geared to what you’re thinking concerning a specific subject, I’d prefer my writing to have a little more life than it has had lately.  I can be spiteful and tend to hold grudges which creeps into my posts needlessly.  I certainly don’t apologize for it, but the truth is it does me no good and keeps me from moving forward.  So, aside from my snippets and wandering style of writing, I’ll keep my focus on topics that are more interesting and more thoughtful.  For me, not you.  I think you’ll like it better.

Try to convince me that there’s a better cereal than Golden Grahams.

I’m really going to try avoiding politics on Facebook.  Comments on my posts sometimes remind me of someone taking an exam in college when they have little to no grasp of the subject, and write everything they can think of hoping to answer the question somehow.  Mostly it gives the professor needless reading and showed that they have a lot to say, just not about the topic at hand.

Man, I blew that one yesterday.

I’m likely not to change anyone’s mind, and political posts are simply a way for us to gain affirmation rather than spread information.  It’s tough though because Trump is such an asshole and the prominent Republicans are cowards.

Having empathy and compassion does not make you a snowflake or even a liberal.  Having empathy and compassion makes you a human being.

You know those Christian values the religious right fails to recognize.

A hamburger is made from ground beef.  Preferably a good quality blend of different cuts.

Hamburgers are not made from plants. Salads are made from plants.

The balsamic drizzle must stop across the board.

Bad versions kill the good versions.

A woman at just ahead of me at  Healthy Living spent way too much time explaining each item purchase das it related to Pinterest.  The cashier was fully engaged which made the situation even more annoying.  I  like HL, I can find great stuff to work around Stella’s dairy allergy, and I can find things not available other places like the goat’s milk yogurt I use for making labneh.

Boxed penne night.

I’m trying to be nice, but it’s not always easy for me.

Keeping it positive

Excuses and reasons are not the same.

Saratoga Chefs and restaurateurs let’s work together to make Saratoga the dining destination it can be.  Aside from my project (explained in my next post), there are some nice things happening.  Mike and Michelle Spain will be opening Seneca, the restaurants at The Adelphi are finally hitting their stride with a lot of talented chefs on staff, Flatbread Social is adding to the pizza game, Boca is getting interesting for a change, and Saratoga’s Broadway Deli is offering the best bagels in town, as well as excellent sandwiches. Saratoga also has Osteria Danny, Hamlet and Ghost, and 15 Church as established favorites. Sounds like a god core to start with.  That  We need some diversity, and I hope my Mediterranean flavors will help fill a void.  Some Caribbean/Jamaican, Korean, and (good) Chinese or Japanese would be great.  Ethiopian might be too much to ask for, how do we lure an Ethiopian chef to Saratoga?

We have enough hamburgers, tacos, and pasta with canned artichokes, sundried tomatoes, and olives in a white wine butter sauce.  Is Saratoga a crab cakes and shrimp cocktail kind of town or can we do better?

Nail Polish Snippets

The kids have gone to bed, and like most Sunday nights Jenn does her nails for the week at the dining room table.  I generally sit with her and write.

People love other people’s problems.

They also love to let them know what they ought to do.

If you’re an owner thinking of becoming an owner as I am be sure you’re willing to do any job in the restaurant, if you are not then reconsider your role as an owner.

When you make a dish with arborio or caronoli rice you have not necessarily made risotto, you have made a rice dish that may or may not be risotto based on technique and presentation.

If you don’t like being pointed at, don’t spend your time pointing fingers, unless you’re giving pointing in the mirror equal time.

Carpaccio is not about the thin cut of swordfish, mushrooms, or melon, it’s about the color of the beef. A little culinary license will allow other red meats, and perhaps even beets, but cutting anything thinly does not make it carpaccio.

While I enjoy sabbatical this summer, I’m going to work on my weaknesses in the kitchen.  While I think my plates have looked pretty good most of the time, I think I need to work on new techniques and some modern looks.  Study and practice, study and practice.  My planning on specific uses for leftovers and unused items needs to be a bit sharper.  For instance, my pasta doughs usually use a 2-1 yolk to white ratio, so I know I’ll have an excess of egg whites consistently.  Typically, I’d keep them in the freezer thinking I could use them for something in the future, but I need to plan to use them when I have them to ensure they get used.  I’m going to be a small operation and I’ll need to be efficient.

It appears mac and cheese with a bunch of shit in it is here to stay.

I Hate loaded fries, make good fries in good fat and you don’t need to cover them with cheese, bacon, chili, pulled pork and all the other crap people are covering them with.  This goes for burgers, and other foods too.

