You Own It

Take ownership

I’m feeling at peace right now, if only for a little while.  No, I’m not on a morphine drip, which often sounds comforting.  I’m alone.

It has been rare as of late since the kids were out of school for the Summer, and more recently I’ve been on vacation in a cabin at Minerva Lake.  That sounds comforting as well until you realize it’s with your extended family on your wife’s side.  Good people? Yes.  Is it a peaceful vacation?  Not really.

My friend told me about a scene in a bar recently when he was having a drink(s) with a professional stand-up comic.  Someone asked the comic to tell a joke, and the comic asked him what he does for a living.  The bar patron told him he’s in construction to which the comic replied, “build me a fuckin’ deck and I’ll tell you a joke.”

I get it.

When you’re in certain occupations people expect you to perform your work for free on your off time.  Cooking, serving meals, and cleaning up afterwards is one of those things people do not see as chefs and other restaurant people performing their normally paid-for jobs.  “They do it because they love it.”  No, we often do it because it won’t get done otherwise.

Well, put that expectation to rest.  Don’t ask your mechanic buddy to look at your car, don’t ask a doctor pal to check the weird rash on your balls, and don’t expect free restaurant quality meals from your chef friends and relatives without some sort of payment or trade.  I’m done giving it away to those who do not have an understanding or appreciation for what I do.  I own that talent, I’ve worked hard to develop it, and I do it for long hour on many days.  I don’t always feel like doing it on my off time.

Last week we went to my friend Mehmet’s house for dinner.  He’s a great cook, especially Turkish cuisine.  What a great time we had.  It was so nice to visit with friends that we do not see enough of.  I owe these people a meal.

When I was put in charge of the footwear department at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Syracuse, the store manager Steve Ruskin told me to take ownership of the department and to make it mine.  I did.  It was great advice and I use it to this day.

One of the reasons I’ve had success at The Wine Bar is that I’m allowed to take ownership of the kitchen.  I, of course don’t mean literal ownership, but I am for the most part left to run things as I see fit. As a result, I run the kitchen as if I were the actual owner, paying close attention to costs, quality, and maintenance of the equipment and the cleanliness of the structure and storage areas.

I try to allow individuals to do the same in my kitchen.  Within the basic framework of our layout, I insist that cooks and dishwashers set up their stations in a way that best works for them if it fits into the overall function of the kitchen.  If the results are good, and the set up allows the cooks to work in a clean manner, I’m happy.

Last week Stella and I were driving down Broadway in Schuylerville and she noticed that a small restaurant had moved up the street.  I told her we should open our own restaurant in the vacant spot and with excitement she agreed.  I asked her what kind of place we should open, and she said, “It should be a kind of place that Schuylerville doesn’t have.”  If other owners would follow that logic we might have a little more diversity. She’s seven and has more of a clear idea than a lot of prospective restauranteurs.

Oh’ I forgot to tell you, Dick’s is properly named.


Why?  Because they own the place and perhaps they don’t want to have to get in at 9 am to prepare for the complaining lunch crowd in their place splitting a sandwich and having a glass of house Chardonnay, then leaving a $3 tip for servers who hate the lunch shift.

They ponied up the money to open a business, and it’s their decision.  That’s why.


5 thoughts on “You Own It

  1. Or because it just opened, and is getting its sea legs, so lunch will be coming soon (which is I think the case).

    That said, I would like to respond to your comment about a party of two splitting one sandwich between them. Because here’s the thing. I don’t want to split an entree at lunch. However, I do hate waste. And at many restaurants, portion sizes are a problem.

    If you aren’t going right home after lunch, boxing up the leftovers isn’t a workable solution either.

    Half portions and small plates go a long way to making everyone happy. But at many places, a single app is so much food that if you at the whole thing, a hungry adult may not even have room for dessert.


  2. My Wine Bar menus always offer small plates and two portion sizes of the entrees.
    The trouble with lunch is that it takes far more effort to make a buck than it does for dinner unless a place is doing high volume.
    My point also is that owners get to decide, right or wrong. “Open to the public” does not mean it’s a public place.


    • I do love that about your Wine Bar menus. And I had fully intended to give you props for that in my original comment. I am sorry that got left out somehow.

      What I would like to hear more about are the economics of lunch service, because this is interesting and challenging for me to wrap my head around. I have strong feelings about lunch, and think it’s very much a lost opportunity. But this market continues to be particularly ill suited to lunch as well, for a variety of infuriating reasons.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s