Why can’t we get good help?

It’s tough finding good employees,  I’ll give you that, but why would you handicap yourself further by putting bad ads on craigslist? Come on people, put some effort into hiring good help. Start by placing quality ads in order to attract quality people. If we’re going to raise the bar, some of you need to get your act together.

“A High end restaurant in Saratoga is looking for an experienced, passionate and driven sous chef that can lead a brigade to the next level. This position for the right person could lead into a chef de Cuisine position, thru hard work, and the following:
-Have a commitment and passion for cooking
-2 years plus management experience
-Want to be the best
-Stays on top of trends
-Have the ability to SEE Everything, and over see the entire kitchen and team
-Know how to man all stations
-Know how to use a computer
-Know how to teach
-Maintain a clean and organized kitchen, top to bottom
-Take constructive criticism
-Have a sense of urgency, be able follow direction and instructions
-Able to multitask
etc, etc”

“Downtown Saratoga fine dining restaurant is looking for some special people to join our Team as bartenders. Successful candidates will be well groomed, have a pleasant, upbeat and confident attitude, and be able to make our guests feel like they are the most important people in the world (because they are!!). Candidates must have exceptional mixology skills from the classics to current trends. Knowledge of “Digital Dining” is a big plus. Basic daily shifts are available at 11am-5pm and 4pm-10pm/closing. Interested candidates should send their resumes and include your e-mail and cell phone number and tell us when the best time to contact you is.”

“Downtown restaurant in need of ft or pt dinner shift help. must be willing to help with dishes on the slower days, sundays and Mondays are a must. pay depends on experience. email resume and/or contact info”

“A very popular restaurant in downtown Saratoga is currently seeking a part time Line Cook to join its dedicated service team. The Ideal candidate should possess the following qualities:
-Genuinely be dedicated to consistently executing our cuisine to their desired standards
-Have a strong work ethic and thrive on working in a fast paced environment while keeping a calm and collected demeanor
-Be passionate about learning and growing with us and our cuisine
-Should be reliable and have flexible availability
If you are interested in applying for this dynamic position, forward a cover letter and resume to the email provided. They look forward to hearing from you.”

“Full Time Line Cook’s AM 6am to 2pm / PM 2pm to 10pm
XXXXX Restaurant & Lounge @ XXXXX Saratoga Springs
Experience preferred but! Will train right person, Must be professional and prompt, Please respond with resume or summary of work history in person at XXXXX”

Placing quality ads will get you better employees.

New Snippets

I like my stuffing in the bird, I’ve been eating it that way for 48 years and do not remember ever getting sick.

I have run with scissors

Why do people feel the need to post negative comments on a blog post about someone closing a restaurant they have worked very hard to open and maintain?

If you’re going to criticize someone’s work, don’t do it anonymously. Have some guts.

Some employers allow their chef to be a chef, others do not.

If you cannot handle an 8 top, wtf?

Take responsibility for your mistakes, if you throw me under the bus, I’m gonna crawl out the other side and sneak up behind you.

I keep a very clean and neat station, no matter how busy it gets.

I’m allowed to be a chef.

Tomorrow is pasta night at The Wine Bar.

I’ve just discovered Mike Colameco’s Real Food series on YouTube. The episode about a place called Buvette is my favorite.

I need to schedule my foot surgery

If you’re a reader of this new blog, I invite you to send me a friend request on Facebook.

I don’t want to be laid up for 6-8 weeks.

I’ve been watching instructional videos on effective blogging and food writing.

Just plain laid is OK however.

Dianne Jacob has some good informative videos on YouTube. She’s a food writer.


Is Saratoga Worthy?

This past week’s announcement on Steve Barnes’ Table Hopping blog that Javier’s in Saratoga was to close prompted several commenters to suggest that Saratoga is a “one street wonder” and viable for only six weeks.  It was also concluded that Saratoga is overrated as a place to open a restaurant.

Well, they couldn’t be more inaccurate, Saratoga has more than shopping and restaurants on Broadway, and more attractions than the race track for six weeks. I suggest that Saratoga is a worthy place to open a restaurant, but it had better offer something that the residents of this town are looking for Monday-Wednesday, because that’s the customer base early in the week, and there’s fierce competition to get enough of our 28,000 people to come in for a meal.

