Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2011 – Start Up, Step Up or Shut Up


I think it might have been two years ago that I started this blog.  To be honest, there was never a vision, reason or intention to do anything beyond musings about shit that only seemed to interest or annoy me.  Two years later and firmly footed in a new business that has yet to get itself properly anchored – I feel my enthusiasm has definitely changed.  The blog has no longer become a smorgasbord of pointless and joyfully innocuous food topics, but rather one that heavy handedly details the inner workings of my experiences in The Summit.  And for that, I sincerely hope that part of myself can resurface with a little more levity, comedy or absurdity. 

We’re now three plus months in – and with that, the anxiety, bliss and surrealism of opening has steadily passed as the weeks started to float by.  Frustration, weariness, exhaustion and creative voids begin to creep in as the most obvious emotional replacements.  So, with my life both in and out of my blog, I am seeking levity.  I can see employees starting to fade in energy levels whether they are attributed to personal conflicts, seasonal stress or holiday complacency.  It’s not a rut, but I guess the group has collectively taken a cooler attitude.  And with that, I feel that I –  more so than anyone else, should not be projecting that type of energy.

Our issues with beer and wine has become a sordid and sad affair – now requiring the assistance of legislative aides, entertainment lawyers, possibly expediters and every one in between.  In a neighborhood that is 80+% small business, it seems that the city policies as they are written, support anything but.  Throw in a bunch of loony anti-gentrification-fueled “ethnic/social inequality” crybaby assholes parading around the Mission like a bunch of blind chimps and you have the makings of a double team assreaming between the immovable object and the unstoppable force.  It’s especially funny considering that I am an ethnic minority, have no associations with corporate partners, happen to be first generation immigrant and serve as a primary operator in this business.  I’m sorry, but considering that I employ Mission residents, pay city taxes, try to support my neighbors and respectfully serve customers basically means that I’m responsible to the neighborhood.  It also means that I’m not some covert hide-in-the-weeds politico operation that gets itself off by denigrating blue collared entrepreneurs – all while seemingly offering nothing to a neighborhood but the sound of their self righteous and disillusioned voice.

Now that I’m through with telling certain peoples to go kick rocks, another thing that seems to happen in most chef positions is this constant struggle to try to listen to people explain their ideas for undermining you creatively.  It’s essentially the same warning with any position of power – if you want to hold the reins of creative control and direction, you need to ensure that you are not in a position where that can be pulled from under you.  I’d say most of the time when you hear about a chef leaving a position – it is directly the result of one variance of the issue or another.  Yes, some chefs are assholes and there are many that are irresponsible and clueless (like any profession), but its a common story in the industry to hear that someone responsible and talented has been forced out because of the constant frustrations/battles/struggles with direction coming from those who might not have worked a day in the life.  For those that are trying to get to this point in your career, there are a couple things you need to understand, 1. thicken your skin and soften your ego because every suggestion needs to be heard regardless on how wildly ridiculous it may be, 2. there will ALWAYS be opposition 3. learn to coherently, effectively and professionally address issues (yes, reading and writing are important), 4. open your mind, but don’t compromise your integrity,  and finally 5. make sure you’re holding cards and not just dealt a hand.  It costs you to have skin in the game, but it’ll cost you more eventually without it.

With the New Year, I finally get to change our menu format and system into something that makes more sense.  Instead of a lunch and dinner service with a small amount of items on each, we are swapping it for an all day service with more items – including some sandwich options and entree options as well.  Without beer and wine, it logistically makes no sense to deal with splitting services.  We will also be utilizing a more bistro style menu that will be something like a chalkboard menu – this allows us to change items in a more freeform fashion and offer a better capture of the best that the farms can offer weekly.  With our limitations and kitchen size, it is easier to manage in terms of inventory and it is more efficient (ultimately, responsible) in terms of sourcing.  All that essentially means we get to do more fun stuff.

That’s all for now, hopefully my next update won’t take as long or sound as militant.  So all I can say for now is let’s all try to smile a little more even though it might hurt your face.