“In short: Want your favorite restaurant to stick it out this season? It’s time to go out to dinner.”
Chef Mark Mendez: Open letter to a culinary student
Chef Mark Mendez, Carnivale, River West
I am angry, so forgive me if I rant. You gave notice after only two weeks on the job and then didn’t show up the next day and really screwed me. I know why you quit; it was hard work, harder than you thought it was going to be. The funny thing is, you worked an easy station and never even worked on a busy night, funny right? The sad thing is you don’t even know how hard it really is, or what it truly means to be a line cook.
It’s not all your fault; they didn’t really prepare you for this in cooking school did they? They didn’t warn you that being a great chef requires first being a great cook. They didn’t tell you about the sacrifices you have to make, the hard work, the hours, the dedication, the commitment, the lack of sleep, the constant abuse of the sous chef, they didn’t warn you. You thought you would graduate from school and be like Thomas Keller in a couple years, that’s all it should take right?
I know, I know, learning how to use your knife, make a great stock, or learning how to properly blanch vegetables is boring, it’s cooler to work sauté station or grill. I’m too old school anyway, no immersion circulators, no foams, no cutesy plates, no pacojet, boring really. Who wants to learn how to properly sharpen a knife or butcher a fish, so boring and tedious.
Well, I need to tell you a few things. One day, just maybe, you will be a chef somewhere. You will need to train and motivate the people who work for you, guide them, lead them, teach them, and inspire them. One day, you will spend more time looking at a profit-and-loss statement than you do your station. You will miss prepping your station, making a sauce, butchering a piece of meat, even sharpening your knife. You will spend time in marketing meetings, staff meetings, partners meetings, vendor meetings, all kinds of meetings. You will spend more time in the front of house than you really want to; spend time outside of the kitchen promoting your restaurant, give interviews, agonize over food and labor costs, kiss your wife goodbye while she sleeps because you have to be at the restaurant early for some insane reason, and somewhere in there make sure you are serving tasty food. You will miss weddings, birthday parties, graduations, all kinds of things. You will alienate your friends and family because you don’t write or call enough. There are no sick days, personal days, breaks; this is not like a 9-to-5 job; get over it.
Get ready for years of sacrifice, hard work, and stress. Learn as much as you can, read everything, ask questions, write things down, save your money and eat at other restaurants, show up to work early and offer to stay late, come to work on your day off just to learn how to make pastry or hone butcher skills. Taste everything you can, over and over, and ask the chef so many questions he gets annoyed.
Take care of yourself and sleep as much as you can and skip after-work drug/liquor binging, so you wake up ready and on time. Travel and experience another culture eat their food and learn to speak their language. Learn to appreciate the time you have right now, enjoy the ride, the process, don’t be in a hurry to be a sous chef or make a lot of money. It’s not about that and it never will be unless you are extremely talented and lucky. There is only one Ferran Adria or Thomas Keller or Grant Achatz, and they all have worked extremely hard to get where they are and continue to do so. Enjoy all the bullshit that comes with this life, embrace it, learn to thrive on it.
One day, when you are an executive chef or chef/owner, there will be an epiphany so powerful you will have to sit down. You will understand everything every chef or sous chef yelled at you; you will understand why we work the way we do; you will understand why our profession is so wonderful, so unique, and it will hit you hard. I can’t tell when or where this will happen but I promise you it will if you work hard and keep your head down and do what your chef tells you.
So keep this in mind when I give you a hard time and push you, criticize you and refuse that day-off request. Maybe the next job you have, you will suck it up instead of leaving them short a line cook on a busy night.
As a culinary student in 1993, Chef Mark Mendez worked at Spiaggia. Before becoming executive chef at Carnivale, he also cooked at Patria in New York and Chicago’s Harvest on Huron, Spruce, Twelve 12 and Gioco.
I am sure by now, you have heard the buzz about our food adventure throughout the world on Wednesdays. Chef Chris Godfrey and team have researched and created remarkable menus from these areas of the World already – Mexico, Peru, Brazil, South Pacific, Korea, Japan and then to Morocco and this coming Wednesday, the 19th of Feb, the Middle East region And all of this from Roost Cafe’s Ogunquit, Maine kitchen. Please take a look the pictures on our facebook page “Roost Cafe and Bistro” and you will be overwhelmed with their beauty. Enjoy
We are “on the road” with our World Wide Food Adventure in 80 days and stopping each Wednesday in a different port. December 4 was our first Port of Call – Mexican Pacific (warm, nice). Chef Chris has put an awesome menu together for us to enjoy new and old flavors alike, but with a contemporary flare. Group Rate @ $25 per person + t&g. We will also be highlighting information about origins and cultural uses. Wednesdays, Dec 11 & 18 are our next scheduled stops in Central America. Menus are posted on our website – www.roostcafeandbistro.com Call for your reservation now. 646.9898 and enjoy the varied menus and flavors of world wide cuisine, right here at Roost Cafe and Bistro, Ogunquit, Maine. Check out the food photos as well. Come join us for a wonderful trip this winter on Wednesdays.