I think over-garnished cocktails are silly.  This seems to happen with the often incorrectly made Bloody Mary.  What I want is a properly make drink, correct proportions, and in the proper glass.  I don’t want a skewered shrimp, or strip of bacon.  Nothing that makes the cocktail difficult to drink.

Happiness isn’t in what you believe, it’s in who you believe.

I like useful décor.

Uniforms and appearances are not always an indicator of quality and excellence.  I was reminded of this last was at Jennifer’s old lady softball game and remarked to her about her team’s nice uniforms.  They didn’t have uniforms; I was just communicating in my sarcastic douche bag kind of way.  At least I’m self-aware.  Anyway, the other team had uniforms, looked good, and lost.

The first time I recall being faced with the reality that uniforms and appearances may lead you to believe that a group is superior but may not perform up to your level is in 1986 when our Siena College team arrived for a dual meet against Princeton in rented vans wearing low-budget mismatched warm-ups.  They were 12th in the nation the previous season, coached by Larry Ellis, the U.S. Olympic coach, wore beautiful Nike warm-ups, and had a nice touring bus.  The pre-race pep talk referred to the appearances of both teams and how that had nothing to do with our ability to win.  We won.  This story has a lot to do with the restaurant world.

Time to watch Fleabag.

Service Please

I like the optometrist at the Vision Center at the Walmarts. I brought Theresa there yesterday for an eye exam and I was in the waiting area one of the workers prattled on loudly about the exploits this past weekend between herself, her ex, and his current flame.  She was also overheard to say, “I’ve got three grown up adults living in my basement so I wanna know why my kids ain’t being watched.”   All the while there was a young guy popping in and out talking to her about how he’s sore from working out all weekend, and how people keep falling into the Grand Canyon.

Theresa picked out new frames while Momma put on her makeup in one of the mirrors.  We went up to the counter to give her the prescription and order glasses. As she started to help us her friend returned to show her pictures on his phone which to them seemed to be an appropriate thing to do at that moment.  I put an end to the visit rather sternly, and after having to respond harshly to the friend’s sass mouth, Momma was able to resume her work.  These two individuals simply thought it was ok to carry on with each other while she half-heartedly helped us.

I see the same thing in grocery stores often enough to call it a trend.  Cashiers jawing with one another about their personal lives.  Recently, the cashier in the lane I was in was complaining about other employees, exclaiming “I don’t keep my mouth shut, I tell it like it is.”  The person bagging said that she cannot, she’s a manager and it wouldn’t be right.  I of course chimed in with “no one should be doing it in front of the customers, management or not, it’s unprofessional.”

After the Walmarts, we went to McDonald’s.  Yes, I eat that crap sometimes, the sausage McMuffins with egg are the shit, so don’t judge me.  Like Redd Foxx said, “you’d feel awful stupid laying in the hospital dying of nothing.”  Anyway, the sandwiches came out and the young lady promised to bring out our hash browns as soon as they were up.  As we ate, I realized we weren’t getting our potatoes since she became engaged in conversation with a young man who was clearly there to entertain her.

On our way out I approached the counter and she got a stunned look on her face and said she’ll get our hash browns.  No apology.  I said we were done and didn’t want them and would like a refund for the difference.  I also told her that if she weren’t so distracted with her friend, she might have remembered to do her job.   Her reply was (use your snotty voice) “Uh, that’s the owner’s son.”  To which I replied, “does his father know his son is disrupting his business?”

What’s my point with those tales of poor service?  Poor service.  Poor service is now the norm.  It seems like most younger people are so distracted with other activities that the jobs they’re being paid to perform are now an afterthought.  It has become ok to chat with your friends, get mesmerized with the owner’s cute son, be on the phone, stand at the hostess stand or behind the bar texting, ignore customers until you finish a conversation or a sandwich.  It stinks, and the labor pool is so bad in the hospitality and service industry that we find ourselves putting up with it.  I see this behavior everywhere I shop, and when I go out to eat.  I’ve seen it at work for the last half-dozen years or so.  The only place I’ve worked recently where it wasn’t tolerated was Chez Nous.  Bravo to Heather for that.  Otherwise, it’s common practice to be on your phone, be eating, and visiting with both your friends and coworkers in view and earshot of customers.

So, what is it, are owners stuck because the labor pool is so shallow?  Or, are young people just not hip to the idea that being at work means being at work, and it’s not a social event?

