October 2, 2022

You’re the Boss: The Very Long Weekend

My favorite bartender gave her two-week notice after I told her in a vile tone to fill the toy tractors on the bar.Chris KoszykMy favorite bartender gave her two-week notice after I told her in a vile tone to fill the toy tractors.

Start-Up Chronicle

Getting a restaurant off the ground.

I apologize. This blog post is anything but timely. I admit to being laid low by recent events: a Memorial Day fire led to a nightmare June of inspector hunting and permit gathering, culminating in two days of actual repair — all of which brought us to our third opening in less than a calendar year. Just in time for the Fourth of July. And fireworks. Not the celebratory exploding rainbows of the Grucci Brothers, more like the gruesome tales of the Brothers Grimm where an evil queen casts evil spells while stirring a smoldering cauldron behind a castle parapet in some dark forest.

Whatever we did to upset Your Highness, please accept our apologies.

The long weekend began well. The phones rang as if we had advertised. We did not. The Southampton Press sent a writer as if we had hired a public relations firm. We did not. The kitchen hummed as if we had never missed a meal and the front of the house, accustomed to openings, quickly found its comfort level. I did not.

I kept looking over my shoulder for an S.U.V. with the Southampton Town emblem to pull into the parking lot and shut us down. Since there was no official list of requirements, I kept going over the phantom agenda, certain that I had forgotten something and offended someone important. I drank Kafka with my coffee and ate Beckett with my beignets.

Rather than a stranger showing up, a server did not. Our most reliable server didn’t come to work and didn’t call to let us know. Feeling betrayed and having to take up his slack, most of the tightly knit staff hoped he was seriously ill or had fallen madly in love. As he was in hospital with a bleeding ulcer, it’s hard to tell which malady had felled him.

His absence was an omen of things to come, fast and furious-making. Each time I walked into the garden, I expected to be attacked by a swarm of locusts or find a blight. I found late blight. In the tomato patch. The plants had to be ripped out (late blight was responsible for the Irish potato famine of the 1840s). Perhaps worse, our first deer tracks appeared. It takes only one deer with a Twitter account to trigger a mass invasion.

A sous chef was found face down in the restaurant lavatory, unconscious and white as a ghost. The Bridgehampton Fire Department knows our address by heart. The volunteers hooked him up to oxygen and dripped saline solution through an IV and sped him to the hospital, which is no easy ride in July 4th traffic in the Hamptons; the roads were designed for horses and tractors, not 10,000 S.U.V.’s piloted by blond, iPod-listening humans.

The chef was released late that night. Diagnosis: heat prostration. Prescription: Gatorade and air-conditioning. Maybe the kitchen is too hot. We shall fix it in the fall. I apologize.

There was a leak in the ceiling of the basement that came from the bar area. We called the plumber and left an urgent message.

One guest was very intoxicated (upon arrival, we believe, for he shared but one bottle of wine with two others) and asked for a cab at the end of his meal. Cabs are a crapshoot here under the best of conditions, and a long shot on holiday weekends. While we waited for the cab, and waited, I noticed the gentleman’s wife bolting out of the restaurant. By the time I got to the parking lot, I saw her frantically trying to stop her husband from speeding into the street; he nearly ran her over. I was sick to my stomach. Prelude to an ulcer. We had done the right thing. We had not done the right thing. We let this guy slip into the night. To his wife and to anybody whom he may have menaced on his way home, if that’s where he was going, I apologize.

As I sat at the bar, filled with regret, droplets of water fell on my hands. I was not weeping. I looked up. The air-conditioning duct had condensation and was drip, drip, dripping. I wrote on a napkin: call heating company. And cab company. And hospital. And gardener. And plumber. And the evil queen in the castle.

Four women at one table were laughing so hard and having such a good time that everyone around them wanted to strangle them into silence and submission. How do you stop four women from laughing loudly and having a good time? You don’t.

A cook had a stomachache. During the weekend, he went from the kitchen to the doctor’s office to the hospital to his family in North Carolina.

Because we had not heard from our most reliable server, our newest server was forced into action before his training was complete. He ended up telling Chef Joe to add chicken to the menu and told his colleagues how they could improve their systems of service and got around to telling me he feared an appearance in this blog. I apologize, but here you are, our newest ex-server, joining an expanding universe and illustrious list.

The freezer went on the fritz, melting all the ice creams and sorbets. Diagnosis: heat prostration. Prescription: a new freezer.

Our only runner, a hard worker who was with us from Day One, was drinking coffee laced with an alcoholic beverage. We have zero tolerance for imbibing on the premises. He was suspended on the spot. He has a problem that needs attention. No apologies.

When reservations are confirmed, we always ask if there are any allergies we should be aware of. When one party of six reported that their little boy could not eat peanuts, we avoided peanut oil and almond powder and pecan brittle. But the server forgot about the allergy and put a plate of ice cream with nuts in front of the little boy. Needless to say, the family was irate. We ate their bill. And apologized profusely.

My favorite bartender gave her two-week notice after I told her in a vile tone to fill the three red toy tractors on the bar with Terra Spiced Sweet Potato Chips. She was hurt. I was wrong. I later apologized. When restaurants are full, tension is high, time is short and frustrations are released. Taking it personally can lead to ulcers; keeping it bottled up may make that ulcer bleed. I hate that she is leaving.

Meanwhile, before we forget the real mission, the food receives raves, the service is sweet, the crowds are just right, and the main complaint I hear is about not being able to get a reservation on the weekends. We are pretty booked up. I apologize for that, too.

But there’s always room for an evil queen at the bar.

Bruce Buschel owns Southfork Kitchen, a restaurant in Bridgehampton, N.Y.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=8265a29328dd1e8958e9846bf4768eb8

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