Thursday, July 16, 2009

In the News / Business Plan Review / Sequence of Service / Other Reds

Like with the last few days of the school year every year up through high school, the last few days just feel...wistful, breezy, the last few grains popping through the hourglass. With Culinary Arts, we were jamming on our final buffet, with each student focused on pulling off three heur d'eurves. Now, we're just banging on about a template for a business plan for which much of the research will be made up, as there is not enough time to really get the information.

In the News was abbreviated, but dedicated mostly to pizza. Like last week's Bruni monologue on the state of the pie, this week brought a huge article in New York Magazine. The interview with Una Pizza Neapolitana's Anthony Mangieri made me want to just punch him in the face -- he's everything that is wrong with NYC pizza today. One thing that I really didn't like about NYMag's coverage is that it didn't really address where NYC pizza is going. Clearly, we're in a trend bubble and by this time next year many of the pizzeria's that have opened in the past 12 months will be closed.

Next up, Richard dedicated his time to reviewing the parts of the business plan template -- presentations start Monday. When mine is complete, all will be posted here.

Sequence of Service: basically what it takes to be a waiter or waitress. Up until now, I thought I could easily slip into this role with out experience. Now that we saw a training video for service staff at the Palm chain of steak houses....I definitely could be a server at a restaurant that doesn't suck as hard as the dickwads who are supposed to act like retarded monkeys towards the guests like at the Palm. I like service that is restrained and direct, clear and unobtrusive. At the Palm, they're all buddy buddy touchy feely, ick. SHUT THE F UP, I'M HERE TO ENJOY MY FRIENDS, NOT YOUR SMARMY ACTING!!

Still, there is a lot of detail work that goes into being a good server at a good place. Respect.

The class ended with a tasting of eight red wines, all of which tasted a bit like musty alchy vinegar, except for a barolo, that tasted like musty oaky alchy vinegar.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Legal / Financials

Again, felt a bit zoned out in school today. Only a few sessions left. We opened with a dry discussion of legal issues. In summary, do not discriminate in the hiring or servicing of protected classes. Also, most lawsuits against food establishments are nuisance suits, but cost a lot in time and money if they aren't settled out of court. There was some talk of natural vs foreign rulings (a piece of spatula in lasagna is foreign, a small bone in a fish fillet is natural), and the parsings of various courts.

Class was interrupted by a talk from a eco-conscious caterer named Mary Cleaver, who was not the most compelling speaker. I thought it was just me, but most of my fellow students found her wandering story of her wandering business both unfocused and hard to follow.

The rest of the class was a review of the financial spreadsheets we will have to present in our business plans.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Odds n' Ends / Restaurant Design / Business Plan Review

To be perfectly honest, I spaced out for most of this class. This is the last week. Monday and Wednesday of next week are business plan presentations, and Wednesday afternoon is graduation. Then we're dun, sun. There is a chance I may be TEACHING a once-a-week culinary class to high school students come Fall, and if that happens, with permission of the organization will be blogging about it here.

Anyway, odds n' ends was dedicated to discussing what we saw at Blue Smoke. Richard levelled with us, saying every time he's eaten there he thought the food was lacking. Once, he brought a management class there for their school dinner and the service and food was so over-the-top poor, the restaurant comped the whole meal and invited them to come back.

It IS a Danny Meyers restaurant, and there is a level of service and precision not expected in other restaurants, especially in a casual concept like Blue Smoke. Still, the employees who work in a place like this are different than one who would work in, say, Union Square Cafe -- Blue Smoke has the highest staff turnover of all of Meyer's restaurants.

Richard also went into a few details of the smokers we saw -- these pieces of equipment are so large and unwieldy, they had to be craned over the entire 15 story building and dropped into the backyard and slid into place. The 15-story exhaust flues that are tacked on to the side of the building needed a number of variances from the Department of Health, Department of Buildings, the condo board and on and on. Regardless, the cost and inconveniences of the smokers were built into the the idea of the restaurant from day 1. Literally, the whole concept is built around these very difficult-to-obtain fixtures.

Most of the day was comparing floor plans, casual versus luxury, and the flow. The story that is told when you first walk in is designed. If the first thing you see is a host and monster bar, that's different that a long hallway that opens up on a maitre'd station and a baby grand piano. The experience is designed.

We reviewed some ADA guidelines (a wheel chair must be able to turn in a 5 foot radius in a rest room) and logic of placement of different stations in a working kitchen. Class wrapped up with Richard showing us his CAD drawings of the coffee shop he once owned and ran, and a review of the excel spread sheets that we will fill in for our business plan finals.

In the evening, the majority of us met up at Peryali in the Flat Iron District for our final meal. It was good, with an obscene amount of wine. Funny how well you get to know people without even being aware of it.