Some brief notes about restaurants (via the New Yorker) ~ Sounds + Food 'n' Retail

Momofuku Ssäm Bar.jpgThe reasons to love bookstore-cafés is that you get a chance to discover new stuff to read. The reason to hate my particular café is that, every week, even when I ask for a *normal* coffee, the waitress continues to regurgitate the same phrase: "will that be a large of a small?" Anyway…

I read a nice article in the New Yorker today, about a stressed out restaurant-entrepreneur called David Chang, who runs several noodle-bar-styled restaurants in New York City. The Yorker's articles are always so long, but it was a captivating article. I took some notes, which I'll share with you now.

  • Waiters make way more money than chefs, simply because of the tips; the figure mentioned was $1700 per 32 hours vs. $350 that chefs make. Turning chefs into waiters, which seems like a logical decision in a noodle-bar, comes with the challenge that these types are not always that domesticated (can't help thinking about Chef! here).

  • The front-end of a restaurant—servers(?), the set-up, beverages—is relatively simple (compared to the work that goes into cooking) and can be consolidated across multiple restaurants.

  • Personal integrity in cooking—e.g. cutting fish-cakes properly, even though the customer won't notice them in a bowl of ramen—is the difference between a quality-restaurant and a McDonalds or Uno.

  • Standards: A piece of chicken can taste wonderful to a customer, he won't know why, but it's actually because it's been prepared (marinated, dried, etc.) for more than 24 hours.

  • Quote: "The great thing about fast-food is that you could sell out without worrying about it, because fast-food isn't pretentious and selling out is in the nature of the business."

  • Quote: "Cooking is honest work; gives you a way to measure yourself."
The thing about restaurants is that I'm painfully ignorant about so many things going on in that world. Cuisine is like art—it's dynamic and filled with critics. For instance, there's the "foam" trend, mentioned in the article, hot in the 90s, but which I never heard off.

For me, I'm always interested to find out more about this industry, because I want to be part of something that produces culture. But I'm constantly thinking about whether it's wise to enter such an industry without a basic familiarity. It would be like me entering the tech-industry, without being aware of open-source, how to write code, or do project-management; it's just not done.

Food for (mostly, my own) thoughts.


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