The bottom line is price or value for the price because people are not typically headed out on a Tuesday night to drop $200 on dinner, but they are willing to spend money for a few small plates, a salad and a bowl of hand-made pasta, or a well-crafted burger.

A successful model is a French bistro (true bistro) that caters to the people in the neighborhood who can walk in for a meal and be home by 9:00.

I posed my query on Facebook earlier today and got a good sense of what various restaurant professionals, local food bloggers, and the Saratoga dining public thinks. It reaffirmed my assessment of the Saratoga restaurant scene in general. Oversaturation, high rents, the false perception of limited parking, and a shallow labor pool.

Dominick Purnomo, who (with his family) owns DP and Yono’s in Albany says he is approached several times a year about opening in Saratoga but is reluctant because of oversaturation and higher rents which do not equate to long-term success (I think he would be successful here, especially with DP, because successful, hard-working people are generally just that. Successful, despite being a Yankee fan).

Otis Maxwell, author of the Burnt My Fingers food blog believes in a high-end restaurant’s ability to thrive here assuming they follow through with their commitment to quality 100%. So far, that has been shown to be the case at 15 Church where, from what I understand, has good food, and excellent service from the time you walk in to the time you leave. Time will tell here.

Danny Urschel who owns Mio Posto, a 20ish seat spot off Broadway, believes in keeping it small as he runs the kitchen, and his wife Heidi Beasley runs the front of the house. This model has low overhead and does not require a large well-trained staff. He’s a great chef, and despite being a Yankee fan, will do well there on Putnam St.

I believe that Saratoga is a very good place to open, but by a hard-working, high quality driven individual who thinks small and will cater to the locals without looking at the six weeks of racing as a get rich quick scheme. If I were to open a restaurant in Saratoga I would do it off Broadway, in a small setting with a comfortable skillfully-tended bar, great French bistro food, reasonable, superior quality portions, and nothing over $20. This would all be delivered by an upbeat, knowledgeable staff that had your satisfaction and enjoyment as their number one priority. The setting would be homey, and comforting. It would be small, with little reliance on too much staff, which, as mentioned is selected from a shallow labor pool. This place, I assert, would do well.

Snippets s’more

Sometimes I say bad words.

Pretty slow tonight.

My friend is closing his restaurant, I’m very sad about that.

Don’t confuse busy with unapproachable.

I’m not happy with the writing quality of my Restaurant Week post, I was once a very good writer, I will be again.

I want a dog.

Thank you to alloveralbany.com for a very flattering shout out, I promise to read you every day.

I just have to practice writing every day.

I’ll read the All Over Albany blog almost every day.

I really need to respond to comments on my blog to facilitate conversation, and also as a common courtesy to commenters. I will do better.

I’ll be doing a Turkish lamb dish on my winter menu.

Go to Mio Posto in Saratoga when you get the chance.

Also, cream of mushroom soup with cauliflower mousse.

All servers should know the menu well.

I’ll write much more about servers tomorrow night.

I married a (former) server.



Restaurant Week

Restaurant week is approaching, and I’m dreading it somewhat. I like the concept, not the overall  execution by all involved.

I believe the start of this thing was done with good intention, meant to bring new diners into restaurants, and for restaurants to showcase what they can do.

Well, somewhere along the way chefs got lazy, owners got cheap, and the target market got fed up. So now we have mostly sub-par menus, low quality food, and bargain hunters. It’s time to do away with this thing.

The state of the event is too bad, because it could be a great opportunity for restaurants to highlight their offerings. I believe this, and I write my menu accordingly and have the support of my employers. I also have the luxury of being in Saratoga where we have $10/20/30 categories. I heard from a prominent and well-respected Albany restaurant owner today who said he couldn’t fit their dining experience into a $20 price point. I agree, you shouldn’t have to water down the experience, the goal is to showcase what you do. I worked for Chez Sophie years ago, and we did not participate, since the $30 level was not an option, and the quality of the products were not conducive to a three course meal for $20.

Since I work at a Wine Bar, and have an extra $10 to charge, I can offer a nice menu with offerings that are indicative of what we do. And, since I am not lazy, you’re sure to see a very nice menu. Here’s it is, a French Bistro theme. Yes, I make the effort to have a theme.

