Thanks for the input guys and gals. I know what I want and need to do, so I'm just going to do it.
, I appreciate it. And we definitely do put out some kick arse food. I definitely believe we have the most different, creative, fun, and of course delicious :0 menus not only in our town but also surrounding towns. I'm so lucky to have awesome customers (for the most part of course) that aren't afraid to branch out and try different things. It's an awesome thing to have as a chef. It allows me to be creative and try new ideas, techniques etc. They really are (again,for the most part) great. I have a decent group of dedicated regulars and absolutely killer repeat business, as well as an awesome amount of new customers coming in all the time. We have killer word of mouth business, which I wouldn't trade for a billboard advertisement on I-95.
I've been sitting here for 10 minutes staring at the screen trying to think how to say and word this without coming off as cocky, pretentious, snobby, tooting my own horn, etc. (I believe the handful of people on here that I PM and chat with on a regular basis would tell you that I am absolutely not that kind of person) anyways, I'm am absolutely amazed, thrilled, baffled, happy, stunned, etc, at how incredible feedback and business has been. Because let's face it, you can have great feedback, reviews etc, but at the end of the day, if you don't do the business, all the other racket is just that, racket, mute,whatever you'd like to call it.
I left Manhattan about 18 months ago. A good buddy of mine is EC at a French restaurant in Connecticut, about 20 minutes from my condo. I was lucky enough that he was looking for an evening sous. So I took the position and rocked out with that for a couple of months. It wasn't a bad gig, but wasn't what I was looking for. I had just left a sous position in the city, plus like I said, my buddy was the EC so there really wasn't anywhere to move up at this spot. Anyways,about 9ish months ago a really cool opportunity presented itself to me through a long time family friend/entrepreneur/investor. Just about two years ago, while I was still in new York he had opened up a gastro-pub. He had a chef/minority share partner. The business was doing pretty good. It's a craft beer place that is already known for having one of the best craft beer selections in the state. 38 (I believe) brews on tap, and probably another I don't know 50 bottled beers, as well as an awesome bourbon and cognac selection. No Budweiser or budlight, no Miller or Coors light or anything like that. Strictly seasonal brews, local brews, rare and limited release beers and all that jazz. And it's a really cool, really nice building and layout with seasonal outdoor seating on a killer patio. The bar business took off right away with all the craft beer gurus, hipsters, and the likes of the richy rich, wealthy lawyers and business people of Connecticut. But the kitchen wasn't doing as well as expected. It wasn't a complete mess, but the food sales were not what they could/should have been. The menu was way to large, the food cost was way too high, and the labor wasn't great either. He decided that he wanted to go in another direction so he bought out the Chef/minority Partner. I ended up seeing him one day when I was picking my daughter up from daycare. We chatted for a minute and made plans to meet up for coffee the next Morning. We discussed a lot of different things. I Found out what he was looking for. Told him some of my ideas and what I was looking for, and I ended up getting on board then and there. Again, not hating on gastro pubs at all, but 2 years ago I would have never, ever, EVER, thought I would be the Chef of one today. Not because I thought there was any shame in them, because there's not, I'm a food junkie, I'm more passionate about this stuff than anything besides my children, and there isn't shame in anyplace that cranks out slammin' food. I just used to poke fun at them because I am not the hipster type, and I was never a craft beer snob either. (Although I have become one since being here.)
I made a ton of changes within the first month of being there. Changed about half of BOH staff, scheduling and ordering, as well as a sh!t ton of b.s. officework that the knucklehead before me seemed to have neglected for over a year. (I'm a food guy first and foremost, I love being in the kitchen. I enjoy breaking down fish, sides of pork, busting down veg, and being on the line on busy nights, so I've always been a weeee bit of a procrastinator when it comes to the business and pencil pushing side of things myself. But this was something out of a horror flick, P&L reports months behind, couldn't find invoices for produce, fish, meat, linens, anything for that matter. It was just crazy)
So I made a bunch of changes right off the rip, but I decided to let the menu that was already in place rock out for a little while before I changed it up. I wanted to see what sold and what didn't, and I didn't want to completely bury the staff that I did keep with a brand new menu the first week. Especially with all the other changes I had already thrown their way from the get go. And I wanted to see if they could work, and execute what was familiar to them. All three of them were surprisingly very solid, and one of them was a rock star. Needless to say I was pleased. They worked well together. They worked clean, and they worked hard. So they weren't the problem. The main problem that I saw was the menu. Like I said earlier, it was way too big, and while a fair amount of product was made in house, a good amount (way too much in my eyes) was pre packaged, frozen, vacuum packed sysco product. Which was a direct result of having a menu as big as they had. So while the sales were up a smallll amount, and I was able to cut down on waste and labor, it could have, and needed to get better. For the absolutely ridiculous, just crazy numbers that the bar was doing, we just weren't doing enough in the kitchen. It was a little confusing to me because with the customers that we have, they are willing to drink all these different types of beers, and crazy flavored ciders and this and that, but the menu they were originally running in the kitchen was pretty much a compilation of food you would see at any and every run of the mill sports bar/pub/diner combo. Which don't get me wrong, definitely has its place(hell, there are plenty of times where all I want is some messy wings or mozzarella en carozza) I just knew we would be able to do something totally different here. So I launched an entire new menu. From top bottom. I think the only item I kept from the previous was a burger. But a different burger. I took off fried mozz, I took off caprese panini. I took off wings. Everything. Like I said they had a bacon cheeseburger and I do now but I do it differently. A handful of people b!tched and moaned moaned about the wings for a while but you know what, I just let them b!tch. A couple more people saw the new menu and of course said it was going to flop and that we should just go back to the old menu. Luckily the owner is a great guy, and didn't freak out from the people running their mouth wanting the old menu back. But I know he is absolutely thrilled now. For the last say, little over 7 months, food sales are absolutely through the roof. It's incredible. I thought that we would have a good jump, but nothing like this. We added a prep kitchen downstairs, and we're are expanding the line and main kitchen at the end of June. People are absolutely loving it. And like I said before, they aren't just saying it, the numbers show it. We are now a 98% scratch kitchen. We get primal cuts and butcher them downstairs. We break down whole fish. Make cure and dry our own sausages and meat for charcuterie. We make all dressings and sauces in house. We make our own half sour pickles. We make our kimchi for the bulgogi. And instead of wings, Thurs-Sunday we run a sriracha buttermilk marinated fried quarter chicken with an asparagus-sweet potato hash with bacon, and it's one of our best selling dishes. So take that people who complained about the wings. Lol.
I'm sorry for the long rambling post. I'm just so happy. And I would have never guessed gastro pub 2 years ago. I was blessed to be able to spend the ages of 24-30 in new York City. Super grateful and blessed to have gotten the opportunity to study, apprentice, train under, and eventually work besides some great chefs in some great kitchens down there. But my passion tank is back to full, and I haven't had the motivation and drive that I do now for about 3 years.
Again, please don't mind the obnoxious, long , rambling post.
Cheers. Chef T