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Restaurant Reality Show
36 minutes | Jan 18, 2021
#7 - Serving drinks in the parking lot, and two people doing the work of six! (36:19)
Sam Knoll: [00:00:00] Let's just kind of start at the beginning. I'd like to know your whole history, so I'm going to get you to divulge some of that. And let me know when you started cooking, Why, you know, how old were you all that good stuff?JT: [00:00:16] I was, I was 18. I mean, it's pretty much the same circle. You started with me. The whole, uh, Willie Moats, Chuck Sass. Uh, Oh, Rick Maggard. Oh,Sam Knoll: [00:00:32] I was going to say, did you work for Rick early on?JT: [00:00:35] I started with him at crawdads cross. If you remember that all the way down at the South end of the beach. Yep.Sam Knoll: [00:00:43] And that was what was at his second restaurant.JT: [00:00:47] He had, he had, uh, Crawdad cafe. He had Coyote cafe, the little one on 27th street and a place called barking dog down at the end of 36th street. I think he was down thenSam Knoll: [00:01:01] I remember barky dog.Yup. It's amazing. Well, so, okay, so 18. What, so what was that just kind of like at a, at a high school, summer job, what, uh, what, not much.JT: [00:01:18] It just, um, it was right there on the boardwalk and, you know, it's, you know, I love surfing back then fishing and doing all that stuff. So it made, made sense right there and yeah. Easy, easy, easy job to get back then, too. Yeah. Compared to everything else from high school where it was way bette pay.Sam Knoll: [00:01:44] Yeah. Iguess that's true.Yeah.JT: [00:01:51] And I was 18 and there's, you know, a whole room full of adults that buy you beer.Sam Knoll: [00:01:55] Oh, yeah, that's a good point. Yeah. You had a good group. You're working with I, that was one thing that Rick Magard did very well. Was he somehow managed to pull in people and produce pretty talented chefs.JT: [00:02:11] He could assemble a lot of talent that's for sure.Sam Knoll: [00:02:13] Yeah. Every place he opened, for the most part, it was kind of amazing. And so, so let's see. So you basically, so from 18 until now you've been cooking for a long time. Yeah, we met back in what? 90? I don't know, mid nineties somewhere in there. Yeah.JT: [00:02:39] How'd you get 96, 95, 96. Okay.Sam Knoll: [00:02:46] Yeah. And it was interesting. Um, I was looking at, you know, some of the folks that we cooked with back then, and I was, I was, I was even, I was, I was telling my wife this evening. Yeah. That there've been times where I've gone back to Virginia Beach, simply because I wanted to go see where you were working and try to come in and get something to eat or come back and grab a beer with you when you'd get off work.Right. It's been a long time since we'd been able to do that. Very long, probably too long. Yeah. We'll have to someday once this COVID stuff is over, we'll see if we can fix that.JT: [00:03:22] I think, I can't remember. You always wanted to kick my ass cause I'd take you out way, way, way past your bed.Sam Knoll: [00:03:27] Oh, without a doubt.Well, at this point, you know, I mean, I'm like an hour and a half past my bedtime right now.It's like you hit this, this 50 year old thing. Um, I obviously can't speak for all of them, but you hit that and it's just kind of downhill, you know, wake up at five in the morning for one to fall asleep at eight thirty or nine at night. That's just the way it seems to roll. Right. So, well, what else? Um, I'm trying to think, which, which are your restaurants out of all those, those jobs you've had?What, what was your favorite? One of those and why do you think that was your favorite?JT: [00:04:11] Well, we're like me Stroud. Uh Sulecki. I don't remember if you remember Paul Holbrook we're together for quite a while. We had a. Uh, coyote, like even at the beach and then we moved to a Laskin road. Yeah, that was, that was definitely my funnest time because I met, uh, some of the best friends that I still call best friends, even, even today, years and years and years later, you know, Mike Straud still comes over at my dad's house for Christmas brings, his daughters, you know, the whole family.And, you know, we probably drank too much beer in my dad's backyard. No, we managed to have a pretty good time and I still talk to all those guys, even Sulecki. That's good.Sam Knoll: [00:04:59] Yeah. I haven't, I haven't said a word to Steve for a long time. I guess anyone listening now, it was interesting. Um, I cooked with JT at a place called coyote cafe for a little bit.That's me. Yup. And then I left and I don't remember if I had the order right on this or not. I guess. Yeah, I guess a mix it up. I wouldn't, I cooked at, with, with Steve at, um, what was that restaurant on 19th street that Rick had?JT: [00:05:31] Oh, the fishbowl, uh, yeah. Cafe society,Sam Knoll: [00:05:35] Cafe society. The first place I ever really cooked, I'd always been, you know, the bartender or waiter or something.So that was interesting. And I was the pizza man. There didn't remember they had pizza. Well, yeah, I didn't have a real big role,but, uh, yeah. Yeah, that was, that was, that was a good time there without a doubt. So Coyote is your favorite or that group that you worked with, there was your favorite and that was a very talented group. Oh, there we went.JT: [00:06:13] We went to work together every day and we. Got off work and played hard all night together and just rinse and repeat pretty much every day while we were in our twenties.Sam Knoll: [00:06:22] Yeah. Yeah. I think that's kind of the norm for that whole group all had long hair. Yup. Yup. All kind of, uh, which is so funny now. And I look back at pictures of me. Remember, halfway down my back. I remember, I remember you brought into work one day. I think you said like finally cut it off. Oh yeah. He had a picture of it on a coffee table or something.Have you, um, have you ever played with the idea of, of. Moving in to an ownership type position with anyone with a restaurant.JT: [00:06:58] I did that.Sam Knoll: [00:07:00] Well, tell me about that.JT: [00:07:02] I actually, it was me and a couple of friends started taking my frigeratorfriends, opened coyote cafe back up. Yes. Yeah. Yes,Sam Knoll: [00:07:18] yes, yes. And I never got back to the beach, uh, to see that that's right. It was, um, John Mannino's son, John who's another John Mannino.JT: [00:07:34] You still know he was, he just texted me like 10 minutes ago. He's still, uh, still one of my best friends. I made him go to Florida all the time.We just got back with last month, we drove down there for nine days or something like that.Sam Knoll: [00:07:49] What do y'all do down there?JT: [00:07:52] My family owns an Island down there. Like since before I was born and one year he get, so me, you remember bird? My brother. Oh yeah. Yeah. So one year we were all down there and just having fun and the eight, he said, I'm coming down.And we'd see him on Facebook. He's checking into whatever, whatever North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, you know, it was like is he really coming?. Yeah. And sure shit. Me and burger stand in the middle of that. Keylock dirt road in front of the house. And we see some headlights come around the Palm tree. I was like, no shit.He's actually here. So wound up being one of him and his girlfriend's favorite places to go.Sam Knoll: [00:08:35] And that's pretty cool.JT: [00:08:36] And so maybe they go there. Every year and you can't beat there, the rental cost of free. So you can't beat it.Sam Knoll: [00:08:46] You guys, what do you, you do a lot of fishing down there too. Yeah, that's awesome.JT: [00:08:51] I haven't really, since this COVID thing started, that's true.Yeah. Florida Is wide open. There's no masks, no nothing. It's like normal. It's like normal civilization down there,Sam Knoll: [00:09:03] which feels kind of crazy to me.JT: [00:09:06] Yeah. Yeah, because you spend a whole two weeks down there, then you come back up here and you're like, Oh yeah, the apocalypse is still happening.Sam Knoll: [00:09:14] Exactly. Yeah. So. I mean with where are you working now? How did, how did the, uh, the, this pandemic effect that,JT: [00:09:25] Oh, shit. I think April, April is when we shut down. I mean, they changed some of the laws where we were allowed to serve, you know, strict Virginia is where you're in Carolina still.Sam Knoll: [00:09:34] I mean, Carolina.JT: [00:09:35] Yeah. Well, you know, strict Virginia was on, um, Uh, alcohol laws, you know, you have know, you have to have all your drinks up by two o'clock, uh, you're not allowed to have, you're not allowed to serve people in a parking lot or, well, they relaxed all those laws, really? Yeah. So we decided to take full advantage of that.And we had, cause we weren't at first we were allowed to serve people inside. I'm like, well, what the fuck do we do about that? We need to. Survive. Yeah. Yeah. We don't want to stop serving them. Right. So we started throwing parking lot parties since we're allowed to serve alcohol. Right. In the parking lot.We had girls on roller skates rolling out there where they're serving trays with full-blown cocktails, beers, you name it. You know, we just hand it right through Sam's window, right into the, uh, dry into the driver's seat with whoever you happen to bring along. And let's just keep on. Go ahead. Couple of, of a foldout tables out there.We just put some hors d'oeuvres, you know, we just did a charter for those of us. Yeah. Yeah. Other than draw people in, keep people happy. Yeah. But I'm happy. We did that for a while. We were surviving on them. We got busted by the police for it because there's just. If they stayed in their cars, they would have been good.But after four or five cocktails, it's like, Oh, look, Sam Knoll's here. I got to get out of my car. I'm gonna go hang out with, yeah, exactly. Suddenly eight or nine and other people over here. It's just, it's like a children's soccer game, just like all these people just congregate. There's one little Mosh pit.They can't obey by the rule after they know have a few drinks,Sam Knoll: [00:11:06] couple of drinks is all it takes. I think that's so true. I guess that's always been the hazard. You know, that's why they were saying, well, you know, eventually restaurants can open now restaurants can hold more people, but the bars are staying closed.I think it's just there's this, this, everyone knows that you get a couple of drinks in you and any inhibitions are gone. , you know, obviously do whatever you shouldn't be doing. Yeah. So, yeah, so I mean, so, so they stopped that.JT: [00:11:38] Well, at first, I mean, I had to, uh, I let three, it was three or four, three or four guys.They kind of wanted to leave there because of this. You're the unemployment thing, you know, everybody's getting like nine or a thousand bucks or something crazy like that. Yeah. And it was hard for me to get them back, you know, once you feed that dog, that much, that much, you know, it's like, so I have to it's, you know, um, I'm getting paid a thousand dollars a week to sit on my ass and played X-Box or I can make less money to come work my ass off.Then it sounds like,Sam Knoll: [00:12:14] yeah, that's tough. One. I know it'sAs soon as that ended everybody came back and just recently when they. Uh, reimpose the, uh, 10 o'clock right now we're on a 10 o'clock alcohol limit. Uh, wow. And, uh, yeah, so I was having a hard time giving my guys hours, so I lost another, another few of them.JT: [00:12:36] Yeah. So right now it's just me and one other guys iron manning it seven days a week.Sam Knoll: [00:12:43] There's two of you. That's hardcore. So when you said you were busy, now, you weren't kidding both of us. Yeah. Wow.JT: [00:12:52] We got a six, we got a six station or a six person kitchen, two people doing the best we can. We shorten the menu up, you know, make it a little bit more, uh, compact.I said, you know, I don't care how good you are. You can't be in two places at once. You just can't. So, you know, just shorten the menus up. That's a favorites on there for everybody and, you know, just that's, that's our role right now. I mean, it'sSam Knoll: [00:13:20] it's once again, it's just keep people happy, and they will keep coming in.JT: [00:13:24] Yeah, we've been actually pretty lucky that we've pretty much held on to most of our local regulars, you know, new people. We do have an outdoor seating area. That's. Pretty large, but as soon as the temperature dropped below 60 degrees, you know, that thing's history. There's a couple of people that have the indoor.I don't get it. I have the indoor seating, you know, all the flaps and they get heated in there.Sam Knoll: [00:13:51] It's done here. Why is it the same?JT: [00:13:55] Why is it okay to go eat? And, uh, you know, it looks like the scene in E T when they found out he had an alien, you know, it's like, yeah, these, all these people outside. Eating it a condensed closed space.Basically. Basically you put a Petri dish out there in the middle of your parking lot, and you're shoving a whole bunch of people in there, but for some reason it's legal in the parking lot, not legal inside. So yeah, so there's been people, you know, getting in trouble with that because now you have to have same, same fire code.You have to have fire extinguishers, exit signs, two exits. Uh, no open flame heat, you know, it's just like being inside. So they're making it very, very challenging.Sam Knoll: [00:14:44] That's interesting. So they're, they're basically, they're saying it's outside, but you have to treat it like it's inside dining.JT: [00:14:50] It is inside Sam.Sam Knoll: [00:14:52] I knowJT: [00:14:53] you walked through a damn door. You sit at a table. It's covered