1st course

Whipped goat cheese, spiced beets, grapefruit, micro basil.

Traditional French onion soup, Gruyere croutons

Country pate, pickled vegetables, Dijon
2nd course,
Crispy confit duck leg, Brussels sprouts, turnips, carrots, mustard gastrique.
Monkfish, seafood sausage, white bean cassoulet
Autumn vegetable and lentil stew, roasted mushrooms,  flaky herbed bread sticks.
3rd course
Tarte tatin, creme chantilly
Poached pears in spiced red wine
Roquefort, honey, candied nuts
Now, while I’m offering what I think is a nice menu for $30, I find that the majority of diners are out for the $20 option being offered at other restaurants and we are not typically as busy as one might imagine during this promotion. One prolific blogger and experienced diner indicated that he has no interest in Restaurant Week menus. This means bargain seekers.
The front of the house cannot wait for this promotion to begin. “Yes, we’ll have two waters to start, and we” both will be doing the Restaurant Week special, but don’t worry, we’ll still be tipping our usual 12%, and can we get some more bread, with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar this time?” (I don’t have balsamic I’m right now, and won’t for the foreseeable future).  This is too common.
It’s said you get what you pay for. That’s generally true. I believe restaurant owners see Restaurant Week as a money losing pain-in-the ass, and chefs see it as a lot of work, with pressure from the owner do use the cheapest products available, and servers believe it’s a busy week without the benefit of a big pay-off.
Again, I don’t like Restaurant Week,  I will however do a good job, present a great meal made from quality ingredients, and you will get a good indication of what the food at The Wine Bar is about. No, the restaurant will not make tons of money, nor will the servers, but we will follow through with the original spirit of the promotion and do our best to show what we do best.

Snippets, yet again

I just saw a commercial for a Frito’s chili pizza from Papa John’s. People will apparently eat anything.

People apparently don’t come to dinner out when it’s cold.

We had a brandy and Cognac tasting at work.

Peyton Manning was on the commercial for the Frito’s chili pizza from Papa John’s. Surprisingly even he will hawk anything for money.

Gonna do a funky version of duck a l’ orange on the winter menu.

Did I mention that restaurant week is coming up?

Just saw a commercial for a ‘flight of ribs’ from TGI Friday’s (think it was Friday’s) that boasted of three types of ribs for $10. How are these pigs being raised that their ribs can be sold for $10?

We really need to make better food choices.

I’m not necessarily a fan of restaurant week.

I’m thinking about doing duck carbonara on the winter menu.

I do a snippets thing when I don’t have a fully developed topic.

I still need more writing practice.

It would be fun to do a tapas style Indian restaurant called Bar Naan.

Anyone doing classic French bistro fare in the area?

I got on Twitter yesterday, likely getting off tomorrow.

Saratoga has a very good pool of culinary talent right now.

Snippets III

I’m drinking bourbon.

I love knowing the customers.

I love knowing the customer’s likes and dislikes.

Today was long.

I want to know who’s at which tables.

Seat numbers aren’t that tough.

I once ran 31 miles.

I’m going in early tomorrow.

Restaurant Week is coming.

My sous chef wants to put monkfish cassoulet on the winter menu. I think we should.

I think we should do a Spanish-style red snapper. He thinks we should.

I’m watching Perry Mason.

Robert R is a gem.

Perry Mason does not put up with any bullshit.

Saratoga Springs needs a nice French Bistro.

Daniel Humm is cool

I mean a real French Bistro.

Bourbon will turn on you, generally the next day.

Gonna focus on some serious charcuterie for the winter menu.

I’ll start making some duck prosciutto tomorrow.

I’ve run to the top of Mt Marcy more than once.

This town needs an enema.

Naproxen works.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

How do you change a culture?

I challenge you to a steak frites contest.

Someone requested the frites not fried in duck fat. Sure, well start over, you got some time?

Going to bed.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Michelin stars have been handed out during the last few weeks and it has gotten me thinking about the possibility of a restaurant in the Capital Region ever being awarded a Michelin star.

The first thing necessary is a chef with the talent and determination to do the work required to meet the standards of Michelin reviewers.  I don’t think we have that.  We have some very good chefs, but not of the caliber and/or commitment needed for that level of achievement.

