Much Aloha Peggy-Sue!
Saturday 6 AM: Clockwork. Chirping birds before the sun, a natural alarm. Snooze button. Back spasms, a natural alarm. No sleep for 2 weeks. Feel like how a Nutcracker looks. Make favorite Ka’u Coffee. Swirling grounds, frothy bloom. Press. It’s the little things. Asprin x4. It’s the little things. Suck it up behind a cup of syrupy hazelnut & caramel notes. Ready & out the door. It’s Farmer’s Market day in Waimea.
7 AM: Downs Grounds booth. Barter a BLT for 2nd cup. Both acceptable addictions. Got to love market days. A tradition as old as civilization. Chef job requirement. Correction: a marked Chef job requirement.
7:30 AM: Kekela Farms for produce. Compositions. Spanish radish and young “baby” carrots, pair with steak dish. This is where images of plates and menu options dance in my head. Sweet dreams.
8:05 AM: Out of the dream into reality. Arrive at the Kitchen. Busy but handling it, staff en pointe. Sweet work, onto menu changes.
8:15 AM: “Chef, Mike is on the phone. He has some nice Ahi, are you interested?” Hell yes, I’ll take that call. “Chef, I have grade A Ahi (tuna). $13.95 per pound, you interested?” Play. It. Cool. “Sure, I can take 20# (lbs.). Thanks Mike.” Perfect timing! I am working on a new dish. Ahi is a perfect protein to experiment with, see if it works.
8:20 AM: “Chef, BB is here about the flooring install.” Handshakes and shoulder tap. “I do not mean to bother you but do you make the decisions for the restaurant?” Red Flags. “Actually, no, I do not. My wife does and she will be in at 10 am.” Haha, sorry Honey. Damn sales people, rats, all the same. Be more like BB.
8:30 AM: BB and I agree on final floor design. Handshakes and another face. Another one! “Chef, I am working on that beer quote and am almost finished.” All the same. “You said that 3 weeks ago and still nothing. You originally told me you were going to have it installed by last Wednesday. Still nothing. I already reached out to another company and am going with them.” “Oh, that is bull shit!” Another one bites the dust. AMF! (Adios Mother F*cker). Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.
8:45 AM: “Chef, we are out of coffee.” Blank stare, processing possibilities. “How are we out of coffee? I bring in 200# at a time. At no point from #140, #100, #80, #20, to #5 POUNDS, did you think, ‘Hey, I might want to tell Chef.’?” Unbelievable. Secret stash.
8:50 AM: “Chef, table 24 cannot believe our coffee is expensive and wants to split one.” There is a reason for everything. It’s top quality & supports a local farm. “No splitting coffee, tell them it’s free refills.” “They also want to split pancakes and ice tea, if the ice tea is free refills.” SMH (slap my head). “No.”
9:00 AM: Computer system for the entire restaurant crashes. Some days, technology doesn’t want to work for you. “OK guys, you need to hand write your tickets. Please write nice so the kitchen is able to read it.” One of my staff writes like a serial killer. Always double check the writing.
9:05 AM: First ticket. Written like shit. “Can you please write nicely? I just asked you.” “Oh, sorry Chef, I forgot.” “It’s been 5 minutes. Get your head together or it’s going to be a long day.”
9:06-10:50 AM: Customer service. Follow the prompts, always 2 hours. Always. Plates dance in and out. Frustration mounting. Why? Serial Killer handwriting. Breakfast items turn to Lunch items. Swear to listen to my local Tech guy next time. Reboot. Computer fixed.
11 AM: Prep cook arrives. “Jackson, let’s clean and roast these veggies. We also need potato ribbons, kabayaki pearls, and some truffle dust for tonight. Did you check the sweet potato in the dehydrator? Let’s see if we can make a salt with them too.”
11:50 AM: Roll out knives. Organize. Execute Butcher List: Whole chickens: debone, marinate, roast bones, make stock. Ribeye: clean and cut steaks. Whole fish: gut, scale, remove gills, and debone. Ahi: cut steaks, cut poke, salt water bath blocks for miso fish. Pork belly: remove skin and cure. Bacon: wrap pounds for market, slice for sandwiches, braise for pulled bacon dishes.
3pm: Dinner cooks arrive. Review night service. Reservations, VIPs, and sequence. “Crunch time is at 6 pm. We need to push out those first orders as soon as they arrive so we can stay ahead.” “Yes. Chef, are we running the gnocchi with shrimp dumpling app again?” “Yes, let’s bring in some mentiko for next week and see if the guests are ready for something new.” Chefs always want to put fun things on the menu but it’s the guest who dictates it. As a community builds trust in a Chef, we can slowly start to integrate different, fun (to cook and eat) ingredients. Reminder set.
4 PM: Front of House staff arrives. “Alright, I have the table assignments. Set it up as I have it. Let’s meet back up at 4:45 pm for pre service (meeting).” Post the roles.
4:10 PM: Servers huddled looking at the assignments. Pick-a-littles, talk-a-littles. Head over before the assignments are picked to bits. “What’s wrong?” “Well, I was thinking that I will take table 25, he can take table 11, and we share the Lanai.” “No, that means you will crisscross stations all night. Assignments are finished. Stick to the choreography. This is how things get confused in the middle of a rush. We need to be on the same page all the time, do not over think it and do not change it.” Play the part and it will be a beautiful thing to watch.
4:45 PM: The final piece. Dress rehearsal. Pre-service meeting. “We have ricotta and basil gnocchi with shrimp dumplings. Let’s run the braised beef shank with roasted Kekela farms veggies and savory garlic grahm.” Service notes. Tech notes. Sommelier notes: “I need you to push the Barolo, only 2 bottles left and complements tonight’s beef shank.” Ready or not, show must go on.
6 PM: Curtains up. “Aloha, we are here for the Peggy-Sue retirement party.” Mistake? “We have her down for tomorrow night. Let’s wait for Peggy-Sue to arrive and we can talk.” Scenarios, options. “Hi Chef, I sent you an e-mail last night letting you know we needed to change the reservation, to tonight.” Full dining room, game plan, can handle. Damn computers. “I am so sorry Peggy, I did not see the e-mail. Give me 15 minutes and I will have you set up. It is still 15 people, yes?” Obvious anger. Need to make this retirement party a special experience. Direct the staff for set-up and sidebar the kitchen. “Fire some goat cheese rounds and send them to Peggy’s table, start them on something nice.” Full dining room means slammed kitchen. Need to get her food out fast. “Howard, make them a round of signature cocktails, we need to buy the server some time to get to the table. Goat cheese amuse in 3 minutes.” Something celebratory… Sugar Plums… Yuzu!
Luckily for me, my staff stepped it up 10 notches and made it happen. A standing O (ovation) for that night. I made table side yuzu (an aromatic citrus, like a grapefruit) and honey ice cream. And Peggy-Sue? She was happy. I am thankful she trusted us to do our job and give her a memorable experience. Sometimes you have a customer who insists on a table or insists on our mistakes. Shit happens, but this is what we do in our business, we still make magic and dreams come true. Just let us make it happen.