it's from the, from the ceiling all the way to the concrete. Yup.Sam Knoll: [00:15:00] And there's probably less air circulation there than there is in the restaurant where there's a system moving air, right.Friends. Then in this, uh, in this business, who've kind of lost jobs or any, anything like that?JT: [00:15:18] I don't have any friends here at the ocean front. I don't, I have some friends out in Colorado where they. Um, Hmm, have shut all the restaurants down period closed till they closed two weeks ago. And they said they're allowed to open December 20th.There's rumors of them doing that here. I don't know if you see what's going on. Like in California, there's a few other States where they, they told gaven, given everybody stay at home orders, whatever you want to call that, but you're not allowed to function as a. As, as a business,Sam Knoll: [00:15:54] I guess that's just as they watch this, this, uh, current spike in, uh, an infection they're feeling like they need to do something about, uh, yeah, I mean, here in the restaurant business and, you know, it's, I guess, especially at this time, if they get hit with something like that, it may do many of them, in.JT: [00:16:17] Well, well, we, we were lucky enough. We got on the plane. Uh, on the ball early enough, you know, like CPS and, uh, bill Gambrill, you know, that like having this, like almost twice a week, I have some kind of giant conference call where everybody's trying to figure out what everybody's doing. And everybody got in on the, uh, you know, the paycheck protection loans.We got money for that, you know, uh, sub from the government and that got us through. Uh, this spring, you know, like in early part of the summer, you know, or we had, were not freaking out. We were comfortable. Cause we had a little bit to, to chew on before, you know, we died, but if they hit us again like that, and there's just, I mean, you will see restaurants, I mean, nationwide, you will see them cave.That's the only thing they keep. I kept even giants like Bill Cambrell CP shuckers places that have been around forever. So that that happens again, the loss will take, there's no way they keep the doors open.Sam Knoll: [00:17:18] Well, I think they've all eaten through whatever cushion they had and at some point, even if they, even if they've got it, I guess they also have to say at some point, is it, you know, is this a smart time to even be doing this business?I'd be better off paying my rent and that's it. And insurance, you know, but that's it. And we'll, we'll see if we can hold out until everything gets all better and then try to regroup and reopen things again, whether it's something different or, you know, who knows? I don't know. It's a very bizarre,JT: [00:17:56] it'll be different when this is all over.It's still going to be different. Yeah. This one's going to leave a scar for sure. Yeah, I think so.Sam Knoll: [00:18:06] Yeah. So you've, you've played for a little bit with the restaurant owner side of things. Um, and with that, how did, how did that one work out?You guys ran for awhile and it just didn't do quite enough. And just decided to go ahead and fold that location.JT: [00:18:26] We did. I mean, like we still plan on doing something along the lines, you know, one day, you know, something falls out of the sky and it's too good to pass up. You know, maybe we still got all the signage.You're still, I mean, literally we have a storage unit slam full crap, you know,coyote, cafe, lots, lots of Coyote cafe cups. I don't really want to talk about the cups. We've got lots of cups. Um, Yeah, it was the location. You know, I went into it thinking, you know, I was like, well, how can we fail a Hilltop?Hilltop's always busy. You know, like it's, it's one of the, if not the busiest, uh, one of the, one of the, uh, metrics that a landlord has given us this, uh, that, that corridor after that, uh, first colonial, uh, Laskin road corridor sees over 650,000 cars a day. Might be the same car, but they went back and forth.That's that just can't be a real numbers. Like, man, it's a real number. So that's crazy. And right there also is the number one grossing. Uh, Chick-fil-A and Virginia it's like, so it does see a lot of traffic, you know, it's crazy.Sam Knoll: [00:19:37] The Chick-Filet world is just it's it's, it's just, it's it's such an enticing thing you'd like to assume.Well, if Chick-fil-A can do that business here, then why can't I, but it doesn't always work that...
46 minutes | Dec 30, 2020
#6 - Every Darned Restaurant... (46:07)
Lawrence: [00:00:00] I actually first met you when I was bouncing at Off Shore. The after hours club. Yep.Sam: Oh yes. The after hours club. Cape Henry. Right. That was, uh, that was an interesting time of life, you know, it was, uh, for me, certainly work-wise it was, it was very interesting because I was that time.I was waiting tables five nights a week and the same five nights a week, I would, you know, I'd get off work there at, you know, nine, 10 o'clock. And then at 1230, the after hours club would open. So I'd have like this little two-hour span during which I'd go around and stop and other places around the beach and say, you know, Hey you guys coming up tonight, et cetera.And then go and work until seven 30 in the morningfor a bit, and then go to the restaurant the next day.Interesting life work, go drink, and then go out and get up and go back to the restaurant. Yeah, seriously? It's uh, yeah, so, okay. So yeah. So you cooked at coyote. What else did you work after? Cause I left coyote in 96 when 95, 96. Yeah, I guess there's 96. Where else did you work after that? Or how long did you stay at coyote?Lawrence: [00:01:51] Um, not too long lunches. And, um, Mike and Corey hired me over at Atlas.Sam: [00:02:00] Okay.Lawrence: [00:02:01] Paid me a lot more money, you know, so I didn't have to work too because I was a coyote on balsa doing the catering for Henry's not leave coyote and go over and. We be upstairs room and cater over there. Yep. And then, uh, and then I got into catering with Gary, but then I took some on my own, down at, um, uh, town point park, the TTI,um, the head of development came and found me at, uh, Atlas. We had Gary and I had done a joint effort down there, but he couldn't make it. So I did the whole thing, which is in both our names. Hmm. He wanted me to do all the, uh, VIP tents. Very cool. So I would do the VIP tents on stage left, and then they would rent out stage.Right. And tell and tell whoever ran it. I was their preferred caterer. So I used to get a lot of jobs like that.Sam: [00:03:03] That's not a bad gig, frankly.Lawrence: [00:03:07] Because I'd be running lunches and Atlas and hunger, a guy to go to five one. They let me use that to prep for that night. Then load up the car with all the food down to town point, get all that done.Then head up to, uh, one of the bars and Waterside go down to Sidney's place. I hang out there.Sam: [00:03:35] It's wild. What was it like working at Atlas? I was always, you know, cause I, I then moved out of town and, you know, essentially at 96, um, but came back with some frequency and I always ended up eating it at one of the Atlas diners. And I, I always thought that wouldn't seem to be a smart move. It was kind of like they'd, they'd figured out how to.To almost standardized to some, to some idea, you know, their location so they could keep opening new ones. Was that kind of the way that one worked or what did you, um,Lawrence: [00:04:12] they were, they were, pattering patterning that off of, uh, Ruby Tuesdays. Uh, they opened up 17 of those and then sold that off for millions.And that was their original plan was to. To do exactly that. Just keep opening them until they get to a certain level. They can get bought out, but that went awry. They, they, because of Corey, they were, they were, there was a chef-driven system. Yeah. It had standardized recipes, but you had to have culinary skills to actually pull it all off.Sam: [00:04:52] True. Yeah, because the level of dining was up high enough. You would need that.Lawrence: [00:04:57] Right. And that was where the problem came in. Couldn't find enough, you know, like they have today when you couldn't find enough good people to maintain that level. So where their downfall was, I was the last chef in their system when I left and they went to, to, to make an, you know, I made my mashed potatoes.I made so much as homemade. They went to boil in the bag of potatoes. And in so many of my customers after I left with Tommy, we stopped going there after he left, because they went to all this crap. Yeah. Yup. That eventually, you know, they paid a price for it.Yeah. That is an interesting one. When you think about it, because, and I guess, um, you know, I talked with, with JT, um, Uh, two, two nights ago for a bit.And we were talking about the idea of, you know, if you open a restaurant, you know, one, there, there are numerous ways you can make more out of, out of a restaurant business. And one way is to open up numerous ones and, uh, And if you can standardize things enough and if you can get, you know, you'd get a little economy of scale and you're buying and, you know, numerous pieces like that, it can work well.But what you just brought up is kind of a key piece of the old thing is if you don't have the right talent in it to run it, you know, it's not going to work. That's why McDonald's works is they've removed the need for any sort of talent, you know? Without a doubt. And so, so you did Atlas and then what all came after that?Well, they actually moved me to, um, during the Atlas thing, they actually moved me to five Oh one, uh, take a little shift shift there for a touch, but for a period of time, until they opened their new Atlas out in Greenbriar, then moved me back out. But I went from there and opened my own restaurant out in Franklin.Sam: [00:07:02] Tell me thatLawrence: [00:07:04] I had two investors or actually my old, old boss at Winston's cafe and a customer who loved my food. Uh, they approached me when I was at Atlas. Look, we want to open a restaurant, but we're not going to do it without you. So it costs me nothing to get in. I figured what the hell, you know, that's pretty much working towards, you know what I mean?And the only problem was it was a beautiful building, but it was out in the middle of the Franklin.We held our own, well, we started out, everything was good. We had good customers and we love the food.And, but the problem was, is continuing increases in rent so that he wouldn't have to pay a dime to get to the top end. It was $5,000 a month and there's not business enough to sustain that in Franklin.Sam: [00:08:01] What kind of food were you all doing? Was it, was it high enough quality? Was it kind of a destination restaurant or was it a little below that,Lawrence: [00:08:09] um, I was doing my usual, you know, seafood steaks, you know, everything best quality. I did all hand cut steaks. You know, my crab cakes would have almost no filler, um, real crab cakes.In other words, And if you could add a few Cracker crumbs to hold it together. Exactly. But, um, there are, like you said, the food went over, you know, great. Uh, the whole problem was just the increasing costs, you know? So we wrote the lease that our first year was not guaranteed only after a year. Did we personally guarantee the lease which gave us a year basically to.See what, see what we could do. So by the time we hit the end of the year, we realized that the increasing costs, you know, we're it just going to kill us. So we, we got out after the, after the first year,Sam: [00:09:12] I would say, I'm just trying to think. I mean, and I, I was in, I was in the sub shop business for awhile, you know, with numerous.Uh, numerous ones of those, actually, this was zero subs, which I know, you know, um, you know, did that for awhile. I would say I, without a doubt now, more people who did own restaurants and probably got out because of the costs. It really is interesting. If you just look at your basic overhead and it it's crazy, just the rent, you know, And just crush you.Lawrence: [00:09:57] Oh, I know guy down here at the beach, he's paying 17,200 a month in his rent goes up 5% a year. That's his lease. It's very, probably the restaurant you'd know it. If I said it. Yeah, they've been around for 20 years, but at some point you hit the law of diminishing returns. That's exactly right. You know, that's hard to increase your profit 5% a year to maintain that same profit level.Sam: [00:10:29] Yeah, it is. It is interesting because you're right, because you can increase what you're charging, but not by much. And especially if you have regulars that that's a painful piece of it, you know, and you'll folks and. That's uh, yeah, that, so that huge rent is, uh, is a really tough one. And it's, you know, that's, that is the, the downside to running, uh, uh, any retail business is the landlords really hold all the cards, some degree there've been other restaurants that have had to close and move just because their rent got too high.Lawrence: [00:11:12] So yeah. Well, there's one movement right now that, you know, uh, , they're moving out of that little spot back in, um, chick's beach, moving up here to shore drive and old great neck. It's the old corner market. So they got Cal Casirs. They're bland. Interesting.Sam: [00:11:37] I do like how, uh, as, as we age. We ended up knowing who most of the landlords are in town.We ended up now, you know, I mean, it's, it all just kinda gets bought by new folks, but it's all this same little pot of people that are all involved in it, you know? Oh yeah.Lawrence: [00:11:56] Well, I mean the restaurant world is it's a small world. People don't realize it. You see all their drafts drawn. Once you