Here is the Itinerary :
Pacific Mexico 12-04
Peru & Brazil 12-11
Hawaii & South Pacific 01-08 may be postponed a week due to stormy weather (surgery).
Japan & South Korea 01-15
India & Burma 01-22
S Africa & Madagascar 01-29
Middle East 02-12
Italy & Mediterranean 02-19
Spain & Portugal 02-26
Germany & Austria 03-12
The leaves are turning and the turkeys are getting nervous. Yes, Thanksgiving is just around the corner!
Rob and Aldo have decided on the specifics of this year’s Thanksgiving menu, and we think it’s going to be one of our best ever!
Good Day to our friends who are great supporters of Roost Café and Bistro!
This is the first in publishing a weekly blog about our adventures in moving our restaurant to Ogunquit and our experiences subsequent to opening in our new location.
Firstly, we keep pinching ourselves that we are here in Ogunquit with a fantastic restaurant building and are also in walking distance from home to work.
Secondly, we keep pinching ourselves that we are in an Ogunquit treasured location that has been a multiple award winning restaurant for 20 years. That restaurant was lovingly known as 98 Provence Bistro. We admire and honor their commitment to so many wonderful years of a long term successful restaurant in the southern coast of Maine. We wish them the best in their future endeavors and engagements. We also pay our respects to Everett Mink, who made this building a dream come true for any chef and we are delighted to be the next group of chefs to honor his vision.
Now the nitty gritty.
98 Provence was operational for 18 years with Chef Pierre at the helm. He, his wife, sister and brother-in-law sold the business to Everett Mink who retained this wonderful group as chef and managing staff. Mr. Mink then made a major renovation to the property 2 years later. After a successful 6 month re-opening of 98 Provence, Mr. Mink was diagnosed with a brain tumor and subsequently passed away in December 2012. Mrs. Mink then decided to place the property on the market.
We quickly found an investor who had faith in our ability to do justice to the space and signed a lease with option to buy.
We then moved from Cape Neddick to Ogunquit on May 31st with a group of loyal and new staff members. Our 14 foot truck made 4 round trips that included the signature “tree” that was in the bar. Yes, Aldo made sure that that happened. In fact, I was sent home during the “transplantation” of the tree as my disparaging comments were not welcomed. Gladly I went home with less stress and returned the next day with the most valued restaurant decoration ever (If we had a nickel for every person who wanted that tree in their home, well, we could have retired 4 years ago). The tree was in place, intact and stunning. But it needed new wiring of the lights. An order had been placed for commercial lights and we were anxiously awaiting the delivery. We were able to complete the “tree-move” with the re-wiring of the tree, the re-lighting and the inauguration of that old re-vamped tree in the new location.
We quickly sorted all our goods and wares that we brought with us and began the task of ordering, receiving and prepping the food for our newly expanded menu. We hired more staff and began that training as well.
We had our first light function on the 11th of June. Whew. Such a whirl wind 11 days, but we hosted a cocktail party for the local B&B’s, Inns and Hotels. We had a great turn out. The following night was an invitation only dinner for 50 dear friends. It was a bit overwhelming for all. We should have kept it down to 10 people, but our customers were so great, we wanted to include so many.
We finally opened our doors with the primary kinks worked out on the 18th of June. Mind you, I said, the primary kinks as there were many more subtle and hidden things to work out, one of which was to promote the Sous Chef to Head Chef and a line cook to Sous Chef. That nailed the sporadic good and mediocre meal coffin shut, never to be opened again. Chef Chris Godfrey and Jake Wakely have been at the helm for 2 weeks now and have been doing an outrageous job. Our thanks to them. See what one new diner had to say about them. 5 stars out of 5.
First Time – A Charmer
Dined on 7/22/2013
When on vacation, we try not to dine out too much, so we always try to be thoughtful in our dining choices and Roost definitely fits the bill. The food and service were exemplary and we had a great time. The decor is very rustic, with a little bit of funkiness to give it some character; the bar area looked really inviting. Definitely work a return trip when next we’re in Ogunquit.
We will update you in the next couple of day with more information.
Please look for a new and updated menu and a real fun new Light Fare Menu at the Bar.
It’s finally here! The day Rob, Aldo and everyone has worked so hard to prepare for.
Our Grand Re-opening in our new location at 262 Shore Road, Ogunquit ME!
Join us soon!
We just created a gallery of photos of some of our finest dishes. Check them out here.