Originally posted in Jan 2012
No matter how smoothly a restaurant opening goes, there are always a few crazy moments that make for some amazing stories. Here is one of mine: After working from 8am until 2:30 am on opening night, you’d think I would be dead tired. Not the case. I was wired so at 8am I was back at Tavernita, and its when the place is peaceful and silent that I can relax and reflect a bit. I begin to tackle some payroll and paperwork in the office which is right next to the wood burning grill in the kitchen. Soon I hear the sounds of the prep cooks arriving and begin to hear and smell them igniting the grill. The smells are so intoxicating that working near the grill without getting hungry is nearly impossible. There is a very distinct sound that pops off the apple and cherry wood we use in the restaurant. I greet the cooks, put some more coffee on and return to the office, noticing that the grill is almost ready to roast some eggplant. Within 5 mins the fire alarm begins to sound and I jump out of my chair in a mad panic. Now this is where things get weird, it was like slow motion or a dream state but as I looked at the small fire on the grill. I looked to see how far the flame was from the ansull system ( ansul system is the fire prevention above the stoves and grill). I’ve never been in a kitchen where the system has gone off- but I’ve heard horror stories about it. Urban legend style stories.
Can you see where this is going?
In what felt like slow motion I looked up at the sprinkler system to see it going off. All of a sudden a green, jelly like substance is spewing all over the kitchen. It’s on the floor, ceiling and the food the guys had begun to prep, and floating in the lamb stock Santiago put on the night before.
All I could think of as I watched my beautiful kitchen being destroyed was; we going to have to call 200 people and tell them Tavernita is closed for service.
The building management showed up as did the fire department who was shocked to see two little pieces of wood caused all of this to happen, and a faulty sensor that was cracked causing the the system to fail.
By the time everything was settled, it was 2:30 pm. Normally we start prepping for service at 9am- so a 2:30 start nearly sent the staff into a panic.
By some miracle by 6:30 when the first reservations walked thru the door we were ready.
Around 10:30 pm I stood in the packed dining room and took a moment to breathe and just laugh- thinking if only people knew what a day we just had!
And like the sleepless night before- I’m writing this blog at 4am.
Let night three begin…