Where Do We Go From Here?

I worked on restaurant lines for the most of the past 18 years.  During that time I’ve lost a parent, two siblings who were in their forties, and my ex-wife and mother of my oldest child to cancer and helped carry too many caskets of family and friends out of churches.  I’ve divorced and remarried.  I’ve opened two restaurants, one by myself.  I’ve  watched my wife give birth twice.  I have sat in waiting rooms while one of my children was having major surgery on more than one occasion.  I waited while my youngest daughter lay listless in a hospital bed for eight days with an unidentified illness. I’ve visited my oldest daughter every day for three months while she was in the neonatal ICU after being born at 2 lbs.  18 years was enough, with all life has thrown at me to add to the emotional pressure of the restaurant business, I knew it was time to quit.

Shrimp is over-rated.

Keep in mind the physical toll life has taken on my body.  What many of you people with nothing better to do than read my goofy little blog don’t know is that I was a highly competitive long distance runner through college and for about 12 years after.  I averaged 70, often hard, training miles per week for a solid 12 years.  That includes peeking out at 100-120 miles a lot of weeks, and a lot of hard competitive racing.  So, I’m looking at a good 30+ years of a physically demanding way of life.  I’ve had 2 hernia surgeries, a bunion surgery, and heel spur surgery within the last 5 years, so before I completely fell apart, I thought it best to quit.

Rather than fitting our lives around our jobs, wouldn’t it be great if we could fit our jobs around our lives?

So, I’ve retired from the restaurant life, what now?.

As most of you reading this know,  I have started a business called The Yawning Duck Culinary Services. I direct you to the Facebook page since our website, www.yawningduck.com is a work in progress, and I promise to have it done soon.

When asked by my lovely wife what I was thinking about doing over the 4th of July weekend,  I said we should have a bbq, byob, and invite the neighborhood.  She was surprised, because as she put it, “You’re not very friendly.” She also pointed out that most people already have plans. “Perfect! Most people won’t come, and we still get credit for the invitation.”

I have teamed up, so to speak, with Serendipity Cooking and Arts Studio in Saratoga as a place to hold some events and do some cooking. I have been known to serve some great beer-friendly food at Rare Form Brewing Company in Troy, I’ll be at The Cheese Traveler this summer for a couple of their Friday Night Cookouts, and I should start doing some events at Great Flats Brewing in Schenectady soon. These are all fun. What I like doing the most is going to people’s homes and cooking for them and their guests.  The Yawning Duck personalized dinner parties are not to be out done.  If you’ve ever wanted to entertain at home while also being a guest at the party, then I’m the guy that can make that happen.  And, no, you won’t be left with doing the dishes.

One of the things I’m loving right now is getting to know my family.  That seems like an odd statement. I mean, I live with these people, and have been living with them for some time.  Too often working in an industry that takes up a great deal of your time and energy, especially the nights and the weekends, and being so tired on your day off it’s hard to do many of the things that 9-5ers take for granted.  I’ve been cooking dinner and eating with everyone around the table almost nightly for a few weeks now and I’ve got to ask, what the Hell have I been thinking all these years?

Tomorrow I start another detox diet, 10 days, perhaps more.  I’m also going to go 30 days alcohol free.

I’m not sure where The Yawning Duck is going to fly, but I know what I’m capable of without the restrictions of any ownership uneducated in the ways of food and the culinary arts. For the first time in many, many years I am without an employer that lacks any quality experience in this field. As the Yawning Duck, I can cook like I have not cooked in a long time, if ever.  I look forward to exploring what I can do, and I’m so proud to have Jennifer and Theresa as partners.

That’s a Problem

Please stop calling each other Bro in print/social media posts and comments.

Bruh is an even bigger problem

Bartender:  “Chef, do you have any olives?”

Chef:  “Yes, I’ve got olives.”  (some of you know where this is going).

Bartender:  “Where are they?”  “Can I have some?”

Chef:  “They’re not the olives you need.”

Bartender:  “Where are more of the ones I need?”

Chef:  “They are in the bucket in the walk in cooler.”

Bartender:  “I know, but that bucket is empty.”  “Should I bring it up?”

Chef:  “No, It may be keeping the other items in the cooler company.”

Bartender:  “Oh, OK.”

Chef:  “Well, it’s Friday at 4:30, I can’t do anything about it now.”  In the future if you let me know you’re low on something I can order more.”

This has been an ongoing problem with front-of-the-house staff for as long as I can remember.  That’s not my problem anymore.

How many restaurants  train and teach their service staff?  I don’t mean showing a new employee where everything is, and the general outline of the operation.  How many actually train them to be really good at their job?  How many restaurants have the capability?  Yono’s, 15 Church, The Wishing Well?  Some of the Mazzone properties?

The same could be asked of the kitchen too.  One of the things I realized, and that self-evaluation aided my decision to retire from the restaurant kitchen is that I was no longer interested in training people, especially when their focus wasn’t 100%. It was clear to me that it wasn’t the way for chefs to conduct themselves.  I’ve trained a lot of cooks, and enough of them have gone on to be good chefs, so I’m quite sure I did my job well.  If however you’re not willing to do the proper training, to make your service or kitchen staff better at their jobs, get out of the business, you don’t belong.

What you see at your table is only a small part of a server’s job.  It’s an important part, but not the only part.

When people think out loud it often exposes many of the dumb thoughts they have and their limited capacity to think in a reasonable or organized way.

The term “cooked to perfection” on menus is a problem.

Decisions, both daily and big-picture stuff should be made through experience and a well thought out plan. Not by whimsy and desire. The means are not the way to the desired ends.

This blog was recently called unpolished and unfiltered (all in an appreciated positive tone).  Yes it is unpolished, but it is quite filtered, and there are a lot of folks who should be thankful about that. Yes, I may be kind of a good guy on some level, but don’t let that get around.

Never throw your kitchen under the bus to a customer, especially when whatever problem is occurring is not the fault of said kitchen.  Customers don’t like it, and the kitchen doesn’t like it either, it creates a pretty large problem.

Here’s one reason chefs move from job to job, from a Craigslist ad:

Please send a resume for immediate consideration. Include a cover letter about yourself.45-55k salary to start. Based on experience. We are an independent with 2.5mil per year sales. Full banquet room and pub style menu. We need a leader that is organized, disciplined, creative and wants to work.

2.5 million in sales, and you’re paying 50k for a chef. 
I’m aware as anyone that margins are slim, but we as a group need to make more in this very difficult business if we’re going to be encouraged to stick around in the same kitchen long-term.  Like I said, this is only one reason chefs move around, by far not the only reason.  I’ll write a post dedicated to the topic in the near future.
It’s important to keep irons in the fire, you never know when you’ll need a hot one.