Wednesday, October 13, 2010

“You’ve Met Me At A Very Strange Time In My Life.”

It has been 14 days since our doors opened and it has been overwhelming madness.  It took a total of 9 days to happen, but I admitted to my cook that afternoon that I was “exhausted” – a word I had avoided considering that it (to me, at least) connotates Kryptonian in its implied usage during The Summit’s opening stretch.  So I took off early during a calm Friday night service after a mere 13 hours on the job and finally had my first real sit down meal in weeks. 

To be honest, dinner service has still been steady and even paced considering that we still don’t have our beer and wine license.  But things could be better because the dinner/bar/dessert tail end of our daily program is simply waiting for our anchor: the beer/wine program.  At this point, it seems businesses are just at the mercy of the departments that control such things.  To be candid, we’re a little bit like lab rats waiting to be fed – there is no information structure, hard deadlines, date settings or anything that might help a business prepare and ready for a major shift in their setup.  It might be the internet/information age, but sometimes I feel like we’re dealing in the wild wild west.  From a friend and restaurant owner, apparently “it just comes in the mail.”  Any friggin’ day now.

Since dealing with delays on our opening, we’ve had to operate with a menu that is coming to its seasonal end – which means that in less than 2 weeks, we get our first menu overhaul.  Ah, the joy of trying to stabilize operations and re-doing my sourcing is doubly as fun.  It’s even harder on a creative level nowadays when there are a million issues to confront, remedy and fix.  In the world of blog, reaction, hype and overreaction, the difficulties of meeting expectations are present – especially when it comes to being high profile in one of the most outspoken neighborhoods in one of the most opinionated cities.  It’s an element that we welcome because honest and proper criticism is important part of growth – perfection or stability is only a false vanity of the “thin mirror” variety.  It doesn’t exist.

One of the more offsetting but poignant digressions that I’ve come back to many times is a line from Stanley Tucci in the movie Sidewalks of New York:

“"Show me a good-looking woman... I'll show you a guy who's tired of fucking her.""

It’s my little metaphor for avoiding complacency.  I think the one of the most important things in work, life or personal goals is to avoid being complacent.

That being said, there is nothing complacent about our opening two weeks.  On one of my rougher days, approximately 3-4 days ago (feels like months), we had pastrami issues with the temperature in which the pastrami came out.  Having run around to pickup items for both services and prep out for dinner, I had not seen the new piece of pastrami my cook cut into.  Due to the oven being set 5 degrees lower than normal, the pastrami was cut at that temperature to serve.  The base temperature for the red meat was perfectly fine for serving, but when you account to the fat ratio and texture difference between those pivotal 5 degrees – you are looking at a product that is not coming out the way it is supposed to (or at least not the way I wanted it).  It just so happens, I met Carolyn of SF Eater and she ordered a pastrami – it really is just shit that you can’t make up sometimes.  Sorry Carolyn, just one of those demoralizing days when you are trying to run circles to figure things out. 

On top of all the joy happening at the Summit, you can add a case of anxiety driven nausea in the morning and a 5:45AM mental alarm clock that has no sleep button.  That is how the first 14 days of a 18 hour-shift cafe/restaurant feels like.  It’s a constant reminder of what you did not do and not so much what you have done.  Thankfully, I slept relatively well the last couple of nights.  I didn’t get more hours, but was able to have a couple of nice and weird dreams as opposed to nightmares about remembering to soak beans and whatnot. 

Ultimately, there is a vision for utilizing and sharing this space which includes our rotating art exhibit, the Minibar-inspired fine dining concept, the beer/wine program, community driven classes/events, etc..  But as of right now, after 14 days of madness, I’m just running to stand still. 

And we’re very thankful for everyone’s patience and understanding in the meantime.