(Blogger’s Note: Every Friday an excerpt from the soon-to-be-published book, Faux Pas is French for Restaurant, appears in this space.)
Restaurants are like children – the newest one becomes your favorite – for a while. Cottagewood was the favorite. Employees of the new place also become favorites — for a while- through osmosis.
Chef Jesse quickly rose to the top of the favorite employee list since he was promoted to the Executive Chef position weeks earlier. At first, our vision focused on the same horizon: reasonably priced quality food, an ever-growing passion for presentation, and unequaled customer service, along with a strong desire to grow the business and expand the company. The honeymoon was glorious.
Staff imperfections have a strange way of surfacing. Customers may hint at problems, other employees may make a face, or roll their eyes when the shift schedule is posted, or, in few cases, someone is just too nice.
Jesse was nice. Like every honeymoon, there were high points and low points. One of the highest highs came when soon after taking over the store Jesse informed us that he had scheduled a very important catering event- to be held in the store- for Mary Raymond, a neighboring customer who was a strong supporter of the store.
The casually elegant dinner party was to be held- with 24 guests- in honor of her son´s 21st birthday.Jesse had yet to plan the menu but, he knew, he claimed, that Raymond was fond of Chanterelle Mushroom Risotto, Pork Loin, and an array of other garden vegetables.
The event was also a coming out for us. We were new to the community and our talents needed to be showcased. This would be a perfect lace to begin the introduction of our culinary expertise. I offered to help Jesse in the kitchen. Kranston said she would help transform the front of the small store into a welcoming dining room. Jesse balked at each offering, preferring to handle the event on his own. He didn´t need or really want our help.
Being ignorant in the ways of a kitchen would have been an obstacle for many, but a decade of life in New York laid a solid foundation for the restaurant business. The culture of Manhattan offers a view of many of the hustlers, hucksters and buskers that somehow either start or end up in kitchens. When Jesse resisted our continued offer to help, I knew we needed to be at the party.
Although our catering background was limited to the few 200 plus people parties we had at our Summit Ave. home, we had enough experience in the world of entertaining to know what makes an event memorable. The food is of the utmost importance. The design of the menu, the layout of the room, the clothes on the table, the china, the lighting, the music and the staff are the elements, which change a night into an evening.
By Thursday afternoon, Jesse still hadn’t received approval on the menu, the dining room plan hadn’t been developed, and no waiters were scheduled to work. More disturbing – whenever we called Cottagewood from our offices at Crocus Hill , one of the cerks would tell us that the client was calling, leaving messges for Jesse. and that she was having a difficult time getting in touch with him.
The honeymoon was ending yet neither of the lovebirds knew it.