Jump to content

So, you want to open a restaurant?


JPW
 Share

Recommended Posts

Last week in Saratoga we had dinner at our favorite restaurant there, Chez Sophie, which had just moved and was still in the process of getting set up. This week's e-newsletter from them details some of the adventures that they have had and have proved to me why all restaurateurs are completely certifiable for being in that industry (but thank goodness they are).

Hello, Everyone:

Everyday is an adventure. EVERY MOMENT is an adventure.

Sunday morning Cheryl and Nico came into the new restaurant for

breakfast and Nico yelled, "Oh Mommy! You built me a pond!" Cheryl

was busy checking her servers' work and didn't realize at first what

her son was so excited about. Then she looked out the windows and saw

that the entire courtyard was flooded. The sprinklers were on and it

was pouring rain.

Paul, who had gotten there first, said he'd been trying since 6 a.m.

to find someone who could turn off the sprinklers. Soon the sun came

out and the new water feature at Chez Sophie began to reflect a

perfect sky. Deciding to make the best of a small disaster, Cheryl

sent Nico and his playmate Ariana out to splash in Lake Sophie. Then

she called one of our servers, Alex Demers, who developed an eye for

Martha Stewart-like decorating from his-mother-the-florist, and asked

him to stop at Pier One on his way to work and pick up some floating

candles. Having not yet seen the courtyard, he was a bit confused by

the request, but complied admirably.

The sparkling reflections on the glass wall of the restaurant during

Sunday night dinner were so magical looking that Cheryl could almost

overlook the damage to the newly laid sod and herb beds. We were

still worried about Joseph's metal sculptures in the garden,

especially the 250-pound "Delicate Balance," an oversized kinetic man

made from white steel pipe. The concrete footing that raised him

overhead so he could sway in the breeze had just been poured a few

days before, and the ground around it was a marsh.

Monday, we were planning to install lighting in the courtyard to show

off the sculptures at night. Unfortunately, it started to rain

again. By the end of breakfast, water had begun to creep over the

flagstones and onto the new carpet of the lower dining room. Barry

Wine, the celebrity chef who recruited us to move into the hotel,

stood with us in the dining room as we wondered if it would stop

raining by dinner so we could use the floating candles again. We were

trying to make the place look as perfect as possible for a dinner

party for the executives and consultants of Blackstone Development

Corp., the people who built our beautiful new restaurant for us.

At that moment, Paul noticed that Delicate Balance had shifted in the

marsh so that its weight was no longer perfectly balanced on its

pole. He ran to call hotel maintenance, but before he even got to the

door of the restaurant, Barry Wine called out: "It's moving."

We watched helplessly, Cheryl clutching the baby, while the sculpture

slowly swayed towards one of the glass alcoves, which was seated with

lunch diners. We started toward the courtyard doors, knowing there

was no way to get through the shin-high water before the sculpture

touched down and no way our puny arms could stop it even if we could.

We are forever grateful that it hit the herb garden, not the glass

windows. It is currently butt-in-the-air and not the least bit kinetic.

We can't un-stick him from the mud until the pond dries. One of our

new bartenders, Chris Schruyver, likes it the way it is.

"It's like mankind with its head against the ground, struggling

against the hardships of life. It's more like a Rodin sculpture now,"

he said.

A breakfast diner offered Cheryl 5 bucks Tuesday morning if she could

tell him what the big white thing was.

Meanwhile, Monday, the roof in the dining room sprang leaks in three

places, so Cheryl made big arrangements of roses and herbs from

Little Field Farm to artfully catch the drips. Dinner went very well,

and the early diners were quite amused to watch Cheryl wade out into

the pond barefoot to redistribute the floating candles.

We found out Tuesday that the flooding was exacerbated by the fact

that the landscapers had inadvertently sodded over the drains in the

courtyard. Every time we looked out the windows this week we saw a

crowd of men in The Saratoga work shirts poking sticks into the

ground to find the drains.

Verizon took over the phone lines Monday at the old diner from the

previous carrier, an interim step to having the main 583-3538 number

transferred to the hotel restaurant. When they did it, we lost the

call forwarding we had programmed in at the diner, so anyone who

called our published number couldn't get through to the hotel and

couldn't access our voicemail. Paul drove to the diner Tuesday

morning to manually reroute the calls. Just as he returned, Cheryl

got a call from Alarm Central. The alarm was going off and the police

had been dispatched, so Paul had to go back to Malta to unlock the

building and quiet the alarm. Apparently, the real estate agent had

set off the alarm while locking up after showing the diner to

potential buyers.

Cheryl would have gladly run that errand just for the chance to take

a shower after several nights of sleeping in the office of the new

restaurant, but she was dealing with several small crises. The

construction crew arrived Tuesday afternoon to install the glass

doors on the double fireplace and install the accordion doors on the

private dining room, a job that should have taken a few quiet hours

over the course of two afternoons.

While they set up the scaffolding for the doors, the fireplace guy

moved the comfy chairs from in front of the fireplace and began

unloading 46 20-pound cannonballs into the middle of the bar floor,

as well as huge protective cardboard boxes containing the doors for

the fireplace. Fearing civil war, Cheryl asked what the cannonballs

were for.