Moving Parts

This past weekend I had to repair my lawnmower which was very disappointing because it’s not very old and it’s a very well-regarded brand.  I won’t tell you what kind it is, but I would not recommend a Troy Built machine.  The engine is great, a Briggs and Stratton, but the rest of the mower is falling apart after just four years.  I’ve already had to do repairs on the grass chute and the blade mount, both requiring some innovation and patchwork.  As I was replacing the broken front axle that has rotating offset mounts and adjustment clips with a simple straight rod and simple stationary mounts it became clear to me that this mower has too many moving parts.  The more features a machine has, the more moving parts, and the more chances for breakdown.

I started thinking about restaurant equipment and the simplicity of stoves vs. the complexity of line coolers.  A stove rarely breaks down, and when it does the repairs are generally quick and inexpensive.  A cooler on the other hand has more moving parts and the chances for mechanical failure are increased.  When a cooler lets you down it’s normal that you’ll be writing a more substantial check.

The rational leap from restaurant equipment to restaurants was made as I worked on the mower.  It occurred to me that a lot of restaurants have too many moving parts. The problems we face in is that the labor pool is shallow, and sourcing consistent product is difficult in this area, even from the best suppliers.

Labor, the people who work directly for us daily and procuring product are just two of the many moving parts to a restaurant.  Other suppliers of goods and services like linens, cleaning, equipment maintenance, trash collection, flowers, paper goods, cooking fuel for some places, banking, licenses and permits, menu and wine list printing, social media and publicity/advertising, and small wares like plates, silver, and glassware other things that must be dealt with on a daily basis.  There’s more, much more.

I’m just looking at the two most fickle parts tonight but could write volumes on all the things that could go wrong every day in the hospitality world.  The general public never sees most of it, and their experience is often not affected by the daily mishaps and missteps of all the individuals need to make a restaurant function, but the errors, breakdowns, and failures are there.

Labor is tough.  The people available right now are not the people that were available when I started out.  I just do not remember it being ok to miss work or be late for almost any reason.  Young people, and some older think concerts, family picnics, hangovers, nights out with friends, sunshine, no money for gas, the bus was early, my alarm didn’t go off, my dog is sick, I forgot to do laundry, my Mom took my car, I had to stop for coffee, the mechanic took longer than expected, I have to watch my brother, and a host of other things that seem to come up like never before.  It is too common for restaurants to be short-handed.  The next time service is spotty or slow keep in mind that the labor pool stinks and keeping fully staffed on a nightly basis is almost impossible.  Labor is the most difficult moving part to maintain.

Today’s waitstaff today is made up of people waiting tables until their fine arts degree pans out, or until they can save up to move to California.  I’m generalizing, but my generalization is based on experience.  Professional servers are a thing of the past.

Cooks are mainly dishwashers that moved up, and never had a real desire for the job, and culinary graduates that weren’t aware that they would have to work.  Again, a generalization based on experience.

Dishwashers? Good luck with that.  When they show up on time, sober/straight, and ready to work it’s a victory.

We live in an area that loves simple cooking and straight-forward dishes made from products that are easily recognizable and effortless to obtain.  For those of us that like to stray from the middle of the box out to the boarders and beyond it’s a crapshoot trying to keep interesting items on your menu.  Suppliers do not stock large amounts of specialty items, or too often less popular things are special order only.  Good luck being eclectic and interesting on a consistent basis.  A 40 lb. case of random boneless skinless chicken breasts?  Sure, there’s all you want.  A case of Romaine, a 4-gallon case of Ken’s Caesar dressing, and some Sysco pre-shredded Asiago and you can serve grilled chicken Caesar salads to your heart’s content. Wait, what about tainted lettuce?  Nope, even the supply of the mundane isn’t guaranteed. Just another moving part that can break down.

We spend too much time covering up the blemishes of an often-seamless appearing operation.  My question as I plan my own restaurant is how do I eliminate, or greatly reduce the chances for breakdown?  The answer hit me as I was changing the front axle on my mower from a complex machine with multiple moving parts to a simple machine with no moving parts.

Eliminate the moving parts!

Sure, that’s easy on a lawnmower, but in a restaurant that depends on many individuals to open each day?  Sure, I believe it can be done successfully.  No waitstaff, very limited seating, and a menu that’s written daily based on seasonal and available products. I’m eliminating those moving parts and others.  That’s all for now, a full disclosure of my plans is coming soon enough.

Friday Night Nonsense

Some people simply don’t know what they don’t know, and they’re too stubborn to admit that.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time with my eight-year-old Stella.  Since she was home sick, we thought a low-key activity like pasta making would be a great project.  Before heading out to the pediatrician we made some duck egg pasta dough and wrapped it well.  Upon our return we rolled some sheets to use for ravioli, garganelli, and bowties.  I also showed her how to make sheets with whole parsley leaves in them.  We also used some of the dough to make cavatelli with the small hand-crank machine and by hand with a gnocchi board.  She especially liked the part when I hooked up my cordless drill to the cavatelli maker and produced noodles at an alarming rate.