get into it.The key players are known to everybody, you know, everybody knows everybody. It's very, very true. But Doug, and matter of fact, a little side note, Cal Casir. He owns the building out where Atlas was in Greenbriar. We're back then we were paying 10 grand a month. Yeah.Sam: [00:12:27] But at least with, with Atlas, you gotta to use a more sizeable location too, though.Yeah. Yeah. So if you're filling those couple of hundred seats and you can turn them, you know, then those numbers can work out. But, but even that you still got to, you know, a couple hundred seats is a, is a significant number to, to turn.Lawrence: [00:12:54] No, we did it zebra, the Greenbrier. So populated it's crazy out there.Yeah. Yeah. That's winches was in that shop center right next to where they were. Yeah, that little place there for 30 years still going, isn't that amazing.Sam: [00:13:09] And those, um, I'm always impressed with too. And some of those, you kind of wonder, you know, if they, what sort of, uh, I guess some of them, they own their, their, their building, evenLawrence: [00:13:23] Greg, he and I are still friends and partners in catering.Um, he went in there. He, he had a hot dog heaven and opened up Winstons and. Actually sold it for a time, ended up buying it back and running it now with a partner. So it was sort of a funny story, you know what I mean goes by and all that without a doubt.Sam: [00:13:49] Yeah. The whole idea of, of selling your business.And I guess we hear that happen in other lines of work too, where somebody sells a business, they, you know, they make a little chunk of money on it. They. Go off happy for a while. And then they ended up looking at what the new owners are doing to that business in the future and they, and it's not working.Right. And so they come back in and buy their business back and then make it, you know, take it up a few levels at that point.Lawrence: [00:14:17] Yeah. The most common one I've ever heard is because banks don't like restaurants. It's normally arrests. It's normally an owner finance. Gary Black went through this. That's a coyote when it was on the block, uh, sold it.When he opened up the new one over on Laskin owner financed it, it didn't had to take it back, you know, twice they, they don't make it work. They can't make the payments, you know? So you gotta be, you end up with a bag even though you want to be relevant. Yeah. Without a doubt. Interesting. So that was actually coyotes.Inception is when Rick moved a captain's table across the edge, down to the captain's table, the second street, he was stuck with that lease. And so that's when Rob Aderholt Keith Korn and Karen and Rick came up with the idea of coyote. Well, now was actually, he was born.Sam: [00:15:24] Well coyote when it opened was what?Like five, six seats. Wasn't it?Lawrence: [00:15:30] Nine tables total. Okay. So it's not quite that small, but even still nine tables total. That's not a whole lot. No, no, not at all. That's why I remember when they opened up the chef's table, then the kitchen one rank Bauman would come down there and eat, tip her buddy. A gift card to his place.Frank. Thanks.Sam: [00:16:02] Seriously. When you think about that as a restaurant, it's not a bad deal. If that's what you're going to tip, cause you can tip something, you know, you're getting the back. Yeah. I mean, they're going to, they're going to come in. They're gonna spend more than you gave them. Plus. You know, $50 worth of foods only costing you, you know, a small percentage of that, right?Lawrence: [00:16:26] Oh, no. He was a smart man.Sam: [00:16:29] Yup. I worked for Frank, certainly at Frankie's for, I was always at, Frankie's probably a total of five years waiting tables. Bartending never did a cook in there, but, uh, That was an interesting business to all of these, all these beach businesses are, it's just been, it's been interesting to watch them come and go over the years and who sticks around who doesn't, you know, and as you said, it is a small world.And so a lot of the same folks are just working. They worked together at one place and they head off somewhere else, worked separately, and then somehow they end up working together again or. They go open something together or, you know, there are a lot of, lot of options.Yeah. So, so, okay. So you owned that one place. What, what came after that then?Lawrence: [00:17:28] Oh, after we closed, I came back and went to work for, uh, uh, Mahi Mas, just a grill guy. I met him back when I was at Atlas. Uh, Rob had actually called me, wanted me to come down and be his sushi. Interesting. But they weren't going to pay me as much as I was making.I was like, well, I'm not going to take a cut in pay to come over for you. Yeah, exactly. Like I like it.No kidding.Sam: [00:18:02] Interesting. Okay. So you worked at mahi mas. I always liked that restaurant too. And that was a pretty sizable place also.Lawrence: [00:18:11] Oh my God. We did, uh, I remember the business day I worked, I was there in the summer. We did. And they blown that they blew that away after I left, but $40,000 one day.Yeah, it's huge. During the whole beach, the beach music festival. Oh, well, of course AMF the American Music Festival.Sam: [00:18:36] Yeah. And that is, I guess that's the one interesting part also of working at a, a place like a beach is during the summer, when there are festivals going on, you can do just incredible business and then winter hits and you got to cut your staff. You know, hopefully if you're a staff member you're high enough up that they hold on to.Yeah. And then the owners go head South somewhere for this, you know, to, to make it through the winter.Yeah. We're going, we're going on an tourist town is definitely crazy. Yeah. Without a doubt. And yeah. So yeah. So you, you end up with a season that is three months long. And that's it.Lawrence: [00:19:25] And actually, uh, I don't know if you're familiar with it, but a lot of rents are based around that. A lot of landlords they'll build, do, um, double rent in the summertime when you're doing great.And then you have nothing to worry about paying in the winter time. Interesting. I did that one.Sam: [00:19:42] I didn't know. I, uh, cause the only, the only times that I've really played with. You know, with, with landlords and paying rent has been in this area here. I'm in chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina.Lawrence: [00:20:00] Trust me, I'm jealous.I'm a huge, a UNC fan.Sam: [00:20:04] Very nice. Well, my, my wife is a professor at, uh, Kenan Flagler, the grad school now. Um, but, uh, it's also amazing to me how many people. That I talked to over the years are UNC fans or Duke fans. It's like one of those two, it seems almost everyone. And maybe it's just an East coast thing, you know?But, uh, but where was I heading with that? No, I think it's just a, you know, here it's, I think a, the problem around here and you get to the coast also say, and, uh, I know my sister's in Wilmington is just the rent on any of these new developments are just absolutely ridiculous. You know what they're wanting to charge for tiny little places.And, uh, it's, it's very difficult to look at.Lawrence: [00:21:05] Rent's the worst enemy of any restaurant owner. Yeah, it really is. Yeah.Sam: [00:21:11] Yeah, because you can have a proven concept somewhere and, you know, right. We need better visibility. We need, you know, I mean, there's some things you want to do in a better location, but you might be looking at rent that's twice what you're paid and that just, that's just too hard to deal with.Kind of, so,Lawrence: [00:21:32] yeah, it's funny. I used to war for come eat. You remembered Chanel is pizza. Oh yeah. I used to be a DM for them. And I had five stores. The one thing I learned with them is they would always go in these cheaper shopping centers, you know, and they, they would be able to negotiate down their rent because of how much foot traffic the store would bring.Sam: [00:21:54] No, just because it would be trickled over to the rest of the shopping center.Lawrence: [00:21:58] Exactly. It was, they were, they were like, uh, an anchor in a shopping center,Sam: [00:22:04] which is interesting to be a restaurant. And create that much walking traffic. I mean, that's nice rehab, this existing business, and you know that any of our stores in this, in a shopping center, we're going to pull X amount of traffic a month.You know, that's kind of powerful stuff. Well, we use Oh, very. Yep. Interesting. Well, let's see. So what else? So, you know, Mahi Mas, um, I was trying to think, you know, again, talking with JT, it was, uh, it was interesting looking back at, at, at our time at coyote. And, uh, and I talked with another friend yesterday and he was talking about some of the, uh, the hazing that went on at his restaurants.Um, I brought up the, the old Bay grinder being centered around the beach, looking to go acquire the old Bay grinder. You know, that that technically doesn't exist, you know, but they you'd still send some, some young new guy from restaurant to restaurant and they'd send them on to the next place. And I was led elsewhere.You know, do you have any, any of those stories that you recall, uh, along those...
58 minutes | Dec 21, 2020
#5 - In The Mouse House (57:40)
jason_jell_Sam Knoll: [00:00:00] Man, how are you doing?Jason Jell: [00:00:02] Uh, it busy, very busy. We've we're we've got a couple of big meetings coming up and been prepping for them and, uh, I'll be happy when we're on Christmas break. Let's put it that way. How aboutSam Knoll: [00:00:14] yourself? Yeah, I'm, I'm kind of the same. I've just got so many balls in the air.It's kind of nuts right now. So, which is good. SoJason Jell: [00:00:22] yeah, nobody likes to be bored.Sam Knoll: [00:00:25] That's right. Not at all. So, well, this, I knew this would sound weird having me get you on here. I'm going to keep moving around because things bothering me. But anyways, um, because I know you have nothing to do with food service industry at all rightJason Jell: [00:00:45] now, but I knew youSam Knoll: [00:00:48] had some history.And, uh, and so I thought, I don't know. I figured it could be a little fun just to get you in and just find out. I mean, it's interesting kind of even how you got into it, why you did it. Um, I think do, did you meet Jennifer, your wife, where you were working or did you know her before that?Jason Jell: [00:01:10] No. No, I, I, I, uh, I met her there.I, uh, started, I started in restaurants when I was 16. It was my first real job. Um, you know, before that paper, boy. Worked on a farm, uh, cut cabbage broccoli, picked corn through hay and, um, restaurants were like, it was my first stable job. Let's call it that. And, um, uh, and I remember when I first started, he was, uh, I remember it because they wore these pasta steak and sea house.So is the restaurant and, um, it's a, it's a chain, but it's primarily in Pennsylvania. There's some in New York. Uh they're they're still around. Um, And, uh, I was doing my rotation thing in the beginning where they're doing the walk run and everything. She was bagging trash cans. Uh, she was a waitress at the time.And, uh, they had these, when we first started, they wore these, like, I swear, I was like a little house on the Prairie kind of dress looking thing. Um, there were white with like, like poofy shoulders and like, uh, yeah, it, so I remember, um, I remember when I first saw her. and we didn't date for a whole bunch of years after that, because a couple of years, she's a couple of years older than me.And you know, when you're 16, you know, dating somebody who's a couple of years older than you it's like a big deal now. So we didn't date until I was in college, actually. So it was probably about a half a dozen years or so, but we knew each other, obviously the whole time. That'sSam Knoll: [00:02:46] pretty wild. I didn't realize all of that.That's kind of cool.Jason Jell: [00:02:50] Oh yeah. I got a lot of, I do have a lot of restaurant years under my belt, I guess I should say that. Probably about 10 years I spent working there. I was a dish man, uh, for several years. Uh, that was my, that was where I cut my teeth in restaurant. And, um, you know, then I, I graduated to, uh, two, well line.Like I worked, uh, just the end line where I did all like the. Final finish crap, where they put the new guys. And then I moved over gradually to like try or which is where they put the new guys that are half decent. And then, you know, eventually ended up being a grill, man, doing the steak and seafood still have the, still have the scars to prove it, uh, all over my arms.Sam Knoll: [00:03:35] You too, dude. It was really funny the other day. I don't know why. I found myself like looking at my right arm. I was like, man, I've got like nine or 10 scars down my arm here that I never even pondered. You know,Jason Jell: [00:03:49] and my fingersSam Knoll: [00:03:50] look like, you know, I've like been fighting somebody in a back alley or something,Jason Jell: [00:03:56] and it's all like little cuts and whateverSam Knoll: [00:03:58] else from working in restaurants.Jason Jell: [00:04:02] I remember, um, I remember when it was relatively early. Um, when I started, I started frying and, uh, you learn this stuff as you go, but, uh, you know, a big bag of French fries and, you know, took it Chuck, the whole thing in the fryer dumped the basket in it. Of course there was a whole bunch of ice in it.That damn thing boils way over. Then I had this, it splashed up and I had a blister on my arm. Literally. It was about that long and it blistered up. It's probably about that far off of my arm. It was the grossest looking thing. Um, and I remember going to, this was when I was still in high school, so