A series of anecdotes with or without any connection to the running of a restaurant.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Slaving over a hot stove!

Last night, I really wished I was already on my holiday! Getting back into the kitchen after a seven-year break was quite exciting but last night I realised why I had hung up my apron!

Friday night we served 50 and it had been a walk in the park. Last night was like a sprint around the park. The first customers arrived at around 5.45pm. Kevin and I never looked up till 10.15pm.

At the last count Adam reckoned that we’d served around 120 people. And he emphasized that he’d sold 16 Mojitos even though his main barmaid had gone home poorly. He was left with two new members of staff who’d never worked behind a bar prior to Tuesday’s training session.

Apart from Kevin and me, we had one of our old kitchen porters, Lydia, sixteen years of loyal service, and helping her was 16-year old Joe.
Helping us with the cold tapas we had 18-year old Emma, who until this week worked in a pub that served plastic food.
In the background two 17-year old catering students, Phil and Ryan who, despite two years at college had to be shown how to sharpen knives, cube potatoes evenly or even clean mussels.

One hundred and twenty people! As the night wore on and wore us down, I kept mental notes of how to improve our speed, coordination and preparation. Kevin did the same.
After we served the last table, I wandered around the restaurant talking to customers, half of whom regularly visited our other restaurants.
Instant feedback!
Every one of them had really enjoyed the whole experience. A few, especially our older regulars confessed that they had never been to a tapas bar and had been confused as to what to order. That gave me the idea of compiling a menu for tapas-virgins giving them a pleasurable introduction to this great eating experience.

As I sipped a well-earned Mojito, Kevin and I dissected and laughed at our evening mishaps. We decided to get even better prepared next Saturday. We have a whole week to test our systems and train our young brigade.
Today, Karen and I have to stick a few coat hangers around the restaurant, survey the scene and then, this evening, attend our first dance lesson ever!

I never had time to take photos of the restaurant in full swing yet. I'm worried I might drop my camera in the stockpot!


Blogger Hayden said...

congratulations! what a wonderful feeling to be so firmly in control of both art and craft!

I !adore! tapas bars. I love the many small tastes of different food that lets me sample widely - I have always thought it was a format adaptable to a wide range of cuisines.

29/1/06 5:50 PM  
Blogger Brian the Mennonite said...

Reading this makes me glad not to be in the food and beverage business any longer. I have had 10 and a half years experience all told, being a cook, wine steward, waiter and manager in a restaurant that consistently served 250 guests on both Friday and Saturday evenings. To this day I still have nightmares of me not showing up to work in my uniform and my section is full, but I don't know where my section is...and what's worse, I don't know what's on the menu and my guests are asking me what's good. The dream always stops with me considering wether I should walk out and quit. I wish for you that you are able to hand over your operations in good time, and that you will dream peaceful dreams.

29/1/06 8:02 PM  
Blogger cream said...

Thanks, Hayden! I too love tapas bars and that's why we now have Casa. I think it's a great way to eat out and have a great time with family and friends.

Brian, I truly understand your point. It is a very hard business to be in. Every now and then, I go through what you described. The only thing is that I just can't afford to walk out.

29/1/06 10:11 PM  
Blogger ValGalArt said...

Oh Cream! It sounds like a culinary dream!!! I am so happy for you that it is a raging success and I think the idea of constructive criticism is so meaningful for your business to thrive! I have never had tapas so I really would not know what to order either so it would be helpful to educate the buying/eating public! Great work and you will surely earn your vacation... p.s. it looks so beautiful!

30/1/06 1:44 AM  
Blogger kan said...

We need pictures of the food!!!! Please post.

30/1/06 3:17 AM  
Blogger iluvnyc said...

congratulations!!! wow... now i really wanna go there and try some of the food. i loveee tapas! :D

i wish you can deliver all the way here :D

30/1/06 9:46 AM  
Blogger cream said...

Thanks Val. Constructive criticism from our regulars is very important to us. They know our standards and won't mince their words telling us the truth because they care!

Pictures of the food coming soon, Perle!

Iluvnyc, you must have so many restaurants in your neighbourhood, I am sure you'll be spoilt for choice!

30/1/06 4:37 PM  
Blogger DCveR said...

No wonder you mention their ages... all things squared YOUR average age is about half YOUR age! Statisticaly you are younger while you're working at Casa del Mar!!!

30/1/06 10:23 PM  
Blogger cream said...

DC, you are so generous!
I am mentioning their ages because I have to compete with them! I will not argue with you in the number business! You are a scientist and you can help me doctor the figures!
But, to be honest, I really feel great working with these young people! Especially when I can outrun them to the fridge!

30/1/06 10:40 PM  
Blogger Wendy said...

Oh well done - I am so pleased it's going well. Wow! 120 people...you guys must have been hopping...bet it was tiring but exhilirating too. I also think that doing a tapas 'virgin' menu is a great idea. Way to go, Cream!

PS. It looks smashing.

30/1/06 11:28 PM  
Blogger DCveR said...

Hehehehe, when submitted to enough torture numbers will always say what you want them to.

31/1/06 11:00 AM  
Blogger Caroline said...

It sounds like you the inital hard work was well worth it and now you've just got all the rest of the hard work to be getting on with!

The tapas virgin menu is a great idea - I remember not knowing what to do...

31/1/06 2:59 PM  
Blogger Caribbean Colors said...

Wow, your place looks magical, the mosaics are truly amazing and I can imagine your feet hurt!

31/1/06 11:11 PM  
Blogger cream said...

I agree DC. It depends whether one is looking up or looking down... It's the glass half-full or half-empty syndrome! I am 53 at the end of Feb and since I started on Casa, I think I have shed at least 15 years along with quite a few pounds.

Caro, thanks! The hard work started when we opened. Before that it was a lot of fun and no pressure.

Thanks, Lee. My fingers too are still covered in little tile cuts...

31/1/06 11:26 PM  
Blogger Aunty Marianne said...

It does look fantastic. Great decor, very fresh, very Mediterranean. Much luck with the restaurant.

Amor, salud y dinero, y TIEMPO para gastarlos.... something you'll have lots less of now!

1/2/06 9:23 PM  
Blogger cream said...

Thanks, AM! My Spanish is not as good as yours but I will try to find the time to enjoy all three things!

1/2/06 9:56 PM  
Blogger juliana said...

I love it! This is amazing. It's been a little while since I've been to your blog, so I'm just now seeing your pictures. They're beautiful! It REALLY REALLY REALLY makes me want to go there and check it out for myself.

1/2/06 10:45 PM  
Blogger Chill Daddy said...

Congratulations, Cream, judging from the pictures I'd have to say 'job well done'. Does the bar have an official site (every business in the US has a site)

2/2/06 4:26 PM  
Blogger cadiz12 said...

way to go, cream. sounds like things are hopping! and tapas bars are the BEST.

4/2/06 4:14 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

iT'S GREAT TO HEAR OF YOUR EARLY SUCCESS -- BUT FROM THE WORK YOU'VE PUT IN IT'S MORE THAN WELL DESERVED. (sorry about the caps lock -- I didn't mean to shout :) Well done.

6/2/06 7:41 PM  

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