"They're the logs," the installer said with a grin.

Cheryl found Paul to share her bemusement about the great balls of

fire.

"This looks cool!" Paul said.

"I guess that's why there's two of us," Cheryl said. "So at least one

of us will be happy about most things."

"They're just like fireplace logs," Paul said.

"Well I know THAT," Cheryl drawled. "But they're round."

Paul replied: "The fake logs look like fake logs. These aren't

pretending. I saw them and I thought "Oh, now this is just fun."

Meanwhile, the construction foreman was measuring and muttering and

pacing. The crews draped the tables and chairs on the back of the

upper level with plastic, covered the wood floors with protective

padding and rolled a hydraulic scaffolding ladder into the upper

dining room.

A table of 10 we had booked for lunch took one look at the mess and

announced they would walk over to the Old Bryan Inn.

The construction chief continued to mutter until lunch ended. Cheryl,

who was trying to hand polish a weird coating off the new wood

floors, finally stood up and asked for the bad news. Clearly,

something was bothering the workers and the installation of the doors

was not proceeding.

"It's not going to be finished today, is it?" she stated matter-of-

factly. "How long? A few days? A week?"

The construction foreman, who looked truly sorry, explained that an

engineering problem had been discovered. The supporting beam inside

the the soffit was not sturdy enough to hold up the gorgeous custom

doors, which weigh more than 2,000 pounds. Apparently the engineer

had thought they would be bottom-supported, rather than top

supported. The guys needed to tear the roof of the private dining

room out and rebuild. The construction manager asked Cheryl what

should she wanted him to do. She said, "Tarp it off and get it over

with.

Then she wondered aloud where she could find a 40 by 11 foot length

of silk to hide the plastic and tape with Christo-like elan. The

construction manager managed to find a few of those curtains on

portable frames they use on convention floors. It looks kind of like

a back-lit stage. She said maybe we'll use them for puppet shows and

vaudeville acts.

Meanwhile, power surge knocked out the printer in the kitchen for

the Point of Sale system as well as the administrative touch screen

terminal. Cheryl was on the phone with Team Howard, which services

the POS, but kept losing cell phone reception as she ran back and

forth between terminals. Bob Howard was in Lake George, out of cell

phone reception, and was using pay phone to walk her the reboot.

Every time she lost his call, it took 40 minutes to get reconnected.

Minutes after the contractor draped the work area and began ripping

out the ceiling, a photographer showed up from The Saratoga Today. To

tell you the truth, the pictures still look pretty good, even though

the dominant shot in the layout includes construction drape, blue

tape and a temporary sign. They managed to shoot the courtyard so you

could see the pretty window seats and one of Joseph's sculptures, but

not the flood and Delicate Balance with his hiney in the air.

It turns out that Thursday most of the corporate party planners in

the state were assembled at the hotel for a conference, and they all

paraded through the restaurant one by one to experience the

construction drapery and the sound of power tools for themselves.

Those who stopped to talk to Cheryl expressed their excitement that

the hotel is remaking itself and using Chez Sophie as a centerpiece

for its transformation. "This is really smart," one of them said.

"Having a restaurant like Chez Sophie here is really going to change

the type of party we can book in Saratoga." Then they mentioned the

"jackhammers" during lunch. Oy.

Late Thursday night, Cheryl was sitting in the bar, which was heavily

populated with extremely well-behaved male conventioneers from the

Organ Historical Society (that's pipe organs, people), teaching our

new night manager Scott Maxwell (the young clean-cut server who has

been with us for several years) how to enter 40 cases of wine into

the database so they will appear on the winelist. When we finished,

we realized that the labels we need to print the inventory codes onto

the backs of the bottles had been misplaced during the move. Scott

decided to go back to the diner and see if he could find them so we

could knock the chore out before daybreak. Cheryl decided to pour

herself a glass of wine and write the newsletter while he made the

four-mile trip.

When she opened the refrigerator where the back-up wines and dairy

are stored, however, there was something distinctly wrong. The entire

bottom was full of opaque white liquid. At first she blamed the fact

that two dozen containers of half-and-half had been placed on their

sides to prevent them from tipping over on the metal racks. Then, as

she was righting the containers, she realized that milk was dripping

onto her hands from above. It turns out that the refrigerator

temperature had dipped, freezing the organic slow-pasteurized milk

from Meadowbrook Farm in Clarksville, which is delivered in old

fashioned glass bottles. Five half gallon containers had burst,

spilling their contents into the bottom of the fridge.

Cheryl was amazed that two of the three employees still in the house

rushed to her aid, whipping out Shop-Vacs and buckets of water and

rubber gloves. (The third employee was tending bar for the

conventioneers, and didn't know until the milk had cleared that there

was a problem.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was also at Chez Sophie last week.

How was your experience? How did you find the food?

I was a bit hesitant going there, because I thought some of the charm might be lost with the end of the diner.

Very interested in hearing about your experience.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was also at Chez Sophie last week.

How was your experience? How did you find the food?

I was a bit hesitant going there, because I thought some of the charm might be lost with the end of the diner.

Very interested in hearing about your experience.

Just posted the quick review I did on eG here.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...