I had to go to high school with it.It was probably like on paper, it was probably a third degree burns and I'm just like, yeah, pop it. You know, eventually the skin will peel off. I had so many of those. I used to get 'em and we had 'em those clam shell grills would top came down and then there was the drawer pull out during the bottom and then towards the end of the night, um, you know, they're really hot, so grease would build up on them.And then, um, when you go to pull the, clamshell it back out on the, or pull the drawer out in the bottom, um, Inevitably at some point in time in the night, um, you know, grease would build up on the top grill and as you reach under it, it would drop a boiling grease down on your hands. And it was like, it was the only instant, massive blister that you could get.When we worked on the grill, everything else was just like, you know, bumped, this, scrape that whatever. But like off the cross cross the top of my hands, I used to have a constant blister somewhere from it. Always yes, never ended.Sam Knoll: [00:05:41] I also remember, um, place that I did my externship up in, uh, in new Paltz New York.Um, one of the little trials for the, for the, uh, the guys doing the extra ship was they would stick you on the grill. But they would give you this set of like tongs. They were like this long, you know, I mean, it was like the shortest tongs they could give you, which really meant that your hand was almost touching the grill the whole time.Jason Jell: [00:06:08] It was so hot. It was unbelievable. AndSam Knoll: [00:06:10] that was truly trial by fire.Jason Jell: [00:06:14] Well hazing, that's part of it, right? You have to haze the new guy. I remember vividly, um, one guy starting and, uh, the traditional hazing method was always cleaning the grill at the end of the night. Um, so, you know, we had the, I don't know if you've, I'm sure you've used them.You were in restaurants a lot longer than I was those grill scrapers with the metal razorblades on the end of them, you know, you take it in and then you have to scratch. So we. We had this one, um, just really old crap grill scraper, and nobody ever used it for anything. It was like the one that you would use to get like the big chunks off the grill.And it was super, super dull. So we always gave him that. And, you know, instead of, instead of turning the grill off, um, and then letting them work and we turned it up as high as you could turn it off, the damn thing was so hot. And then we put on like, All of the PPE gear that we could find in the entire restaurant.So he's got like an apron, he's got these big ass gloves that have probably been sitting in a corner for six months. He's got these big goggles on that. Of course, like in the traditional, um, in the traditional cartoon fashion, we covered with grease on the edges, put them on. There was like the grief line and.And then, uh, I kind of remember what else we did. We did some up something else. I don't remember what else we did. And he was on that damn thing for like 45 minutes trying to get it cleaned. And then, uh, I felt so bad too, because I think he quit.No, he quit. He quit. Once they found, once he found out that they were screwing with him,Sam Knoll: [00:07:53] I think it was even.Jason Jell: [00:07:55] It was one of those monumental, like, like I hate you guys. You're the worst and throwing this stuff up and walking out kind of quit, which only made everybody else like lean into it even more. It was pretty bad.Yeah. That was pretty bad. Not one of my highest moments in my, uh, my restaurant career.Sam Knoll: [00:08:16] I'm just trying to think. We, uh, one of our, our other hazings that was fun was, um, We would send a new employee down, like from our kitchen to a restaurant down at the South end of the beach to pick up the quote, the old Bay grinder.Jason Jell: [00:08:38] WhichSam Knoll: [00:08:39] didn't exist, but, you know, and so they would go down to this, the South end and they'd, they'd, you know, they wait around and they'd come in. They say, you know, they finally get to talk to the chef, whatever they say. Uh, yeah. Uh, Sam from up at wherever sent me down to pick up the old Bay grinder. And they'd say,Jason Jell: [00:08:57] Oh,Sam Knoll: [00:08:58] Oh, well, we leant that too.And they'd send them further up the beach to another restaurantJason Jell: [00:09:04] whereSam Knoll: [00:09:04] they around and they just kind of get sent around to various places around the beach. And I actually worked one place where a guy in the kitchen created this. Box that he likes stencilled this old dude, like got the old Bay grinder on the side of it and got a little of their logo and he put on it and he had a similar block.And the thingJason Jell: [00:09:30] there's a good running joke there.Sam Knoll: [00:09:33] It just, it just kept going, you know, from restaurant to restaurant, everyone knew what was going on except the new guy. You know, and so at least that one, they, that they they'd have to carry around with this cinderblock and bring it with them, you know, to get back there.Jason Jell: [00:09:47] So now our ours were always more, um, generally speaking, more passive, there was always, uh, always a guy that was doing something stupid. Um, you know, some of them got escalated somewhat. I remember one point in time we actually hauled, uh, hauled, uh, you know, one of those. 30 gallon, trash cans up onto the roof, um, and then filled it with water and then fill that with ice.And then we waited to one of the dish guys came out and dumped it on him, which was a different level of hazing. Yes, there was some of that going on. And then there was always, uh, I, the other one that was, um, the other one that was good was when we decided it was kind of slow on a Sunday. Um, and did you have those little, um, those little, I don't know what you call them.They were like these little. Containers with those white screw caps. They're probably about eight ounce containers, something like that. We used to reheat rice, you portion out rice and I'm like rice pilaf, and you Chuck them in the microwave for a minute, whatever. Um, and we did this competition to see who could make 'em, who could make them best bomb from it, baking soda and vinegar bombs.So we, we went through multiple iterations. It was very scientific by the way. Where we, we tested, uh, different layers of tape, sealing methods, uh, mounts of vinegar, types of vinegar. We put a lot of effort into this, but we got towards the end when one of them was, um, probably a bit too successful and less than pleased, it was loud.It was like, it was really loud. Yeah, there was a lot of that going. Um, but it's, it's funny. Cause now, now it's gone full circle because I remember, you know, both of us, neither one of us work in restaurants anymore. It's been a long time. I wasSam Knoll: [00:11:37] long. Wow.Jason Jell: [00:11:38] Long while, probably 20 years at this point. Um, but I, I, 10 years, my, my formidable years as a youth, uh, we're spent primarily in restaurants and my wife as well, um she did longer than me.She was probably 14, 13 or 14 years going the stretch from, you know, uh, hostess to waitress, to, to dining room manager, to store manager. She did that whole run. So she was in it a lot longer than I was. Um, but then I remember coming out and I remember thinking like, never again, won't do that. Won't have my kids do that.But now I have a kid who works in a restaurant. Ah,Sam Knoll: [00:12:20] which,Jason Jell: [00:12:21] which one of them ask them? My older boy works in, well, he's a dishwasher. Believe it or not at a, at a pizza shop.Sam Knoll: [00:12:31] I, I have this, this feeling that, that every child needs to work in a restaurant, whether they're watching dishes or waiting tables or, you know, I mean, cause all these things it's for one, the people you interact with in restaurants are totally different than I think anywhere else in the world.It's this bizarre group of people. You know, that seemed to Harbor and work in restaurants. And I think that's a little eye opening. It could be good or bad, I guess, but, um, but then the waiting tables thing or being a bar back, or, you know, something like that, or even the busing, I mean, you get this totally different look into how people interact with each other.You know, so suddenly you can end up with you're waiting on a group ofJason Jell: [00:13:18] 10 people and,Sam Knoll: [00:13:20] you know, and they say, Oh, this service was impeccable. We loved it. Everything was fantastic. And you get like a $5 tip, you know,Jason Jell: [00:13:29] orSam Knoll: [00:13:29] whatever. I mean, it's just, um, I don't know. And then you could, you could wait onJason Jell: [00:13:34] another couple andSam Knoll: [00:13:36] they have a somewhat simple meal and you could end up with a $50 tip from them.I mean, it's just, it's the way people think about other people and what they do for them. And I think that's a little eyeopening. Yeah.Jason Jell: [00:13:49] Yeah. Uh, I, I never worked, I never worked the front of the house ever. Maybe like a couple, there was always like a couple of times where I was like, we need a bus, we need a bus or, you know, go out.And it was like the greatest thing in the world. You get to go out and I didn't have to work with customers. Thankfully, you get enough view into people when, when you're cooking right. When they start to send your food back and you're like, Perfect. Are you sending that back and then you send it back out again and it comes back again.We had a guy, um, you know, like there's your regulars. Every restaurant has regulars and there was always a couple of really weird ones. Like, I'll tell you about a couple of them. There was one guy who would order. And I still remember my wife and I were just joking about this. We still remember the menu.Um, it was number based and if like the rattle out a number, I could tell you what meal it was. Um, but I worked at one restaurant for like a really, really long time. So it was, we did that for a long time. So it was a guy who ordered, um, uh, a number four, which is like a strip steak. Uh, but it's a smaller strip steak.Right. And he would order it cooked. I still to this day, so cooked in lemon juice. Which I've never heard it looked gross. It sounded gross. Um, so he would come in same exact time. You could probably even put it on before he even showed upSam Knoll: [00:15:06] when it was cooked aJason Jell: [00:15:07] lot. Yeah. I, I don't know how anybody could eat it.It was awful. Um, there was another guy who had come in and, uh, he would order a, T-bone not a porterhouse, a T-bone. And then he would instruct us to select the T-bone with the largest filet, even though it's a T-bone and then he, he wanted it. Uh, he always asked for it to be medium. Well, but he never wanted it medium.Well, he always wanted it to be more well. So you'd always send it back no matter what you did. So either like you picked the wrong one or you cooked it to the wrong done this, but it would always come back. Um, so it was T-bone guy. There was a lemon juice guy, and then there was a porterhouse guy, a porterhouse guy was the craziest one of the bunch.Yeah. And at the time we had 32 ounce porterhouse big thick ass steak, there was a big steak and he would order it 30 seconds per side, which was appalling. Right, right out of the freezer right out of the, Oh yeah. It's just right out of the cooler 30 seconds per side. Never wants to send it back everSam Knoll: [00:16:15] wild.Jason Jell: [00:16:16] And they were all, they were all part of my, you had your other guys that would always show up at like order the same exact meal. I was never for a regular kind of guy, maybe more as I get older, like I tend to go back to the same things, but people, it was like same restaurant, same time, same meal, same server, same everything, nothing ever changed.And I, I would go five, six years and have, you know, a slew of people that fit that category.Sam Knoll: [00:16:45] It is incredible. I mean, and, and I, I remember, and I guess you're right. Yeah. Every, every restaurant has some of that, you know, I remember there was oneJason Jell: [00:16:54] couple who cameSam Knoll: [00:16:55] into the first place I ever cooked,Jason Jell: [00:16:57] whoSam Knoll: [00:16:59] always came in.They each got a martini to start with. And they were there for three, four hours. You know, it was like their one night out of the week, I think really. And, uh, you know, and so that was it, it was probably date night, you know, so they they'd go in, they'd eat to get a martini. Then they'd get a bottle of, of a, of a white wine and they'd each have a glass of that, then they'd get their at their apps.I mean, they just turned it, it was a restaurant where the food was really good, but it wasn't this like fine dining place and they kind of treated it like it really was and the way they worked it. And, but they also, they tipped really well. They're super nice. You know, I mean, it works, it worked well for everyone, I guess.Jason Jell: [00:17:45] I think that's the double edged sword, because I never worked in a restaurant that served booze. It, obviously it didn't mean that we didn't have that. Like with the, the cooks thing, like your world gets built around the people that you work with. And when you're in restaurants, there's obviously the there's going out your party, and these are all your people, then all of a sudden, you didn't know any of these people.And then a couple of months in this was like, everybody that you hang out with. So, you know, Of course, I'm sure everybody that you talk to, there's like a drinking, partying culture. You know, obviously there's a drug culture that comes along with the people that work in these...
