How to Own a Stress-Free Restaurant

OK so here’s the deal.  I have been a avid observer of the resty business for decades.  I am in absolute AWE of the dedication required for cheflife, having seen all of its upsides and downsides, the super-super high notes and the absolute bottoms of this profession.  I’ve seen the hours and the total impossibility of family life.  I’ve seen the blood, sweat and tears, the drugs, alcohol, ruined families, bankruptcies, and suicides.  I’ve seen the vast sums spent on start-ups and construction, the partnership explosions, and the empty shells, the equipment auctions, the lawsuits, everything.  I have also seen the steady plugging away at a stellar reputation and the meteoric rises to stardom.  I’ve watched the career jugglers and long-term pacifists.  I am friends with a BUNCH of food professionals and they have my utmost respect.  I also know there are several ways to ply one’s trade as a restaurant owner and cook.

I’ve been to a few *open kitchen* themed situations over the years–to mixed results.  There was one when I lived in Sac, The Kitchen? I believe.  The whole, one-seating, prix fixe, dozen+ tops, counter-view, overhead mirror, watch the chef, BYOB, cooking school sorta thing tucked away in a commercial spot.  I am aware of the concept and its legitimate applications.

So a new joint comes to town.  Little hot-diggity chef with a few big-city badges.  Installs a bunch of stainless steel in his garage on a residential street.  I followed the construction–everything was done for pennies-on-the-dollar compared to traditional, commercial-kitchen applications.  Room for a dozen elbows, one seating 5 times a week, prix fixe for 10 amazing courses.  Not sure what the street is zoned, but it’s in a part of the county where everyone looks the other way.  I’m sure there were building permits, but with the *usage* dolled down a bit to alleviate concern.  There’s no signage, no parking spaces, no POS, no ADA, no fire systems, no furniture, no janitors, no servers, no line cooks, no cellar, no inventory, no payroll, no rent, no managers, no landscaping to flood, street-lights to burn out, or sidewalks with un-even joints, dishwashers with broken cars and no babysitter or arugula for 15 instead of 150.  Nothing which keeps a real chef up all night.  The whole situation is painless.  Pay your cash up front, bring your wine and 5 of your friends, and I’ll make 12 amuse-bouches one-at-a-time for your party.  Everything will taste amazing, I guarantee it.

Out of respect for my industry friends who work their ASSES off in the real restaurant world, I don’t think I can support these sort of endeavors.  And any food professional who patronizes this format gets an asterisk.

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