Finally Friday. The third week of January is notoriously the worst on the books. But today begins the best three daysin the business. Over the weekend when you are faced with turmoil, read the following excerpt from Faux Pas must be French for Restaurant.
I had become a frequent flier thanks to the drunken chefs that continued to consume the company´s profits while under cooking or scorching entrees that would not have captured food critics remarks the way our perfectly prepared entrees did months before. For the second time in six months, I was faced with the task of replacing a frequently staggering head chef at The St. Alban´s Boathouse. I had recently alleviated Head Chef Tipsy, as he had become known, from the newly opened Fish Ranch Restaurant in Carmel.
Everything was spinning, with the exception of the plane, out of control. I didn´t know where to turn. I began to realize that you cannot baby-sit from afar, and I wasn´t ready to begin a bi-coastal marriage over a plate of pasta. The weekends were our salvation. On Friday evenings the crowds reaappeared and kept coming, until Sunday night, that is. But slow Mondays, dreaded Tuesdays, bleak Wednesdays and unpredictable Thursdays when we were either over or under staffed, canceled the joy and profits that the weekends left behind.
I was beginning to entertain thoughts of returning to my career in journalism. Realizing, however, I had an addiction to the excitement and challenge of the restaurant business made walking away almost impossible. I enjoyed the turmoil. The action of a busy dining room on a weekend night excited me almost as much as three, 250 person catering events, all at the same time did.
Plus, the challenge of making the company profitable, once again, continued to haunt me. There seemed to be no way out. I had a few options, but they appeared unrealistic.
I could become a short order cook at the beautiful hillside Monastery in Carmel. There, I could spend my days in solitude with a knife, a pepper and pan, preparing food for simple people who wouldn´t complain about a thing.
Or, I could request kitchen duty in the prison I would soon be sent to after mentally snapping and attempting to murder those creating the stressful, seemingly unsolvable problems that were ruining life as Kranston and I once knew it.
However, when you own three restaurants in two states, a sixty-foot antique catering yacht, and have an obligation to a handful of partners who had been supportive throughout the years, you just can’t walk away. Especially if you are a restaurant addict. Yes, I was self diagnosed and the signs of addiction were apparent.
Plus, we had other, more pressing commitments- reservations for important people that kept us going.
A reservation book filled with a variety of events, including Harvey and Carol Ann Mackay’s daughter’s pre-rehearsal dinner for 250 people, a boat cruise with Curt Carlson and his friends and a dinner for Clint Eastwood in Carmel, all added to the daily excitement that kept us focused on subliminal success.
In addition to these culinary complexities, friends had also diagnosed Kranston with a much more serious addiction to the business than I had developed. She had become a class A restaurantaholic. Her needs were greater than mine. She constantly needing the fulfillment of a freshly bussed table, the excitement of directing staff, orchestrating dining rooms, and perfecting the imperfections that are part of the demanding daily ritual of the multi-unit restaurateur. If these needs were not fulfilled she was miserable – at least towards me, placing an even greater strain on our lovebird relationship.
Kranston´s ambition was targeted on daily perfection – paying attention to the most minute detail, mine was on constant expansion. She was micro. I was macro. Tablecloths had to be hung precisely at the same level from each table throughout the dining rooms. Silverware had to not only be free of dishwasher spots, but had to shine. Sterling Silver accessories, whether salt shakers, sugar bowls, or antique roasting domes, had to reflect the image closest to them and by doing so, reflected the image of the corporation we were building. And, if a table were not bussed within the appropriate amount of time, she would take the task upon herself and I would be the one to reprimand or fire the busser.
I was a seat of the pants partner. She was the planner. I couldn´t open restaurants fast enough. A total of eight in four years. An accomplishment bordering on lunacy. And, as I was finding locations, Kranston was designing, developing and planning our next move. She was the corporate executive. I was a culinary cowboy.