46 minutes | Dec 7, 2020
#4 - Country Boy and The School of Hard Knocks! (46:30)
Interview with Chef Jason Godwin. Jason has over 30 years in the foodservice world and has help pretty much and cooking position one can imagine, in an efforts to live in and learn the best way to produce and serve food.Jason is a guy from the country who has figured out food. His cooking style is inviting and delicious. He also happens to be married to my little sister.I hope you enjoy learning some of Jason's life behind the kitchen walls:Jason Godwin: [00:00:00] How's it been going?Sam Knoll: [00:00:01] Good. Good, man. How are you doing? Are you working like crazy?Jason Godwin: [00:00:07] Which is good, but it's kind of slowing down now. It's work. Yeah, season's kind of over so to speak, but there's still a lot more like a local summer is what we call it around here.Sam Knoll: [00:00:18] That works.Yeah. That'll keep you busy. Totally works., in all honesty kind of, um, to, to kind of roll through this, what I'd I'd like to do first is just have a few questions I can hit you with just because I want the people listening to know kind of what your background is, how you want about how you've gotten to where you are.And, um, you know, so I kind of want to run through a few questions. Uh, we can go through those. And then, uh, from there, we, I think some of those may help kind of lead to whatever stories or the covid stuff you've dealt with at work or whatever it may be, you know, that, uh, that you feel like you want to share with everyone since that.Yeah,I think, um, you know, some of the things that when people see somebody works in a restaurant, they've got this nice level of achievement, you know, one of the things that people always wonder is, you know, like, so when did you start. Working in restaurants, you know, how old were you? 17, 15, 25. You know? So when did you, when did you get going in this whole business?Jason Godwin: [00:01:40] And the restaurant industry, uh, got into when I was, uh, is really young. It's actually, I think first job, maybe 14, 15, uh, busing tables. Um, on the weekends, Saturdays and Sundays, you know, and, um, it was a way to kind of learn the value of a dollar as a kid, you know, and, uh, have a few extra bucks in the pocket to go out to the football game on a Friday night, or maybe to the movies with a girlfriend or something like that.Um, but, um, yeah, you know, a first job and. Um, staying in the industry, so to speak, whether it be, um, you know, did that and got into, I think, uh, worked for like a yogurt store, you know, ice cream shop in high school, you know, nice. It wasn't probably until, uh, a say 19 or 20, 21, uh, started into it. And, um, For the most part I've been in it ever since.Sam Knoll: [00:02:53] So. And I'll, I'm going to throw a little bit of background also, and, you know, for anyone that's listening, because I didn't even really explain who you are, you know, so this is, this is Jason Godwin, who is my brother-in-law. Um, and I thought, you know, one of the cool parts of. Of working in the, in the restaurant business was that then my sister married a guy who was also in the restaurant business.So yeah, that was what that's, why I wanted to talk with you is I know some of your history, you know, and so I've always been impressed because you didn't just buss bulls and then start doing little cooking. You actually worked in some different types of restaurants to learn. Some detailed elements about it.I mean, I know you did the, you did ask some bakery time as well.Jason Godwin: [00:03:45] I mean, I've done a little bit, like I've done different parts. Um, started out baking as well. Um, you know, getting up in the morning. Going in doing like morning breakfast, you know, pastries, uh, and then rolling over to the bread side and making pies and cakes as well.Um, you know, I enjoyed that. So pursued that for several years and then, um, got really interested in the savory side of things and started, started trying to train and learn a little bit about that as well. And, um, eventually, um, making my way up the chain of command, so to speak, and I'm running a few of my own places and even eventually partnering up to do a little gig for a bit.So, um, but, uh, and I've been in front of the house back of the house. All over the place. So a bit of everything. Yeah.Sam Knoll: [00:04:54] Yeah.I'll talk with several people and a lot of people go to culinary school and, you know, uh, I actually applied, it was accepted and could've gone up to CIA where you went and, um, up in Hyde park and, um, and an opportunity to kind of train under a chef out of Atlanta.That I worked with for a few months. Um, and, uh, another chef at, in New York that I worked, we had to learn a couple of different styles. And from that point on just trying to try to educate myself. Um, there's a school of hard knocks. Yeah.But you know what, it's, it's really interesting because, um, over the years I've worked with, with, with cooks and chefs who had gone to school and others who hadn't totally different ideas of which way is important and what they got out of it.Um, I think where you did it finding. So some very talented chefs to work under is equally, if not better than what you get from culinary school. I mean, because you're, you're getting so much more from each of them as opposed to culinary school where you're, you're breezing through classes left and right.Um, you know, it's plus the other thing that happens is you go to culinary school and you graduate. And the first thing that happens is anywhere you go work, they're like, Oh great. This guy went to culinary school. He thinks he knows how to do everything. We're going to show him that he doesn't. And it's almost a black Mark on your, on your record.Did you have to work through it? You have to go second time around. You have to go prove yourself. Yeah.Jason Godwin: [00:06:36] And I've definitely worked with some people that, that are really good and really know their stuff. And then I think a lot of people that I've worked with that have that formal background, um, you know, a lot of the things I've learned from a hands-on approach as well.Um, but I mean, I'm not going to knock a formal education. I think it's, it's a great, great thing. No matter what you're going to pursue. Um, Uh, I, I just chose the ladder, you know, uh, yeah. Baptism by fire.Sam Knoll: [00:07:07] Well, you're, you're a father with some kind of young kids, so you can't knock the education thing yet. Oh, it's great.Yeah, absolutely.Jason Godwin: [00:07:16] Matter of fact, I get the kids in there and we, you know, we're rolling pastries and you know, my daughter and I doing that and it's awesome. It's fun, man. Definitely fun.Sam Knoll: [00:07:27] Cool. Well, let's see. Um, Let's see, so I know you you've, you've done, like you said, you've done some of the pastry work.You've done some pretty high end, fine dining as well. Uh, your restaurant that you did, um, I thought was an interesting mix. It wasn't high, high, fine dining. It was a stepped down just a little bit, but it lets you play with and do what you wanted to do. I mean, how would you categorize that restaurant?What would you. Was that, did you view that? I forget, like it's more of a brew pub type thing, or what would you have called that?Jason Godwin: [00:08:05] Yeah, more like, um, you know, the whole phase of the gastro pubish kind of affair where it's a little bit nicer in a more casual kind of pub setting, um, you know, featuring a lot of the.I grew up in the country. You have a lot of farms and we always had formed table, you know, and it wasn't until later on that people decided that let's call this. That was, that was that subtle hint became jealous way of life for us. But, um, you know, just supporting like local farmers and then our really did a big push for local breweries back before the big, you know, local craft scene really took off, um, Especially in this area, we helped bring a lot of the local breweries from other parts of the state down to this area.And now, uh, think even more so in the area we are starting to get, or have been getting over the last decade, uh, several breweries popping up all around town. So, you know, we were kind of in the early stages of that and that's kind of what we were pushing the, uh, it was a weird, weird time too, when we were doing that.So it was a. Now the economy, it was kind of rough back then in the early two thousands. Yeah, that was, that was a rough time for the economy here. Right. So we were just trying to like still get people a good, good quality food at a, at a good casual price, so to speak. Yeah. Yeah. I thought it was, it was awesome.Sam Knoll: [00:09:35] But, um, well, I let's see, I have a couple other questions here then. Um, Here. This is one that I always get asked when somebody finds out that one culinary school worked as a chef, you know, they always say, Oh, what's, what's your favorite thing to cook? Or what's your favorite type of cooking, you know, and I always kind of poo poo that a little bit.It's like how, I don't know, it's like cooking with the local stuff wherever I am, or, you know, but how do you, what, what's your answer to that, that question? What do you enjoyit's kindJason Godwin: [00:10:14] of the same, you know, it's kinda depends on what I'm in the mood for and what I'm doing. Obviously I really, over the years enjoyed cooking fish and, um, Yeah, I live on the coast too.It's kind of one of those things and, um, you know, but, uh, you know, I, I like game game as well. Um, yeah, I grew up, like I said, I grew up as a country boy, so I ate a lot of vegetables. We had a farm, a family farm and, um, Spend a lot of time shucking corn and peas and beans and picking potatoes. And, um, just, I guess this a good old Southern style, you know, coastal Southern cuisine.Very probably be my favorite, you know? Yeah.Sam Knoll: [00:11:08] Yeah. Which is awesome. I love that. Um, let's see. So, so now, You've kind of you've stopped the cooking side of things. And what, what would you call this group of restaurants you work with now? Is it all kind of a Hispanic or what would youJason Godwin: [00:11:31] yeah, more of like a California Mexi, um, Like a Southern California Baja style, Mexican with, uh, you know, some parts, a little bit of a Tex Mex flare, um, and one of our spots, but, um, yeah, this group's been around for 26, 27, 27 years.Sam Knoll: [00:11:52] I think. I didn't realize that. Wow.Jason Godwin: [00:11:56] And, uh, I've been with these guys for about six years now and, um, kinda stepped out of the kitchen. And taking on more of a front of the house GM role. Um, but I'm still, you know, hands in everywhere I can be, um, to help out wherever, whenever, um, this is a good, it's a good group.And, uh, it kind of really fits the lifestyle because still lifestyle as well.Sam Knoll: [00:12:22] Yeah, the coastal element. I like that. And that's a, I grew up with some of that too, and, you know, kind of growing up on the water. I think once you have that as part of your life, you know, you never want to let go of that. Yeah, I saw you guys down fishing off the beach the other day recently, you know,Jason Godwin: [00:12:42] kids and our fishing out yesterday.And you know, we're going to go today, but it looks like the hurricanes coming through it is. Yeah, probably. Yeah, probably kick that and wait it out. But anyways, um, yeah man, can you tell me and get bottle of water and just. Be a part of that, you know, that's right.Sam Knoll: [00:13:07] So we got to move you back into the, the boat ownership world, you know?Jason Godwin: [00:13:12] Yeah. We're, that's all not on the list in your free time. Right? Talk about it. It's talked about daily. We just talked about it a little bit ago, so yeah. That's cool.Sam Knoll: [00:13:25] Well, that's good because then we'll come down and visit.Jason Godwin: [00:13:28] Yeah, uh, OPB is other people don't other people's boats.Sam Knoll: [00:13:37] Nice. Well, so I was wondering, so over these years, and this is always the interesting part. So as I did I talk with other friends about stories they may have, you know, um, I know one of the things, I guess there are two things that I would ask about one is kind of how this whole pandemic and this COVID thing has affected you in the restaurant you're in.And what all is taking place. But, so what, how has the COVID element, what has that done to your restaurant?What did you have to, how did the restaurant change? What are y'all doing differently? How has that worked?Jason Godwin: [00:14:20] Uh, with the COVID, you know, you had to step back and take a look and I'm always with a lot of folks, try to reinvent your concept and what you were trying to do, um, how to take what you were doing and putting it in a box to go box taken out.Yeah. Um, and then once we were able to open back up to 50% capacity, Um, just making sure that not only the guest that were coming into the restaurants felt safe. Um, but, uh, really most importantly, our staff felt safe and that's what, that's what we, you know, it's what keeps us going is good, working happy staff.Um, so we had, you know, a lot of 'em, you know, Precautionary measures as far as like the cleanliness, um, following the th the three W's, uh, that's co so commonly, um, repeated throughout and, um, no, just making sure that everyone was following the guidelines and we've stuck pretty strong to it, you know, we've.We dealt with it, uh, being in a coastal town, once again, you do see a lot of tourists, so you have people coming from all over, but you have to be really, really careful what's going on. Um, but yeah, you know, it's nice that we've kinda, I feel like we've kind of gotten used to it. We were in a groove now. Um, If we could maintain this takeout business, um, and then throw in a hundred percent again, that would be a good thing.I think for awhile that people are going to be still doing the takeout until they're comfortable. Um, I continue to tell staff that if people were coming out, they're comfortable. So let's make sure they have a good time and make sure that we're doing what we're supposed to do, you know, but yeah, it's definitely affected us in the sense that you had to step back and say, wait a minute, let's rethink what we're doing.And, um, you know, kind of go from there. Yeah. Yeah. You were kind of, I feel like it's just how it is, you know, it's how it is for now and changing anytime seen, honestly,Sam Knoll: [00:16:49] I was talking with another restaurant tour earlier today and I mean, that was exactly it, you know, and it's, so it is just figuring out, okay, well, we can only have a handful of people in our restaurants now, so we can't rely on that.So how do we do take out, but not just take out. It's like we have to do it really well, you know? And, and he's got a higher end restaurant and, um, you know, so again, how do we even. Put a, put this food in the box. So it looks like as the same quality that you want people to get when they're sitting at a table.Jason Godwin: [00:17:28] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. It's tough. Especially if you're in, if you're in the higher end, you know, I was actually talking with, um, with the restaurantour, one of, you know, what I'm talking about, cause I worked for them for many years and they, uh, they, um, No cater my wedding and, um, yup. They're higher end.And, uh, you know, I was, I was talking with them about it. And then, um, you know, that was exactly what they were saying. They're like how our biggest challenge has been taking what we do in house. You know, the timing on it, the, you know, the, some things can be done here. Somethings could not be done in a box.Um, same thing.Sam Knoll: [00:18:14] You have to adjust your menu even.Jason Godwin: [00:18:16] Biggest challenge. Yeah. For them, which I would imagine it would be, you know, um, even with the casual cuisine that we're doing, some things work better in house than they would to go. So, um, but you still try to, uh, I think the biggest challenge that we faced, uh, especially when the restaurant was closed to the public was just the ticket times.Oh really well, people are still going to eat out, you know? And you may go from a 15 minute to 20 minute ticket times staying. Yeah. You're free to be ready be here, yada, yada too. And it's going to be about 45 minutes to an hour, you know, so then you're trying to time it out. So when the people do come and pick it up, it's still going to be hot, you know, and it says close to that quoted time as possible.Sam Knoll: [00:19:03] So, so with those. That's an instance then, correct me if I'm wrong, where somebody's like, say I want to eat it five o'clock tonight. And I placed my order now at 2:30. So you've got to watch. Is that what you're working towards then is making sure that the phoneJason Godwin: [00:19:21] we're working on just the phone's ringing man.And, uh, we're we, you know, we may be on a two hour wait for takeout orders. So easy. That's where the challenge is.Sam Knoll: [00:19:35] I would say it's just the volume of what's coming in.Jason Godwin: [00:19:40] Right. And then, and then, then they open up to 50%. So now we're, obviously we're trying to like time out the dine-in at a, at an appropriate time, along with the people we're quoting on the phones within appropriate time and with the utmost quality, whether it be in house or at a house.So, um, That's probably the biggest challenge. It's a great challenge to have.Sam Knoll: [00:20:06] It's a lot better than, than having no challenge.Jason Godwin: [00:20:10] But, um, um, yeah, that's probably been probably the toughest thing that I noticed was just adapting to the takeout orders, probably, you know, Yeah, it's pretty wild. Well, so let's see.Sam Knoll: [00:20:25] Um, any stories, anything come to mind that, uh, that you might want to share the bizarre things? Any, I mean, it was interesting when I kind of started to put this book together. I said, you know, when folks come to this site, I want stories that are happy, that are sad. That are inspiring, that are dumbfounding that are, you know, it's kind of whatever, anything come to mind.I know they're in there. This is, if you and I were sitting out by a fire,Jason Godwin: [00:21:00] I was going to say a lot of the stories, some of the best ones probably came from when you and I were in the kitchen with a bottle of whiskey, trying to cook up some family Christmas day.Sam Knoll: [00:21:09] Oh God.Jason Godwin: [00:21:10] Burning creme brulees for like the 15th time at your grandmother's house or something. Um, Anyways. Yeah. I mean,...
