(Blogger’s Note: Every Friday an excerpt from the soon to be published book, Faux Pas is French for Restaurant appears onn this blog.)
I would eventually learn that all chefs who graduate from a culinary institute leave with a toolbox resembling those of the most avid weekend angler. Knives glisten, watermelon scoops shine. Vegetable peelers, thermometers and other tools of the trade are all presented to the grad with a note of sorts simply saying something like "explore the passion as you progress to plates of higher levels".
Somewhere, within the darkest corner of the tool box, in a pocket underneath the top expandable tray with its small compartments for miniscule essentials or possibly stuck within the die cut tin lid, an instructor – a more accomplished chef — places the intangible chef´s tool- an ego- ready to be pulled out and worn on a sleeve as soon as the first perfect plate of Chanterelle Mushroom Risotto receives raves from the self-appointed food critic down the street.
Our newly acquired chef was no different from those who graduated from where ever, before him. For four hours we discussed sandwich style, plate preparations, catering menus, marketing and promotional material and everything else we could think of in an attempt to accelerate sales and position the store to do more than a mere $200.00 a day in business. And, we were adamant that this needed to happen soon since both stores were losing money faster than we ever imagined they would. I emphatically made that clear to Jesse. I told him that he could continue in the management position at the store and that increased catering sales where the answer to our volume needs. Catering sales and more productivity, with a more realistic food cost, was the formula we needed to turn the corner and bring a profitable budget into line.
The meeting ended on a very upbeat note and we all shook hands agreeing to work together to make Cottagewood the catering center of the Lake Minnetonka community. On Saturday Night, we would have the ability to experience that first hand since Jesse was catering an in-store party for Mary Raymond a local Cottagewood socialite-celebrity and twelve guests in honor of her son´s graduation. Kranston and I told Jesse we would be there to help.
For us restaurants and food operations were our children. The newest one garnered the most attention. Always remaining fond and involved with the oldest, sights were soon set on the newest in an attempt to correct previous mistakes. Correcting imperfections in staff and self was always a goal that we set early on in a new property. It was a way that we developed the many procedures we used throughout our decade in the business. Cottagewood would become the springboard for the growth of the company. And, that first party we catered for Mary Raymond, the one that featured a Chanterelle Mushroom Risotto, would set the stage for future events and Jesse would be a part of those, for a while.