Thursday, February 8, 2007

Destroy and Create

Tom says:
There comes a time in every renovation project where your patience or, rather, your impatience, gets the better of you and then, miraculously, all the moving parts suddenly sync with one another and the result is one very beautiful machine.

This is not that time.

Work is progressing, but it's hard to see beyond the destruction even if you understand that destruction is necessary before creation. Right now, the dining room is a holding area, which is a nice way of saying storage. Twenty-five cases of tile, nine wall sconces, four pendant lights, stacks of plywood, MDF board, 20 feet of cherry bead board that will be used for wainscoting, and 15 cases of glass blocks--basically, everything we need to finish the job is in that room. This, in turn, means that the amount of physical space we have to do the job has gotten smaller. With approximately five weeks, give or take, until we open, it looks like it will take at least that long to clear it out and clean it up.

All this is enough to make me forget sometimes why I'm doing this. But then, I had a meeting with our Chef and I remembered. It's about the food. It's about the experience I want to deliver to downtown Manchester. It's about having the guts to take everything I've learned over the last 20 years and put into play beneath an awning of my own.

When I first began thinking about opening a restaurant, I knew what kind of Chef I wanted to hire. Because I'd likely spend a significant amount of time in the kitchen at the start, the Chef should be on the younger side, energetic and dynamic; someone who'd served as sous chef for a few years and was ready for the next step of chef de cuisine. He/she would also be able to execute my vision of the restaurant's concept, could be trusted to manage the daily operations of the kitchen and be someone who had found his/her authentic culinary voice.

I believe we've got that Chef. Until we issue a formal press release announcing the hire, we'll refer to him simply as Chef. He came to us via high recommendation from a friend in the business, has worked as a sous at a local spot I hold in high regard, and most importantly, he aced the tasting--nailed the concept, showed off his technical skills and demonstrated the ambition to make his voice heard. It's a voice worth hearing is all I have to say.

So he and I sat down last night for the first time since he accepted our offer and we talked opening game plans and expectations. It was also the first time in weeks and maybe even months that I got to talk solely about the food, the belief system behind the concept, and the narrative or story I want the menu to tell. I got to talk about cooking techniques. I got to talk about ingredients. I got to talk about creating.

And it was good.

For a brief moment, the stress and adrenaline subsided and I forgot all about the drywall we tore down to string the wiring for the wall sconces the thin film of dust that coats everything (including me when I come home at the end of the day), and the mountain of materials waiting to be used that seems insurmountable.

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