75 minutes | Nov 30, 2020
#3 - Drinks with John Gotti and What Not To Do During a Pandemic (1:14:32)
Dan Serafini: [00:00:00] this is, this is like the opposite of what you're supposed to be doing during COVID. I guess we're all being next, next, next Monday, I guess where I'll be.Okay. And. I'll be in, Riviera Maya, Mexico. Yeah. Well, you know what I'm going to, I mean, I'm staying at a place called the one eco resort, which is top, top, top, top shelf, you know, something it, and th the, the, it is phase. It is, level three Mexico, but only for Mexico city, Guadalajara Acapulco, all the major cities.When you're on one of these resorts, they're only allowed to fill up the 25% occupancy. Yeah. So, so my fam I'm going for free, by the way. You know, I, I, I go every year, a couple of times a year, Mexico, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, you name it. but so basically what I'm getting to, it would be a mistake for you not to contact me if you're ever interested in traveling to the Caribbean, because.My family owns the most reputable travel agency in the tri-state area. We're internet based. It's called simplicity. It's called simplicity, travel.com. There we go. Hopefully this will be a podcast and you can plug thatit for you, Sam, for friends and people that I know. You know, what, if you book a regular room, which is still stellar, the probability of getting upgraded to a presidential suite is, is, is almost a hundred percent. You know what I mean? Because nobody buys those presidential suites or the ocean view suites.So guess what you slide right in there because you booked through simple simplicity travel. So that's one of my jobs by the way. Yeah. That's why, that's why that Jamaicans love me because I'm more than one job just like that. yeah. Yeah. So, that's where I'll be next week with, with my brother, just my brother and I, yeah. First time ever traveling alone with him. You know, thatSam Knoll: [00:01:52] could be interesting.Dan Serafini: [00:01:55] Oh yeah. So, I mean, I, I speak a little quickly, you know, I know you probably want to get this on this, the last interview of the evening, right.Sam Knoll: [00:02:02] It doesn't matter. There's no time limit of it, of any sort, you know what I mean? Again? And this is the restaurant reality aspect of this, you know, as I said, we went to culinaryDan Serafini: [00:02:15] school together. Sure. I haveSam Knoll: [00:02:17] been out of the food world since Oh two Oh three.Dan Serafini: [00:02:21] Oh, wow. Wow. What are you doing? What are you doing now?What are you? What have you been doing?Sam Knoll: [00:02:29] Internet marketing consulting. I did. I was a digital director for a big, huge division of a biotechDan Serafini: [00:02:36] company.Sam Knoll: [00:02:37] I got out of the cooking business. I, I cook every day.Dan Serafini: [00:02:42] I love it. Passion.Sam Knoll: [00:02:45] Yeah. And, and I would eat out every day if I could. That's just too much pricey, butDan Serafini: [00:02:49] Oh yeah. Yeah. It's fun.Sam Knoll: [00:02:54] But I know you got out of it too to some degree.Dan Serafini: [00:02:58] Oh, sure.Sam Knoll: [00:03:00] I have no idea. It would be interesting to know how many people from our graduating class. Are you still working in the restaurant business? I know a good number are.Dan Serafini: [00:03:09] But a good number are, but I wouldn't have to say about, you know, what generously con conservatively, I should say, 50% got out and I would say, you know, you know, something, you're not going to be the old school executive chef with the big paunch belly, you know, French guy.He's not gonna do it anymore. You know what I mean? That doesn't really exist anymore. I worked for some of those kinds of chefs before in my life, but, but, you know, and plus the money's just not there. It's not there. It's impossible to have a family and be in the restaurant business. I found that out, by owning two restaurants and what's, y'all going through in a little bit, you know, you just can't do it unless you're ma you're married to a woman that shares the same business as you, but then you got to get the whole family involved, you know,yes. Yes.Sam Knoll: [00:04:05] There you go. Your outline,Dan Serafini: [00:04:07] youSam Knoll: [00:04:07] know,Dan Serafini: [00:04:09] base basic outline and it's fricking crazy.Sam Knoll: [00:04:13] Let's do it. I, I I'd really, that's the whole idea here is we want to hear what your story is.Dan Serafini: [00:04:21] And without a doubt,Sam Knoll: [00:04:22] it's going to spark more questionsDan Serafini: [00:04:24] from me during the process. ISam Knoll: [00:04:27] will say those two years in culinary school was just kind of heavenDan Serafini: [00:04:31] for me. It was perfectly, yeah, it was amazing. It was, it was a vacation from life, especially my externship. Yeah. So anyways, sham, I was, I was born and raised in Venice, Italy, June, June 14th, 1973. I share my birthday with the U S army.The the United States flag and our president. and, I was, I moved here January 4th, 1984, but when I was living in Italy, I. Everything was about food and having fun, going to school. Sure. I woke up, I went to school, got there around eight 30 in the morning. went back home around noon for about two hours, took a siesta or just play with my brother or friends, whatever.We went back to school around two. And, came home around, six at night. My mom would, have been making dinner. So my brother and I would go outside and play. We would have free roam of the whole city of Venice. It's not like. What it is now, you know, I mean, even in the United States, I wouldn't dare.I don't want to let my kids go out through the towns roaming, you know, I've got a 12 year old and an eight year old, and you know, 12 year old boy or you're a girl. and it's, it was completely different. I F I had free run with the whole freaking city. I used to. Fishing out of my bedroom window. I wouldn't dare eat the fish because of all the, of all the, diesel and all that stuff in the water, because it's heavily trafficked by, you know, and, and, and, we used to go through 'em.You know, catacombs we'd sneak into the old, old, old churches and go into the, what you would call a basement half the time they were flooded with water and, and, and we would, you know, try to find treasures and all that from the 16 hundreds, it was great. It was crazy. And then, there was a big park I remember in the middle of Venice, and, and almost like a central park, but much smaller.And, there would be a grass and little tiny lakes and whatever. Keep in mind, it's built on lots of little islands and some of them, some of them are fake islands, you know, that are floating. But, on, one of these largest islands, which is attached to st. Mark's square, you know, they, there was trees and all that, and we would go hunting with these makeshift glow guns, and we would kill South.We would kill salamanders. All that stuff. And, we didn't have any video games. We didn't have any junk food. So, so we went out and got like per shoot, those sandwiches, little pramezini you would call them basically white bread with some prosciutto, some fresh Rugola, a little bit of mayonnaise and, and a little tiny sliver of provolone it.And that's all, it takes some fresh Brown, black pepper. And. This was what I ate or, or, or, or even, you know, fried sardines. we would, we would pick up a basket of fried sardines instead of a basket of French fries as a, as a us kid would, you know, so these are the type of things I grew up on. So yes, I think it's, it shaped me, into the person.I am. Guess what I did yesterday, yesterday, I went to Fairfield Sask. It's called SASCO. Beach and Fairfield, Connecticut. I came back and my friend and I came back with 250, clams, the middle neck plants I've got in my fridge right now. I should have, I should have, I should have brought some outside here.I've got some wonderful hot sauce to go with them. Every two weeks. I come back with a couple of hundred clams. That's great. And you know what, I'm going back to my roots. Going back to my roots, it feels good on my one with the ocean. I do the same thing with fishing. you know, in the, in the ocean or in these beautiful lakes around here in New York state.and, and, and,Sam Knoll: [00:08:20] food food isDan Serafini: [00:08:22] food brings everybody together. I remember. as I was growing up in Italy, my parents would have dinner and have company over very, very often. And, my mom came from the Bronx. I'm going to throw that a little into direction. She moved there after college. She went there for vacation along with her good friend, Tony, Tony, female, Tony, and, my father pretended to be a gondolier because.He really loved my mother. He he's, he's sorry. He's like, I got to pick up this check brand was a gondolier. Let them the gondola and pick Tony and my mother up and, anyways wooed them and, my mom ended up falling in love with him and, she came back to the States. And then move back over to Italy to marry him.And, and, that's, that's how my brother and I were born. And, we lived there for, well, I lived there for 10 years, the first 10 years of my life. And unfortunately, sometimes marriages don't work and then ended up getting divorced and, you know,Sam Knoll: [00:09:29] it was, it was, it was.Dan Serafini: [00:09:31] Pretty. Yeah. Yeah. Except accepted and Italy.you know, unfortunately a woman is a second class citizen and you know, this is a little down part to my story. I was very happy before I still am happy, but I'm going to tell you how it is. And the woman is a second class citizen and the in Italy and a man have all the rights. And it's also a very, very socialist country.And, you know, like my father came over to the United States and tried to kidnap me, you know, I was horrible, but anyways, the U S law put that away. You know what I mean? He was deported all that stuff. Anyways, I'm jumping around here, but I'm sure you can put it all together where, you know, write this book.yeah. Yeah. So, so anyways, I still am very, very fond of, the way I grew up.I speak a hundred percent lonely. I've never forgotten my language. I've learned Spanish, because of the Italian. And now in the restaurant business through the past, 25, 30 years, it's coming in extremely handy and I'm teaching my son, all of this. It's his Spanish as the second, most important language in the United States, you know?so we moved in 1984. I was 10 years old. English was my second language. My mother had taught me English as I was growing up in the United States, as I was growing up in Italy for the whole time. And that, you know, I didn't speak it perfectly, but I adapted to it perfectly. Yeah, I learned it very quickly.I was extremely advanced in math and arithmetic geometry. We learned algebra when I was in second grade, you know, and, and the United States that does not happen, you know? so let's just move on to when I was 13, I got my first job. As soon as I was able to work. I got my first job at a restaurant called Capricho, or he stood on thing, run Brewster here.I, I was a bus boy. I was the only Italian speaking bus boy, both owners and their whole family spoke Italian. And, you know, they used to call me test that he cuts so that, you know, he used to swear on me all the time and they used to release all their aggression on me. Meanwhile, I was polishing glasses behind the bar.Find out. Beautiful restaurant, fine dining, a gorgeous, gorgeous restaurant. It hadn't been renovated since the fifties. and it was never renovated. but, but it was really nice, eh, very reminiscent of a, if you've ever seen the shining at a hotel where, where the bartender, that was a ghost, you know, kind of like that, you know, he was like polishing glasses, very old school.Oh yeah. So anyways, there was a table in front of the bar because I was behind the bar most of the time, maybe this is why I love drinking so much.There was a table there and, you know, the bartender would always pull out the Louis, the 13th cognac. Th at the time, back in 1986, they went for $86 a shot imagine, but he would take that cognac and put it on these table full of like eight guys. And they're all like swearing and lasting and all that. I had no idea who the hell they were.Meanwhile, I had a good friend all over, who was another bus boy and every single Friday. Keep in mind. I'm in Brewster, New York, about 60 minutes North of New York city. Well Friday, these people would come and every single Friday Oliver and I would marry all the leftover calling yak that was left over in the Snapchatters and put them in a pint glass or something like that.A couple of pint glasses we'd bring them down to the basement and drink