I Left My Snippets in Saratoga

For the majority of about 12 years I both lived and worked in Saratoga, first alone, then with Jennifer, then came Stella, then Tate. We bought a house in Schuylerville, added Theresa to the mix, and I got a job in Schenectady.  I miss Saratoga.

I miss sitting on benches on Broadway with Jennifer and watching people try to parallel park.

I miss being able to walk to work.

I miss being able to have a drink or two after work and walk home.  I simply don’t drink and drive, not a single mile.

It’s a menu, not a list of ingredients in which to construct your own meal.

I don’t miss a city that does not encourage its property owners to keep their sidewalks clear of ice and snow even though it’s a walking town.

I don’t miss the complaining about parking by people who want to park at the front door rather than walk a few blocks.

Saratoga needs a few more handicapped parking spots on Broadway.

I sometimes notice that people park in a handicapped space, the handicapped individual stays in the car while the driver runs into the store.  I notice this while I helping Theresa out of the car and she walks with her crutches past said space.

I don’t miss track season or the people who come with it.

Good dishwashers, cooks and chefs are not paid what they’re worth in most locations.  Owners that wonder why they cannot keep good help in the kitchen are the ones paying line cooks $12 per hour and cannot deliver on the promise of enough hours.  That’s one of the reasons for the high turnover rate, but that’s another story for another day.

I miss being able to stop by other restaurants to chat with my chef friends.  Saratoga is a restaurant town, and there’s a culture of restaurant people. People like to be with like people and talk about common issues.

Saratoga could use some diversity in people ans restaurants.

I liked having choices for dinner and take out.  Schuylerville is void of those things.

Taco Tuesday,  oyster night, wine Wednesday.  C’mon Saratoga, you’re better than that, aren’t you?  I know there’s creativity in that town somewhere.

I’ll be back in one form or another.

I tend to judge people very quickly, so if you meet me plan on making an impression that I would approve of.  Keep in mind that I can at times be both judgemental and wrong.

I always have my ducks in a row, not necessarily in the right order, but certainly in a row.

I miss living close to my friends and cooking for them more often.

I miss living close to my friends and having them cook for me more often.

I miss stopping for coffee with friends before work. Dennis, Mehmet, Tom.

America: Made in China

The Office was a great show.  Jenn and I are re-watching the series on the interwebs.

Use there, their, and they’re on a sentence.

There are a lot of restaurants that think their service is better than they think but they’re wrong.

There are some things I miss about working at the Wine Bar, and some things I don’t.

Don’t treat your friends well at the expense of the people who work for you day in and day out.

There is no I in restaurant.

There are some restaurants that think their food is better than they think but they’re also wrong.

Use your and you’re in a sentence.

If you’re going into the restaurant business you need to be prepared to put the needs of others ahead of your own.

A lot of restaurants open and close in Saratoga.

I don’t recommend going into the restaurant business with less than three years experience in said business.  Ten would be better.

Not going into the restaurant business is probably best.

My sous chef Patrick said people need to start cultivating talent rather than just trying to recruit talent since there isn’t enough talent in Saratoga (and other places).  I agree.

I’d like to start a mentoring program.  Young cooks are too often misdirected, or not directed at all.  I think I’ll attach it to The Yawning Duck Culinary Services.  It should be a free program offering guidance, advice, and a link to the needed resources necessary for success in the culinary life and those things that go with it.  Life in the business is tough, and there should be more help available.  Help and direction should be a part of the Saratoga restaurant culture.  Let’s start there.

Culinary schools do not create cooks and chefs, they create culinary school graduates.

Whether you’re running the front of the house or the back of the house you need to be qualified enough to cultivate talent, train employees in proper methods and procedures, and shape your staff in the way you want and need them to perform,  People are generally willing to perform the tasks that leaders both know how to do, have done, and are willing to do. A paycheck is not enough, everybody who works gets a check, it’s an expected part of employment. You need to offer more and you need to show more.

I have little turnover in my kitchens, and there have been a lot of people who have worked for me in more than one place.

Darwin’s theories apply to restaurants.

Use to, two, and too in a sentence two times.

I don’t plan to get into the restaurant business again because I’m too old and would only last two months physically since I would work too hard as I understand the work required for success,  so no, I’m not going to do it like some are encouraging me to do two or more times a week.   I didn’t say it would be a good sentence.

Going into business?  That’s another story to be told another day.

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Too Much, Too Few, Too Many, Too Bad………..

Mexican themed restaurants, bloody Mary garnishes, bad pizza, cream cheese on bagels, qualified restaurant workers, restaurants, volunteers, complainers, experts, hours in a chef’s work week,  long weekends, snow days, kale salads, vegetarians that eat fish, vegans that show up on Saturday at 7:30 wanting you to construct a special meal, gluten-free, cheap wheat, cheap food (there’s a difference between cheap and inexpensive food), dogs on Broadway (Saratoga), hype over mediocrity, distance between great restaurants and my house, time with my children, time with friends, independence, stuff to do, things to do, IPA selections at Price Chopper, great tacos, $12 instant mashed potatoes.