Said chef also needs a culinary team with the same vision of flawless execution. Well, the labor pool in our area is quite shallow. That’s not to say we don’t have some very good and dedicated cooks, but it seems to me that many of our young talented cooks want to run a kitchen and be culinary stars in our small pond before working under a more experienced chef for the number of years required to be fully capable of reaching a level to be noticed by Michelin.

Many other components are required for a restaurant to be considered for at least one star like dining room service, wine service, ambiance, crisp linens, great china, brilliant stemware………………….  Ultimately, there’s a tremendous effort needed by a very talented team across the board.

The biggest obstacle to a Michelin star in the Capital District is the dining public. We simply do not have enough people who will support the effort needed to achieve that level of excellence. We have some wonderful restaurants that do good work, but a business with the goal of a Michelin star, doing the things necessary for that level of dining would not survive. I recently read a comment on a popular food blog about the opening of a new pub that was scoffing at the $13 price tag for a reuben made with locally produced corned beef, locally made cheese, barrel aged sauerkraut, and top quality bread. This attitude I have seen time and time again on various blogs and in my 18 years in this business. Some suggest that our population is too small, we simply do not have the volume of people to support a Michelin starred caliber restaurant. Well, out of 1 million people we cannot support 1 star? The San Francisco Bay area has 7 million people who support 28 Michelin stars.

So perhaps I’m wrong, maybe we do have the talent and desire, but no audience.


More Snippets

You shouldn’t fire the second course if you haven’t ordered it yet.

I’m going to be using a lot of ducks for my winter menu.

I’ve been sneaking bone marrow into lots of things.

Quail isn’t selling well.

There will be a bunch of French bistro influenced dishes on my winter menu.

Please don’t show up 20 minutes late for your reservation then tell the server to have the kitchen hurry because you need to catch a train.

People still use rosemary sprigs as a garnish?

The winter menu will debut December 18th.

I read today on some chef kinda thing on Facebook that food is better than sex. Well, you’re doing it wrong, and your partner knows it.

I’m not a big Christmas fan.

Cooking is like sex in that sometimes you gotta get it done quickly, and sometimes it needs to be slow and simmering.

Please don’t ask the chef “what’s good tonight?”

When a chef asks you a question during service it generally requires a quick yes or no response. We don’t need to know your table is from Baltimore and they have 2 dogs named Abe and Lincoln.

I have several great ideas for restaurants.

There’s very little personal space in my kitchen.

Restaurant Mistakes

Recently I went on a lunch date with my daughter Theresa and we each ordered a burger medium rare. They arrived not even rare, I mean they were raw and cold. I informed the server and she was very apologetic and whisked them away with the promise of correction.

The burgers returned, the same ones that we had cut in half, cooked to well done and on a new roll. (Quite frankly  I wanted to go back to the kitchen and rip the cook that oven-chucked our meal a new asshole for being so lazy).

At this point we’re quite hungry so we just ate our lunch and didn’t say a word.

A young man who seemed to be a manager (he didn’t say) came by to further apologize and ask if things were corrected. I told him no, that the burgers were well done upon return but we would eat them anyway. He said they’d comp one burger and he offered us a gift card for a return trip and  I told him that the card was unnecessary that I was satisfied with the comp since we ate the food as it came and that he would be better served by buying the kitchen a temperature probe. He agreed.  I don’t like the “we made it cheaper because we know it was crap” attitude. Make the kitchen produce a good meal, don’t let them off the hook. I’m there willing to pay full price for good food.

I never use “I’m the chef at The Wine Bar” kind of bullshit, I think it’s tacky and would make it look as if I’m looking for something beyond what any customer should get. Also, now that I’m a famous food blogger, I wouldn’t threaten with “I’m gonna write about this in my blog” crap. I’ve had that done to me, and I replied “I look forward to reading it.” This is why I’ll never mention names here when I’ve had a bad experience at another restaurant.

In my kitchen, this error, simply should not occur, but if we were faced with such a issue, we would start over since the burgers were returned not whole. It is unacceptable to further ruin a meal that has been to the table, cut, then refused with good reason. The customer should get what they came in for: a new dish, freshly cooked and plated.

So my question is, how should mistakes be corrected? What are some of your experiences with mistakes such as this, and how was it handled? Remember, I’m not looking to call anyone or anyplace out, so don’t use names.