it, even though it was so nasty to me. But now I touch an affinity for cognac. I love cognac. These gentlemen, they're not gentlemen. These pieces. These are. Where in your work, these were pieces of shit. This was John Gotti and his henchmen and they were eating there.I knew youSam Knoll: [00:13:33] were heading somewhere withDan Serafini: [00:13:34] this. Yeah. Yeah. They were eating there every single Friday. and this happened for about a year and a half, and then they stopped coming for whatever reason. Maybe that's when Giuliani put them away. I'm not sure. I'm not sure. And, and, you know, I thought that was really cool, part of the restaurant business, but it definitely got me really interested in being in there and, you know, and, and I saw all sorts of stuff.I mean, I, I don't know how, how I can say anything I want. Right. You can say anything you want. Okay. I mean, I've seen sex and walk in coolers. Basically the Anthony Bourdain's kitchen kitchen confidential is one of my favorite books and I'm sure you've read it. Yeah. A lot of that stuff that he saw, I actually saw.Sam Knoll: [00:14:20] Yeah. That's that was the that's the most bizarre part of that book is we all saw it. It wasDan Serafini: [00:14:26] amazing. It's so surreal. It's just, it happens all the time.Sam Knoll: [00:14:33] so, soDan Serafini: [00:14:33] basically I worked there for a few years and then I, I, I ended up, I was heavily involved in the ROTC in high school. So I had to do a lot of drill meets all of that.I love the army. I love the U S army. If I had stayed in Italy, it would have been mandatory for me to join the military over there. But. Oh, I really wanted to, to be involved a little bit more. I was a boy scout. I was a Eagle scout. and not that many people make it to Eagle scout. they're very rare and I love it.I had about, 88 to one 90 average in all my classes got a Regents diploma. I went to college for a semester. Hey, you know what? I was given all the freedom of the world. I went to York college of Pennsylvania studying criminal justice, and I did not go to class at all. And I failed out. I was 18 years old.I had no business being in there.Sam Knoll: [00:15:27] it's funny though, as you do that, I'll tell you, my, my start in college was not all that different. You know, I went off and,Dan Serafini: [00:15:34] and,Sam Knoll: [00:15:35] and I think bottom line, I wasn't ready to be there.IDan Serafini: [00:15:39] played really hard. I had a great time, butSam Knoll: [00:15:41] I sure didn't go to class, you know?Dan Serafini: [00:15:44] Oh yeah. What I wanted to do. Plus plus it 18 years old. I mean, come on. We're still kids. Yeah. So I think girl develops a little bit, quicker than a guy. but really I wanted a, not so my oats, but, but, I wanted to experience life a little bit.So, so I, I, basically I had, I have a good friend. His name is Mike. he's residing in Alabama right now. And, he was in Brewster with me. and we based basically we just quickly decided to join the us army and, and, we went to the recruiter against my mother's wishes. cause she's always told me never to join the army.She's like, what are you doing? Going to ROTC in high school? And I said, Oh, you know, it's a good experience. I'm not going to be locked into anything. So I joined behind her. I joined behind her back. And she's, she she's from the Vietnam war era. And, anyways, that, you know, it was very scary life back then when, during Vietnam, I don't know if I, if I would have joined, had I grown up during Vietnam because I don't agree with a lot of the.even, even where I was deployed. And I'm going to tell you that, in a few minutes, I don't agree with, the entangling alliances. A, a lot of them are BS as far as I'm concerned. you know, we, we, we don't belong in a lot of places in this world. but so I joined behind my mom's back and she was so upset.Meanwhile, I was, I was, I was almost 200 pounds. That's what I weigh now, but, I'm pretty fit, you know, with, except with the exception of my, small cigarette habit. It's only when I drank really. so I, I joined up very overweight and, my friend Mike and I went in on a buddy system. To, Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and, in the period of, eight weeks, I lost about 30 pounds.I was about 170 pretty fit. my mom came out to my graduation and she couldn't believe what she saw. And she told me how proud she was. She takes back everything that she's ever said, all that stuff. And, Yeah. So we all ended up going to AIT. Oh, before that at the recruiter, the recruiter said you've got some really great bad scores.You can do whatever you want. I told him I was going, I wanted to be a cook. He's like, are you fucking kidding me? Do you want to be a cook? You can be an engineer. You can be this. You can be a lawyer. You can be whatever you can do, whatever you want. You want to be a cook, you know, a cook. there, there are soldiers that had the choice between.Prison and go into the army and they take the army and guess what we make them cooks. Do you want, you really want to be that shit? You really want to be a cook. I want to be a cook. So we both went in as cooks. of course we went through a basic training, advanced infantry training, all of that. And then, we were sent up and our drill Sergeant.Started laughing when we graduated because they pick where you go. And since I was, since I outranked my friend, Mike, because I was in ROTC and you get to join as a private first class is except, instead of a private, he went wherever I went. So we both got sent to the highest deployable. army base in the country, which was Fort drum, New York, the 10th mountain division, and this, 10th mountain division.This is, about five miles, five miles away from Ontario, Canada. And, the 10th mountain division is basically the, the, the unit, the division that was basically, responsible for winning world war II. they want Italy and they
43 minutes | Nov 23, 2020
#2 - Pop Tarts and The Cajun Popeye (43:09)
Sam Knoll: [00:00:00] Cool. Well, let's see. I just wanted to get you on and go through a little of your story, a little of our history, you know, Kind of get the, uh, the Rick Marcel background here.Rick Mersel: [00:00:17] Yes. Sam, I'm telling you what happened. Okay.Sam Knoll: [00:00:22] You still there? Yeah. How many years have we known each other now?We're 35.So Sam,Rick Mersel: [00:00:27] when did, how long, when did you start off the Academy?Sam Knoll: [00:00:30] I started in eighth grade. So that was what? 80. Two 83, I thinkRick Mersel: [00:00:39] 74.Sam Knoll: [00:00:42] No, that's not right. Yeah.Rick Mersel: [00:00:45] Yeah. So I know you're for about 39 years.Sam Knoll: [00:00:47] 39 years. Yeah. Can you, we're coming up on 40 years. I didn't.Rick Mersel: [00:00:53] God, wait a minute. All right. That's it. We're done.Sam Knoll: [00:00:55] I know.Geez.[00:01:00] Rick Mersel: [00:00:59] Almost 40 years.Sam Knoll: [00:01:01] Yeah.Rick Mersel: [00:01:03] Yep.Sam Knoll: [00:01:04] Yep. So it's a, you're smart. You got out of hat. Well, you don't have as much gray as I do. Um, you know, yeah. Here's, this is, uh, this is aRick Mersel: [00:01:15] haircut. Thanks to my wife.Sam Knoll: [00:01:17] There you go. Cool dude. Well, you know, I'm, I'm doing this book, which is. I'm going to break into to our thing here.But, um, um, I had this idea to do a book that was kind of sharing stories from friends who worked in restaurants, bars, and food service. And I know it's not what you're doing now, but I know you worked in restaurants, you ran a nightclub. You, you know, you've, you've had numerous businesses and even your current business that you run now.You know, as has got the nightclub element.Rick Mersel: [00:01:58] Yeah. I've always been surrounded [00:02:00] by food. Never really involved in food directly except.Sam Knoll: [00:02:03] The SouthRick Mersel: [00:02:04] Carrollton deli in new Orleans where I was head sandwich. Boy, I could definitely tell you stories aboutSam Knoll: [00:02:10] that. That's why I pulled you in. Okay. What do you wantRick Mersel: [00:02:14] to hear a couple of those stories right now?Sam Knoll: [00:02:16] Yeah. All right. So,Rick Mersel: [00:02:18] so, so I was, I was in new Orleans. Um, it was, it was towards, I guess the end of the, the, uh, end of the summer and I was bored, so I figured I needed to get a job. So they had the South Carrollton deli. Uh, which is located at the end of st. Charles, uh, at uptown square, I believe it was, or there was another, it was next to chameleon grill, which is a, uh, which is an institution in new Orleans anyway.So I told the guy I had experience, um, my experience was eating deli sandwiches. Yeah, exactly. Not, not making them, but, uh, the head sandwich, boy, it was my job to steam, the [00:03:00] meat. So, so I was gonna take the meat, take it over to the steamer, put it on the steamer, close the lid. The meat would be steamed. I'd put it on a sandwich and then I'd throw the cheese on.Which would slowly melt and then all the condiments and lettuce and all that stuff. Well, my big breakthrough moment was I decided I was going to put the cheese in the steamer with the meat so they could meld together. So I think I invented that alsoSam Knoll: [00:03:30] would have all the restaurants do that now. You know,Rick Mersel: [00:03:33] I think that was me.The other thing I invented was, so we had this guy who was from California. So you had avocado, he had sprouts, he had eggs. This is stuff that was not typically on sandwiches back then. Now it's totally standard stuff, but no one saw an avocado in the eighties. Um, they just didn't exist. There were only in Mexico.So this guy had avocado sprouts, eggs and stuff. So I decided [00:04:00] I'm going to put all this stuff together in a pita. So it was sprouts. It was avocado, it was egg, it was onions. It was cheese. So I think I had been at the California sandwiches as well.Sam Knoll: [00:04:12] And, and, and in the Peter,Rick Mersel: [00:04:15] in the piece,Sam Knoll: [00:04:18] you we've talked about how long we've known each other. When we were kids, we ate pitas. Now, I don't think you can find them.Rick Mersel: [00:04:27] You're forgetting. You're forgetting that I have in exotic wife who has PETA and NA and all that kind of stuff, we just don't, we don't have wonder bread in our house.Sam Knoll: [00:04:37] Well, no, we don't have that either.Rick Mersel: [00:04:39] So, so, but I did, so I invented the, uh, the melted cheese and pastrami sandwich and the California peanuts. So thank you.Sam Knoll: [00:04:47] Nice. Well, this was a perfect person to talk to,Rick Mersel: [00:04:53] right? Exactly. You have a sort of a celebritySam Knoll: [00:04:56] in a sense. No one knew it. Sandwich [00:05:00] celebrity.Rick Mersel: [00:05:02] You're going to get a lot of that.Sam Knoll: [00:05:03] Right. It's all good.Dude. Once this airs, then people will realize the level of celebrity that I had brought on, you know,Rick Mersel: [00:05:12] is there a nationalSam Knoll: [00:05:14] sandwich award?Rick Mersel: [00:05:15] For excellence in sandwich, I should win like the, uh, the legend award.Sam Knoll: [00:05:20] I don't know if there is, you know, I, there was, there was a piece that came on and I forget which TV show it was, but there was something that came on not long ago, where they were looking for the best quote kind of sandwich in the country.And one of the finalists was, um, she had, now I'm going to forget the name of it. It's a place that makes chicken biscuits down on Franklin street was timeout.Rick Mersel: [00:05:47] Had likeSam Knoll: [00:05:47] one of the best biscuit, one of the best sandwich options outRick Mersel: [00:05:51] there. We'll see. Yeah. Can you shut the door please? I need you to help me to forget [00:06:00] 10.So the kids are in virtual school right now. Um, so, so, um, I didn't invent the best sandwich. I laid the groundwork for everyone that came after me.Sam Knoll: [00:06:12] Well, that works.Rick Mersel: [00:06:13] So I was kind of like the little Richard of sandwichesSam Knoll: [00:06:17] to put it into music terms. Nice. Well, here's another thought then. Um, how about this other story that you wrote?And I forget what was the title of that one?Rick Mersel: [00:06:32] It was, um, pop tarts and the Cajun Popeye. Yeah. And when I say Cajun Papa, I don't mean the chicken. I mean the sailor man.Sam Knoll: [00:06:41] Right? Do you want tell that story right now? Different than this'll be different than I noticed the shirt. It's nice shirt and the hatRick Mersel: [00:06:50] too.Sam Knoll: [00:06:50] To line. There we go.Rick Mersel: [00:06:52] So I wore, I wore my new Orleans garden, one purpose, cause I figured