Take a break.

Throw some corned beef on it or in it and you’ve got a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day special.

Hot pastrami sandwiches in my life, servers who come into the kitchen and tell you they’re going to put an order in, googling for information, self-sufficiency, ability to problem solve, plan b, servers, bartenders, cooks, compassion, understanding, silliness, drive, sunshine, chili dogs, road trips, days off, freedom, craftsmen, hot baths, cold drinks, smokey jazz clubs, credit given, crispy chicken livers with fig jam, crispy sweetbreads with lemon, Yono’s, sports bars, Beekman Bistros, internet in the kitchen, laziness, true restauranteurs, chance takers, cereal choices, independent restaurants, news sources, trust, I, we, inventiveness,  steadiness, know-it-all, unreasonable confidence,  fish frys, quality produce purveyors,  quality seafood purveyors,  salesmen, account representatives, green beer, humbleness,  humility, people who can’t tell the difference between instant and real mashed potatoes, good pho,

Take another break.

I understand striking while the iron is hot, but if events like St Patrick’s Day do not fit into your general business model, accept that you may be quiet and allow the amateur drinkers to go somewhere else for that one night. If your business hinges on a few events throughout the year then perhaps your business model is not made to hold up.

Old friends, new friends, sincerity, hospitality professionals, chefs on TV, chefs in the kitchen, deliveries from farms, chefs in gardens, gardens, convenience foods, seasonal menus, people who understand seasonal menus, changes, goat on menus, ethnic food, coffee breaks, hard work, people willing to work hard, people who understand what hard work is, people who think they work hard, but don’t, Wal-Mart, responsibility, irresponsibility, silly gadgets, fads, time around the dinner table, sarcasm, culinary schools, cooking schools, use of the word chef.

Finishing bits:

Arguing with a chef is like trying to wrestle a pig in Jello pudding.  Sooner or later you’re gonna realize that the pig likes it.

A better name for an oven glove in a professional kitchen is a bitch mitten.

I don’t care where you came from, I am however interested where you’re going.

Who’s they, and why is it their responsibility?

Yes, there is such thing as a stupid question.

It’s always time for a cookie.

BOH screws up order, kitchen’s fault.  FOH screws up order, kitchen’s fault.

I’m not perfect.

In the end, if you can say the words of Randle Patrick McMurphy, you’ll be OK, I think.  “Well, I tried, didn’t I? Goddamnit, at least I did that.”

 

 

A State of Independence

Chefs going out on their own.  Tyler DeGroff.  Enjoy your independence, best of luck to you.

Who might be next?

A table of four asks if its OK to change things around on the menu.  Chef tells server that it’s OK when they open their own restaurant and write their own menus.  Chef allows it because he is in the hospitality business.

Diner asks if I can make a different sauce to go with the lamb on Saturday night at 7:30, due to an allergy to carrots. Diner however is unhappy with choices that do not include stocks.  Stocks have carrots. Call me ahead of time and I will have something ready for you.  This is not Chopped, chefs don’t just whip something up in the middle of a dinner rush with the hope that it will be great.  Recipes and dishes are tested and tweaked before they hit the menu.

Early in my tenure at The Wine Bar I had a sous chef that I had inherited who was terrible.  One of his jobs during prep was to stretch out the pizza dough.  On this particular day we were to have twelve done.  After doing six he stopped, cleaned up his work area and began to do nothing.  When I noticed this I asked if he had done all the pizzas and he said no, that he was pacing himself.  I gave him his independence.

I enjoy reading Craigslist ads.  No, not those ads.  I’m referring to the ones advertising jobs in restaurants.  Most of them do not present themselves well.  Remember, the labor pool is very shallow.  There are too few qualified candidates in our business, so it just as important to make a good impression on them as it is for them to make a good impression on us. Also, when you get to the interview keep in mind that they likely have choices too, and they’re interviewing us as prospective employers as we are checking them out as possible employees.  If we don’t communicate to them that this is a great place to work and we’re good people to work for, they’ll move on.

People often say that there are not enough hours in the day. I disagree,  by the end of the day I’m exhausted,  24 hours are plenty. What we need is an extra day of the week. For me it would be a recovery day between Saturday and Sunday, that way I’m not a useless lump on a day I would like to be more enthusiastic about family activities.

I haven’t posted on the Yawning Duck page in quite a while.  I have an event coming up in a couple of weeks and you’ll see some pictures of a great Spanish feast.  Watch the Duck.

Rendered camel hump fat.

I’m working on the Spring menu for Chez Nous. Don’t look for it quite yet, that’d be silly as we’re going to get a bit of snow tomorrow.

I’m really trying to think independently of the classics.

Sweetbreads for sure.

Don’t confuse a symbiotic relationship with a host/parasitic relationship.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell who the host is and who the parasite is.

You cannot push someone else’s envelope.

Did I remind you to watch the Duck?

Let Me Give You Some Advice

If I want your advice I’ll ask for it.

If you ask for my advice, it’s free.

