You know that old proverb, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all?” Well, for awhile there, I didn’t have anything to say. I usually provide a “behind the scenes” look at the restaurant opening. But, for details about the last 6 weeks you’ll just have to wait until VH1 does a “behind-the-behind-the-scenes” exposé. But, now things are back on track and we are moving on.
We’ve made real strides in our search for the right chef for Alison two. You can’t just advertise on Craig’s list to find a chef. You get names via the grapevine – from purveyors, friends and networking. I really need a chef who is not only a talented cook with good management skills, but also someone who has opened a restaurant before. Opening a restaurant is like building a house rather than simply moving into a house. I need a chef that can make every decision – fill every drawer (how many 2 ounce ladles, how many 6 ounce ladles, what size pots, pans and lids, how many female (slotted) spoons and how many male (traditional) spoons). Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
The new chef will need to make decisions about construction and equipment. He or she will choose vendors, hire and train staff. Since everything is new – there is no system in place. The new chef will just have to be flexible.
I’ve opened about half a dozen restaurants – Striped Bass, Venus & the Cowboy, Maritime Restaurant in Rockefeller Center, Central, Alison Café, Alison at Blue Bell. But, the new chef will be responsible for all of these decisions – not me. I’ll be there, of course, but when push comes to shove, the new chef will have to deal with these things.
I’ve talked to about a dozen chef candidates. First, I get the chef’s resume and we talk by phone. If they’re currently working somewhere, I try their food. Sometimes I let the candidate know I’m coming and other times I try the food anonymously. About half of the chefs have been asked to do a tasting. I ask for three or four courses to show their style. Some candidates have real sense of what they want to do. Some ask a lot of questions. One brought his own plates. Another served family style. I want to taste their food and see how they plate the food. We talk about food pairings and how ingredients match. I really want to understand their thought process. I’ve invited my manager and a friend to join me for these tastings.
As we zero in on a chef candidate, I’m busy preparing Alison at Blue Bell for spring. The flowering baskets are hanging and – if it ever stops raining – you can actually sit outside for lunch or dinner. Early crops are coming it at local farms and we’re enjoying the fresh greens, sweet radishes and local mushrooms.