What impressed me about Stella is that I didn’t have to ask her to do things, she took initiative.  I didn’t have to show her things twice due to great aptitude for pasta making and because she paid attention.  She worked the whole time and took no smoke breaks, she didn’t have to check her phone, get a soda, or feel the need to get some air. How refreshing, and what a nice change from late-arriving twenty-somethings who feel it’s ok to take 20 minutes upon arrival to get changed, fix a cup of coffee, and chat with the bartender before starting actual work.  She also didn’t ask for Saturday off, ask if she could leave early because she needs to give her dog heart worm medication by 9 or the pooch will die.  That’s code for I want to take a shower and get dressed so I can meet my friends out by 10.

As one goes from place to place it’s easy to leave physical elements behind.  Pans, plates, tools, spice blends, or coffee makers.  Some places however are resistant to retaining non-tangible things you try to leave behind.  Knowledge, work ethic, ingenuity, and tenacity are things I have been able to leave with some organizations and individuals, but some places have deep cultures of indifference, indolence, and a general disregard for progressive thinking.  It has always felt like I have failed when I’ve left places with those poor qualities, but I when I look back on my years in the kitchen, I reminisce about all the people I’ve come across and how many are doing well in the industry.  I may not leave a legacy as the long-time chef at one spot, but I find satisfaction that I have left my mark on places and people in the business.

I don’t typically unfriend people simply due to differing political stances.  I respect informed, well thought out opinions based on facts and knowledge of events and situations.  However, I found it necessary when someone claimed that Barack Obama was the laziest and worst (he said the “worse”) president in history because all he watches is Fox News for information, and because he’s possibly a racist.  This was an individual who I worked for when I was just starting out and I thought his box full of knives, ability to keep up on a busy sauté station, and knowledge were impressive.  Then, I became a sauté wizard, got a bunch of knives, and gained far more knowledge than he will ever have.  So, since you have not been relevant for many years, and since your ignorant views are offensive, to Hell with you.  This is not a defense of President Obama, but a defense of reasonably formed opinions.

I’m not sure I should keep the last paragraph in this post.

Here’s how owners who have never done an hour’s work in the kitchen see it: “I pay you by the hour, so you need to continuously work while you’re here.”  As a chef, who knows how hard the job is, this is how I see it: “You are paid at a rate of $12.00 per hour, and work an eight-hour shift, that’s less than $100.00 to prep and hold down a station for dinner service.”  If you want to take 15 minutes to sit on a milk crate and eat a sandwich or bowl of pasta then go ahead, if your shit’s together.  If you want to take a pizza home on a Saturday night, then you’ve earned it.

We’ve really got to find a way to treat our line cooks and dishwashers better, it’s a tough job.

Eight-year-olds should not have what looks like a beer gut.  I really shouldn’t either.

Fox News is for conformation, not information.

Someone recently threatened to sue me for blasphemy.  I laughed and I laughed.

Blasphemy is an impossible offence.  Since it is the act of speaking sacrilegiously about a figure called God, and the being many call God does not exist, then blasphemy cannot exist.

It’s my well-informed opinion, believe what you wish.

Prime rib vs. Ribeye steak. It’s a tough lesson.

A comment on my recent post asked that when I opened my restaurant if I was going to talk to my customers in the way I write on this blog.  The blog and the restaurant are two separate entities and I mostly know how to act in public.  With that said, I will have a set of standards for both myself and my customer base.  I will not surrender those standards.

Why do people continue to call chicken tenders boneless wings?   Putting Buffalo sauce in it does not make it a wing, boneless or otherwise.

Dogs are not children, and I’m offended by those that make that comparison.  Creating a human child, carrying as part of your body for nine months, and raising a child is in no way like getting a puppy.  I love dogs, but reality is reality, and please stop pushing them around in strollers thinking they’re babies.

If your Saratoga restaurant needs the Summer season to survive, then perhaps it’s not the entity you may think it is.

I was at Stella’s softball game here in Schuylerville and overheard a few people talking about a Saratoga restaurant.  The woman reported that there was a $17 pasta, and a $39 steak, and that for $39 you ought to get the whole cow.  Well, when you go to the big city you gotta expect big-city prices.

I’ve lived in Schuylerville for 4 years and have eaten one steak in a restaurant here.  That was enough.

Calling it a steakhouse doesn’t make it so.