One of the things I like to say is, “There are always more experts than volunteers.”  You know those people, the ones that are always telling others what they should do or how they should do something?  These are generally the same people who are the last ones in line when it comes to physically helping in any given situation.

Before the disposal of plan A, have a solid plan B ready to replace it. In fact, try to have a plan B just in case, you never know when you’ll need it.

One of the things I’ve heard hundreds of times over the years is, “You should serve……..”  No, you like whatever it is you’re telling me to serve, you’re not giving me advice on how to improve my business in general, you’re telling me how I can make my business suit you better.

Nancy Silverton is a bad-ass.

Mario Batali looks like Hell.

The last time there was a great musical act on SNL?

No, we should not be open for lunch. Another bit of advice I’ve heard over the years. Again, YOU want a place for lunch, but you haven’t looked at the numbers. You don’t even know what the numbers are.

When someone has made a life choice for whatever reason, like abstaining from meat, gluten, alcohol, or any other deliciousness, don’t give me shit or advice on how I can also improve my life by abstaining too.  I like that stuff, and I don’t plan on stopping. Pizza with sopressata and hot peppers washed down with a quart of beer makes life better. Period.

Yes, I drink at family functions, it’s necessary.

My advice to you:  If you’re a high-end restaurant, don’t do Restaurant Week.  You will be ashamed of the food you need to serve in order to provide a $25 meal.

If you go to a restaurant, don’t complain  about the prices.  You had the opportunity to look at their website prior to going. The onus is on you.  You do, however, have the right to complain about the quality.

Surprise, I’m not drinking bourbon while I write.

I’m drinking rye with a splash of Campari.

SNL while I write.

We have a government full of cowards.

My advice to you:  Don’t go to Nemer Volkswagen. Worst customer service I’ve ever experienced.  We’re Honda owners now.  I really miss my Jetta TDI. I wish Volkswagen and Nemer had better service, they have great cars.

My advice to you: Don’t go to Famous Footwear in Wilton, NY.  The over-zealous manager clearly did not read my last post, Leave the Chef Alone.  I made it very clear to him that I would be picking out new work shoes all by myself today. He didn’t believe me and insisted on helping me.  I did get new work shoes today, somewhere else.  My feet still hurt.

Enter the end zone like you’ve been there many times.  If you win something, keep it cool.

My advice to you:  Watch this. It’s a few years old but fun.   Puddles the Clown and Post Modern Jukebox performing Royals. Better than Lorde.

I’ve been preoccupied.  I can do better. Less classic, more inventive to come.

I’ve been given a lot of advice lately.  In the words of my late father, “Do what yous want.”

 

 

Leave the Chef Alone.

I drive up and down the NYS I-87 almost daily.  As a result of a trend I’ve noticed I have made up a new drinking game.  The speed limit is 65, I go 75, certainly not the fastest guy on the three lane highway.  I stick to the middle lane and pass on the left as needed.  So, here’s the game:  When you pass a Toyota Prius that’s going 55 in the middle lane take a shot.  When a Prius is being passed by someone in both the left and right lanes simultaneously take two shots.  You’re sure to be loaded by the end of most trips.

I do not advocate drinking while driving.  If you’re one of the slower drivers on a highway and you very rarely pass anyone, STAY IN THE RIGHT LANE and leave me alone in the center lane.

Last week was Restaurant Week in Schenectady.  It sucked.  We were completely booked up for the five days that we were open, we went through far more bread per person than normal, the FOH was short-staffed, and there were several very new members of the service team.  Pretty much everyone did a great job, worked hard and we got through it alive.

The last order of the week:  Server comes into the kitchen clearly looking for something in the pass.  As we’re well into our clean up, with all the food wrapped and stored I looked over to the young man.  “Whatcha need?”  “I’m looking for table 33, Two beef, a chicken and a cassoulet.”  I hung my head because I knew I was about to add about a half hour to my very long week.  The order had come in earlier on a ticket that started with a series of voids, so it was overlooked.  Why it came in on a void ticket is beyond me.  I can tell you this, don’t put a very new employee on the floor as a server when it’s busy if you can avoid it.

Keep an eye on The Duck.

I sometimes understand the guy that goes out for a pack of cigarettes and never comes back.

Sunday morning I went out for light bulbs, I returned home right after.  It’s home and I like it there.

I was strongly encouraged to attend a birthday party for a 5-year-old at a bowling alley on Sunday.  Not that I don’t like the folks who were hosting the party, quite the contrary, but I was planning to be home during the party taking a nap. It was one of those things you look forward to during an especially difficult week.  I was impressed with a young lady named Gabby, the Bowling Alley employee that was running the party.  She was on point, entertained the kids. helped them bowl and kept everything moving on a tight schedule.  I’ve seen restaurant professionals that couldn’t keep a function on schedule to save their lives.  I still would rather have been left home alone but it was fun to see Gabby at work, shaming many of the people I’ve worked with in the past.

There is a clear and remarkable difference between a professional and a hobbyist.

Sometimes my day consists of constant questions.

Sometimes I just want to be left alone, even if there are people around.  Sometimes I don’t want anyone around. Mostly I like most of the people around me.