If there is one thing a chef should be part of in his or her career, it is in the opening of a new restaurant.There is so much that goes into it, so much excitement, time and effort.There is definitely a right way and a wrong way.
I have been lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it) to be the opening sous chef of a successful and not so successful restaurant.The unsuccessful restaurant only lasted six months.You know it’s not going to work when your staff paychecks bounce. We laugh about it now but when it was happening, it wasn’t so funny.
The restaurant had a great concept, a great chef and a great BOH staff. Opening this restaurant was easy for the kitchen staff because we all had worked together before.It was fun while it lasted, yet a challenge to keep together until we finally walked out.Needless to say, I learned a lot from the experience.
I was fortunate to be a part of a restaurant opening at the Encore in Las Vegas.This opening was very successful.We had everything we needed to open the restaurant and were set for success.One day I mentioned to the chef he should have a microphone and speakers on the line so the cooks could hear and he didn’t have to shout. He sent an email and the next day it was done.The challenge was bringing all the new parts in sync, from ordering, receiving, preparation, execution, FOH and BOH communication. It was all new and systems had to be set in place.We worked very long hours opening the restaurant, 30 days straight from 9am to midnight.One of my favorite parts was setting everything up, the walk-ins, the dry storage, and the hot line.You really have to think through every little detail to be most efficient.I had the engineers rearrange the line so the pasta station would have more room. That made things more efficient but we ended up breaking a $10,000 COMBI oven putting a burner near it and melting some wires. It got fixed.
The most exciting thing about opening a restaurant is creating the menu.Being sous chef of these openings I was able to give some ideas.One of my favorite recipes I always suggest and will have a version of it on my menu at Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge this spring is crispy pig trotter.Every time I make it, it brings me back to Versailles when I use to clean the trotters with the view of the Palace de Versailles garden.
Crispy Pig Trotter
10 lb Pig Trotter (frozen is ok)
2 lb Mirpoix / Aromatics – (onions, carrot, celery / garlic, thyme, bayleaf, peppercorns)
½ C Olive Oil
1 qt White Wine
Flour / Egg wash / Panko for breading
Salt and Pepper
Red Wine Vinegar
1. Sweat mirepoix , aromatics in olive oil in tall stock pot.
2. Add white wine and pig trotter / cover with water / bring to simmer.
3. Simmer for 8 hours (watching the water level) till meat falls off bone
4. Carefully strain and pick out all the tiny bones from the trotter (there is a lot)
5. Line a terrine mold or bread pan with plastic.
6. Layer the deboned pig trotter in the pan seasoning with salt, pepper and 1 tsp of red wine vinegar on each layer, repeat this step until all the pig trotter is used.
7. Place a layer of plastic over trotter and place another mold or pan on top, next place some cans to weigh down to press the trotters. Refrigerate for several hours or over night.
8. Take out pig trotter from mold, you can cut the trotter in any shape (I like slices or cubes)
9. Bread the trotter with flour to egg wash to panko, deep fry to golden brown.
10. Lightly season with salt and you can serve with several different components.
11. From spicy vinegar, mustard cream, pickled vegetables to a sunny side up egg.