we'd be talking about the story. So, so I [00:07:00] grew up literally grew up eating Kraft, American cheese and little squares. I would. You know, pull the plastic off. I would drink Coke. I would eat Doritos. My mom would make meatloaf spaghetti, maybe some chicken every now and then.So it was a very generic, vanilla, uh, culinary existence that I had. We did not have a whole lot of, um, exotic foods. So I decided. That, uh, I was going to new Orleans cause I wanted to be nine hours away from my sentence friends that was at Vanderbelt. We can tell that story.Sam Knoll: [00:07:35] We're going to hold off on that story.That'll be another call. Okay.Rick Mersel: [00:07:40] So I get to new Orleans and, and, um, it's pretty exotic place for what I was used to. So I was trying to feel my way around and then a buddy of mine who was in my dorm. He's from. The new Orleans area. So he said, Hey, listen, there's a little applause [00:08:00] in Laplas Louisiana. There is a andouille sausage festival.I had no idea what andouille was. I never really eat sausage. My mom's actually Jewish. So we grew up kosher meat. So there was never any kind of, itSam Knoll: [00:08:13] was no sausage in the house.Rick Mersel: [00:08:15] No kind of Porky sausage at the house. And, but he also told me that. But if the Marshall Tucker van and the Charlie dangerous man would be playing.So that's why I agreed to go. I thought, Oh cool. There's some good music. I dig. The devil went down to Georgia. So off we went, we get there and. I want you to picture the South end right now, because it has not changed at all. When we get there, all it was was motorcycles, Harley, Davidsons, pink, Confederate flags for miles.So, you know, we're from the South, but we're not from,Sam Knoll: [00:08:49] not from the real South. Virginia Beach is,Rick Mersel: [00:08:54] this is the deep, deep South. So, so we pulled up even buy you. There's [00:09:00] there's the trees with the malls all around there's these Confederate flags. There's these motorcycles, you just smell gas in the air. You smell horrible colon from the bikers.Um, and you started smelling some food kind of in the background. It was completely muddy. I think it's always money there because it is a swamp. Yeah. So, so, um, off, we went to this festival and I was very hungry. I did not eat, um, Practice that day. Cause I figured I'd eat all this festival food. Now when I'm thinking festival food, I'm thinking hamburgers, hot dogs, maybe a corn dog, something right.Sam Knoll: [00:09:38] Standard standard festivalRick Mersel: [00:09:40] festival fair. It's it's a, you know, it's a music festival there weren't music festivals.So I figured, you know, That's what I would have to eat. Well, you go there. We went to the, the back of the field and there's these food. This, there was not a normal [00:10:00] food insight. This was the buy you people ate crawfish and the alligator and the egg, you know, Buddha and sausage, which is blood sausage in what looks like.It looks like a condom. So all this stuff was really scary to me. So now I'm in panic mode, I'm starving. I'm a little bit scared of my surroundings and I need to be carrier. Right. So I need to eat. So I looked down at the hand and I see some rice. I was like, okay, there's some rice I go over there. It's a jambalaya.Um, I am. Kind of concern with jambalaya is because that word is a little strange, but then it looked like rice with hot dogs in it. I'm like, okay.Sam Knoll: [00:10:48] And it what's funny is back then even no one here was really big on what jambalaya was now. It's like every day.Rick Mersel: [00:10:55] Yeah. Yeah, no, everybody knows it. I didn't know what the hell.But I figured like [00:11:00] your rice with some, what appeared to be hotdogs in it. Okay. I'm starving. I'm going to eat it. So I started eating it and I was like, yeah, this is really good. It was, you know, it was kayak and it was Cajun spices. It was even okra, which I had never seen or heard of an okra back then.This is 1986. So okra didn't exist back then. I don't even think it, I don't even think the plant was invented yet.Sam Knoll: [00:11:21] People, people who knew what okra was, were kind of afraid of it. It seems slimyRick Mersel: [00:11:25] and alive. So here I am with rice. What appear to be hot dogs, okra, and some Cajun spice as well. It's pretty good.So I'm sitting, I'm sitting on a picnic bench and this here comes the cage and Papa. I never no picture Popeye. The sailor man. This was the Cajun version of that guy. Exactly him. He comes up to me and goes, I didn't write this in the story, but this is what he actually said. He goes, boy, you know what you eating?I said, yeah, it's Shambala. It's rice. He said, Oh no, it's a boy. That'll [00:12:00] make you rake women. That'll put lead in your pencil. And I'm looking at Scott, like, who the hell is this guy? What's he telling me? I was like, it's jambalaya. I just got it over there. He goes, Oh boy. He goes, you see that meat in there?And I said, yeah, he goes, you know what? That is. And I looked at the booth and said nutrition or nutria jambalaya. Well, nutria in my head was nutritious. I'd never heardSam Knoll: [00:12:23] the word before.Rick Mersel: [00:12:25] And he goes, he goes, boy, you know what you eat? I said, no. And hold on a second. I don't to show you his, his body language.So he said, boy, it's a swamp rat about yay. Well, right then I realized the hot dogs in the Jamba live was really rat meat.Sam Knoll: [00:12:43] In that sense, it was, it was new Orleans rat meat. ItRick Mersel: [00:12:46] was Ratna. It was, it's a swamp breath. If, if anyone's watching this right now, go Google up on a nutrient isSam Knoll: [00:12:53] exactly.Rick Mersel: [00:12:54] So what it is, it was, it's a swamp rat.That's from Venezuela, I [00:13:00] believe. And they brought it up to new Orleans to study it. Our hurricane blew through destroyed the lab. These nutrient actually got out into the swamp. They're not indigenous to America and now they're all over. But, you know, 30, 40, 50 years later, they're all over Southern United States.So it is it's swamp bread, similar to a muskrat. They're very dangerous. They actually are very aggressive, but I ate one of those and I actually think I continued any, after he told me he was a rat,Sam Knoll: [00:13:33] it tasted good. You know?Rick Mersel: [00:13:36] So after that, I'm no longer scared of crawfish. I'm no longer scared of oysters.I'm no longer scared of alligator. So now I've become a Southern Louisianian the Cajun, uh, by you, by you person. And I was able for the next four plus 40 years to now enjoy real Cajun new Orleans cuisine without [00:14:00] being squeamish about it. Cause I figured what can be worse than eating a rat?Sam Knoll: [00:14:04] I guess here's here's the question.I wonder if you could. I mean, you're certainly not going to get jumbled. I with nutrient.Rick Mersel: [00:14:11] Oh, I'm not going to get it anywhere ever again. That was a one and done.Sam Knoll: [00:14:15] Okay. So in other words, you're not going to look for that again. I mean, it was good, but I prefer my jam a lotRick Mersel: [00:14:21] with andouille sausage. Now, now they actually had jambalaya with andouille sausage at this festival.I didn't see it, or if I did, I didn't register because I saw the nutrient and I thought, Oh, I'd rather have nutritiousSam Knoll: [00:14:36] or at least be better for me.Rick Mersel: [00:14:38] Right. So, so, um, and then my second thing that I had to get used to, um, was sushi. Um, so there was no sushi in 1986. I don't even think the first sushi restaurant was in new Orleans until later on in the eighties.And so buddy of mine took me to that or actually on, uh, a, a buddy of mine invented [00:15:00] this thing called gourmet on the go, where you could order from restaurants and they would bring the food to your house. Obviously, this is that. Um, now the difference between now and then, and I actually worked for this company was there's no cell phones and no GPS.So you had to bring a giant paper maskSam Knoll: [00:15:21] with you, you folding that as you're drivingRick Mersel: [00:15:24] and right. And it wasn't one small territory. It was the entire city and suburbs of new Orleans. So, so to get a food. Yeah. If you know st. Charles fine, you know where that is, but to get through, to like, Mettery, it took an hour and a half, two hours, cause yeah.I wouldn't find a place. No. A good story about that is, um, st. Charles, if you don't know, new Orleans are giant mansions. Yeah. So, so there's lady ordered from gourmet on the go and. Um, I brought the food to her house. It was a lot of food. So I get there. She has me come into [00:16:00] her kitchen. I think she ordered soup and she ordered stuff.I put it in pots for her turn on her burners, basically set this food up in her kitchen for her as I'm leaving. So I was there for 15, 20 minutes as I'm leaving. She, she goes like this way, I guess. So she puts something in my hand and says, thank you. So I feel it's paper. And I'm like, I know that this woman gave me a ton of money for helping her out.I wait until I get my car. I opened my hand up. It's a $1 bill. That was my tip for the old rich woman on st. Charles in new Orleans. Nice. Now this moment is long gone. Because she was about 90 then, so I can't go back and cursor, but all right. So anyway, one of the places in Gore mainly goes to sushi place.So I would go in there and I'd bring people sushi. It was, um, there was actually, I think, a Chinese restaurant with sushi. So I decided [00:17:00] one day to go ahead and try it. And I thought it was pretty disgusting, but I kept going. I kept going back.Sam Knoll: [00:17:09] It was justRick Mersel: [00:17:10] two in a roll,Sam Knoll: [00:17:11] but people keptRick Mersel: [00:17:12] wanting to go to have sushi and became pretty popular, like in 89, 90, and all the girls wanted to go there.So I started going there and getting used to it now probably 80% of the time I go out, I have something wrong. It's eitherSam Knoll: [00:17:27] it'sRick Mersel: [00:17:27] either your sushi or it's carpaccio or it'sSam Knoll: [00:17:32] it's at any restaurant now. Yup. Now here's another thing. The first time I had sushi was with you really? Yeah. At, um, Shogun restaurant.Rick Mersel: [00:17:45] It's funnySam Knoll: [00:17:46] Virginia Beach,Rick Mersel: [00:17:48] right? So that's what did it now? You know, what, if you cook sushi, it tastes just like fish.Sam Knoll: [00:17:55] Yes, it does.Rick Mersel: [00:17:57] I didn't know if you knew that or not.[00:18:00] Sam Knoll: [00:18:00] I I'm down. I'm down with...
27 minutes | Nov 18, 2020
#1 - Restaurants and Japanese Fighting Sticks! (26:33)
This is a pair of stories from my restaurant days. I would like to say that this story is unique but unfortunately things like this came up on an almost weekly basis.The title of this will make much better sense as you listen to the story and I am sure you will understand why I chose the title "Japanese Fighting Sticks" for this episode.The second story I share is a little shorter and is simply the way many of my nights, or early mornings, worked out when I owned five restaurants.Relax, escape and have fun my friends!This podcast uses the following third-party services for analysis: Podcorn - https://podcorn.com/privacy
2 minutes | Nov 2, 2020
Restaurant Reality – What Is It & Why You Should Want To Listen ?! [Trailer]
Welcome to the Restaurant Reality Show, the weekly podcast that promises to share the real stories that take place behind the scenes in the foodservice world.I’m your host, Sam Knoll, the founder and president of the website consultancy SamKnoll.com, the author of the soon to be released book Restaurant Reality, an over 20 year veteran of the restaurant industry and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. The bottom line is I know a ton of foodservice people who are going to share the reality of what happens behind the scenes from their restaurants all over the world.Now, thank you so much for joining me on the Restaurant Reality Show. Please remember to tell your friends that these shows are available to listen to for free in any, and I mean any app that supports podcasts whatsoever!Now, I hope you enjoyed this interview and that it enabled you to let go of all of the “stuff” that life seems to be throwing at you these days as a little fun in your life is an essential thing.So, now go on and enjoy the rest of your day or night and please Remember… that restaurants are our friend!nA0zKRGAjoW5ICPHIqCMThis podcast uses the following third-party services for analysis: Podcorn - https://podcorn.com/privacy
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