Feb 222013

Craig Giesecke

If you’ve ever built a house or otherwise been involved in construction or extensive remodeling of a building, you know any contractor’s standard answer is “two weeks.” You also know only too well how, particularly in this city, the wheels of the public utilities and their regulatory minions in city government grind v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y –- unless, of course, you’re late paying a bill.

For some inspection-related reason, a week ago, an Entergy crew arrived at our new project and drove off with the gas meter. A week later, we’re still waiting to get it back. Seems the latest holdup is the address in the application is two digits off from the actual location. You’d think, since they are merely supposed to put a gas meter back where it was, this would be non-issue. Or that whoever arrived with said meter would ask a question or two. But, as it is, we’re at least a week late in firing up the hot water, a week late in getting a kitchen going, employees miss a week of pay and Entergy misses a week of natural gas sales. Gah!

Such temporary frustrations aside, other construction is going well and nearing some of its final stages. We’re getting an idea of just how pretty the interior will be when complete and how functional the outdoor spaces will be. We’re also honing in on exactly what the menu will be and we’ve got our grocery list ready when it’s time to call our suppliers. It’s that familiar mix of impatience and humor, do-it-now and hurry-up-and-wait. I’m watching another spot on Magazine go through its opening gyrations and, on the one hand, I feel bad for them because I’ve been there. On the other, since I’ve been there, I could have solved a lot of their problems if they’d have only asked me. But they didn’t and I don’t work there, so discussion is pointless. Sorry I brought it up.

One of the culinary adjustments I’m having to make is a return to detail work. Most of my work for my current employer is production cooking –- making huge amounts of food that’s shoveled out of the kitchen and quickly snapped up. Of course, the product has to look appetizing and taste good. But, since most of it winds up being re-plated by the customer or eaten out of a go-box, eye appeal is not as critical as it would be in a restaurant setting. There is little if any garnish, at least not per individual serving. But it will be a critical issue once the new place opens.

This has me pondering just how the hell I’m going to make each plate look its absolute best. We’ve got some great dishes lined up, at least in that we know how they will taste. But if it doesn’t look right, it’s not right. Each of us in the kitchen, I’m sure, will also have our own ideas about how it SHOULD look. There will be mock squabbles and good-natured insults exchanged. This is one of the fun parts of opening a new operation.

What’s not always so much fun is going through numbers to make sure things are priced right. As mentioned in this space before, we culinary types are not usually masters of the bottom line. Most of us eventually learn to be, if we want to survive in the business. But such discussions usually look like a Phish fan being dragged on a first date to a death metal concert – you like the person you’re going out with or you wouldn’t go. But you’re not wild about where you’re going.

All that said, this is a good time of year to focus on these kinds of issues because life around here would be relatively boring otherwise. We’re done with Carnival, but not yet into Festival Season and St. Patrick’s Day is still three weeks away.

Focus, dude. Focus.

Craig Giesecke has been a broadcaster and journalist for over 30 years, including nearly two decades at the AP and UPI covering news, sports, politics, food and travel. He has been the owner of J’anita’s for five years, serving well-reviewed upscale bar food and other dishes. Comments are encouraged and welcomed.

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