Friday, October 11, 2013

It's not me, it's the food


As of late, there have been more and more sleepless nights, more panic attacks and more deep reflection about what exactly it is that I've gotten myself in to. Here is a synopsis of opening your own business: everything costs more than you think it will (especially if you're cursed with that personality disorder of 'doing it right'). Everything will take longer than you think it will, and despite a deep belief to the contrary, no matter how much you think you can do something, it is always best to find an expert - and experts cost a lot of money. 

When I first stepped into my restaurant space, I thought, 'piece of cake', some paint, a little cleaning and we're off to the races. However, under the very thin veneer of this supposedly functioning eating establishment, I easily found a thousand deficiencies of the highest order. Beer running through a soda line, natural gas infractions, a fire suppression system that is no longer up to code, a roof that leaks along with non-commercial grade toilets and a treacherously steep staircase to the washrooms that practically screams 'injury litigation'. Around every corner I found a problem that required solving; countless Rubik's cube scattered around like malignant Easter eggs. I awake in the night with the sudden thought that the dishwasher doesn't properly line up with the sink and that there doesn't appear to be a proper place for dirty dishes to be parked before being washed. What about the front door? Should I paint it? Or kitchen lights - does it provide ample luminosity to see meat searing on the grill under the extraction fan canopy? This goes on. And on.

So, the other night, after a couple of much needed stiff drinks, I started cruising Youtube for my usual illicitly digitized U.K cooking shows from Channel 4. English cooking shows are simply superior to anything we have over here. 

There, I said it. 

Anyway, I found some old episodes of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage from the late nineties. If there was such a thing as a video version of comfort food, this is it for me. Hugh and his merry band of 'Dorset-Downsizers' epitomize the kind of cooking that I love. A combination of local foraging, straight-faced use of offal, and a refreshing lack of over garnishing plates. There is a British sensibility to the program that is both alien and endearing. Their pork chops are always thick with a ribbon of fatty rind, instead of the gentile term 'squab', they unapologetically cook pigeon and there is a liberal use of such rarefied ingredients as gooseberries, elder-flowers, land cress, stinging nettles and razor clams. Everything is lovingly cooked in a butter-yellow AGA stove with no temperature settings beyond hot, medium and low. 

I freaking love it.

Anyway, despite the neck ache from watching this program on a little youtube window, it brought me a proper sense of food zen. I quickly forgot about all the problems and puzzles of opening a restaurant and became reacquainted with the reason why I got into this mess in the first place: the food. I should add at this point that I have a chef now - a right proper chap who is chomping at the bit to get into my kitchen. Unfortunately my salamander (a kind of broiler) is back ordered. My arrangement with the appliance company is such that my kitchen equipment won't be delivered until they are all assembled together. Add in an insufficient gas line and the result is a kitchen with no cooking equipment; it looks like my chef will be helping me paint the bathrooms.

In a few short weeks the proper order of things will return - an immersion in food, cooking and feeding people. My chef and I are already assembling a stellar cookery book library for our kitchen and just talking about some of our recipe ideas is enough to get me stoked for the next phase. 

Man, I'm so done with drywall dust and primer. Bring on the salamander.

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