Archive for March, 2008

Are you sick of soffits? I am. But, it is all part of the process. If opening a restaurant were all about food, it would be easy. But, this is hard stuff. It gets harder everyday – just when I think I have it figured out, I get a curveball. Like the ventilation system for the oven or the acoustic material for the ceiling. It’s non-stop.


Speaking of ventilation systems, I am busy trying to choose an oven hood. I am concerned about the people who have offices above the restaurant site and I’m working to make sure that they don’t smell food all day. The people who work at the bank next to Alison at Blue Bell  sometimes complain that they can smell food coming through the wall. I reply that I can smell their money. But, I’m just joking. It’s nice to smell food cooking when you walk into a restaurant. But, any smell – even a good smell – isn’t so great all day long if you’re sitting at your desk. At the restaurant, I thought we were immune to it. But about halfway into our “30 days of cookies” holiday promotion at Alison at Blue Bell , even we got sick of the smell of baking cookies. Sorry,Amelia.                                                                                                                                                               



One option is to have a regular ventilation system with ductwork running up to the top of the building releasing smells high into the air. But that means we’ll have ductwork running up the side of the historic building. Another option is running the ductwork through the building. But, that eats up potential office space. A third option is getting an ultraviolet hood. It uses ultraviolet light to pulverize the air particles that carry food smells. Since it minimizes smells even before they’re vented, there’s no need to run ductwork inside or up the building. Sounds good, but UV hoods run 30 to 40 thousand dollars more than a regular hood. None the less, it looks like that’s the way we’ll be going…unless something else comes up – which I’m sure it will.

 Checking out acoustic material Meeting with Steven Schultheis 

That leaves us with the acoustic situation. As the Los Angeles Times  so eloquently put it, I’m striving for “a comfortable sound level (somewhere between bedlam and the grave).” I spent two hours meeting with Steven Schultheis at S&S Resources. It was a great meeting and I learned a lot. Their acoustic material will absorb 80% of the noise in the main dining room. Now, here’s the tricky part…we want to put the acoustic panels in the recessed areas in-between the soffits. But, we can’t penetrate the ceiling in the main dining room because it is fire rated. So, we’ll have to clip the material to the soffits. And of course, all this impacts the lighting design that we’d already settled on. The panels are 1 to 2 inches thick so they’ll limit the bounce we get from the lights. You need something for the light to bounce off to get a nice glow. It’s always something!  

Enough of ventilation and acoustic material. I have some cooking to do. I just picked up some kosher gelatin. I’m using ideas from Eileen Talanian’s new cookbook Marshmallows: Homemade Gourmet Treats  to create a kosher marshmallow dessert for my upcoming class in NYC . Then, in a few weeks, I’m helping Eileen launch her new cookbook with a reception featuring sweet and savory marshmallow dishes . When things get bad there’s always my marshmallow blaster. It shoots mini-marshmallows at high power. A great, non-violent way of dealing with aggression. I’ve been using it non-stop for the past 2 weeks. Go ahead…make my day!


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I’ve opened more restaurants than I care to admit. Some on my own and others as the debut chef. And now, Alison two.


It’s always two steps forward and a step backwards. We decided to carpet the bar instead of using hardwood floors. It’s a little unusual but we thought it would absorb some of the noise. We want the restaurant to have a buzz – but the noise level shouldn’t be uncomfortable. We want a place that’s comfortable to hang out.

 Meeting with Pro-Tech Floors

It turns out that a new employee’s sister is the foremost acoustic expert in the area. What luck! She wrote me an email explaining that carpet helps with low and high frequencies but it can also make a room boomy. Okay, so if that’s not the answer, what is? She sent me links to information about acoustical materials.


So here’s my idea for the acoustic materials. What if we can put them on the ceiling instead of the floor? We have to build soffits in the ceiling to house electrical wiring (it’s a fire code issue – don’t ask). So now I’m wondering if we can use some of those acoustic materials (instead of drywall) to make the soffits. I just spoke to my general contractor about it and he’s checking it out. Those soffits, by the way, are like lemons that we’re making into lemonade. Since we have to have them, we’re making them design elements and figuring out how to use them to actually enhance the lighting. Instead of shining straight down from can lights, the lights will bounce off the soffits — creating a glow.


So, if the acoustic material can go on the ceiling — instead of the floor — then we don’t need carpet and can consider going back to hardwood floors. I asked Bob Himmelreich, our flooring specialist from Pro-Tech Floors for quotes both ways. As I said, two steps forward and a step back.


It’s enough to drive you to drink. Fortunately, a beer dinner is on tap at Alison at Blue Bell on Monday. Tom Kehoe, Brewmaster from Yards Brewing Company, will be joining us for a special 4-course beer dinner. Should be fun. More fun than doing the two-step over carpeting or hardwood or carpeting or hardwood or carpeting…



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