Day Ten: Saturday November 10th, Too Many Chefs In The Kitchen?
A third of the way to opening day and I am only today feeling like I’m making progress, except that I still have no chef. I do, however, have some wonderful chef friends in the city. Some of them, like Francisco Alejandri (Mexican) Rossy Earle, The SupiCucu Sauce Queen (Panama)Paula Costa (Portuguese) Peter Minaki (Greek) Matt Basile (Italian) Shinji Yamaguchi (Japanese) Vanessa Yeung (Chinese) and Natural Food superstar Nettie Cronish (Jewish)have won awards, have their own reality tv shows, write very popular food blogs and cookbooks, and are generally beloved by critics and general foodies alike. Many of these chefs do not have their own restaurants- not yet anyway- although Matt has a food truck and Vanessa runs a very popular cooking studio. So, I reached out to them asked if they could contribute something to my menu. Why not bask in their glory on my menu, I thought, while shamelessly begging for a friend’s help?
It’s a simple idea. Eight chefs come up with their own eponymous yakitori platter (4 skewers), with their signature ingredients and flavours on them. Keep it within a reasonable costing grid, so that guests feel like they are receiving value. Share in the profits from the sale of their dishes. The chef who sells the most platters after 3 months gets to keep theirs on the menu for the next 3 months. Then, another seven chefs are added into the mix. Internationals of all flavours and colours will make what is perceived as a Japanese thing into something looking and tasting more like the United Nations.
If you know of a talented restaurant-less chef- maybe it’s you- who would like to be on the next ‘Yakitori Bar Top Chef’ menu, please have this person reach out to me.
Meanwhile, we still have to deal with food on our own core menu, with or without a professional chef. I’ve recruited Mrs. Moon, “a housewife with the knife”, as she likes to refer to herself, whose food makes me salivate everytime I think about it. The two or fifteen times I’ve tried her dishes had me thinking that there was something other-worldly about her food- hence her last name. No coincidence here. Our plan today was to deal with the key bibimbap (“mixed rice bowl”) ingredients that will be the focus of our small space in the back part of the restaurant (strong supporting roles go to Korean-inspired sandwiches and salads). Bibimbap, as you will remember from my trek through Seoul, is really a bowl of rice + whatever toppings you would like to put on it (mostly vegetable) + chili sauce. Here is a standard-looking bibimbap I snagged off the web. Mrs. Moon (very cute in the pink outfit) and I rolled up our sleeves and tried a hand at a number of ingredients in the empty kitchen: marinated carrots, spinach, zucchini; hon-shimeji mushrooms; two types of bean sprouts and bulgogi. All classic. There were issues with the zucchini (seasoning) and mung bean sprouts (texture), but we knew what we had to do to rectify them. Once opened, we would be offering these + two daily rotations of more funkier deliberation, including my own line of kimchi.
After preparing our own, we tested them against popular house-made bibimbap take-outs from Korean supermarket giants like Galleria and P.A.T. We were the clear winners, although to be fair, theirs had been wrapped in plastic and sitting in the fridge all day. Our flavours and textures were, mostly, perfectly pitched and the flavours exact. I was confident that we could pull off a great basic bibimbap.
Onto kimchi tomorrow…and maybe an executive chef.