Saturday, January 10, 2009

2009 is here.

I have been thinking of some things to get out and I am going to be getting them out soon.  Trying to put it together in a semi-logical format.  Soon, very soon.  After all it is a new year.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

More big changes.....

I have a few things to report since my last post in late March, and mostly a chance to get a few things off my chest (nothing like a friend KW out west). 

Number one the decision was made to stop all restaurant plans in San Angelo.   The reality hit that we just really could not afford to do something like that and that we just were not that happy in San Angelo.  We had struggled for just about the entire time we were there to try and make it work.  I mean, it is not that bad of a place, just not the place for us.  I think that what kept me going was the prospect of having my own place and being my own boss.  I had dreamt of that for so long that I began to realize that part of my job hopping was due to the fact that I never really thought of any of those jobs as permanent, or even semi-permanent.  I was so convinced in my mind that one day I would work for me.  Well, not right now and espcially not in San Angelo.  I now can look back and see that I am glad that it did not happen for the financial burden would have been huge and I really can't imagine being tied to that town.  I still have no doubt that my plan would have worked in that food starved town!

Number 2 - We moved to Greensboro, North Carolina in April.  I had mentioned in my last post that we had friends in NC that wanted us to come out to visit as a option of towns to move to if the restaurant did not happen.  Well once we knew that it was not going to happen, the wheels really started turning and I made a very fast trip out to NC to check out the situation. Jenn was not able to go, so I flew out for a long weekend and saw all that I needed to see.  I saw a ton of opportunity for both of us. Jenn had already looked up to see if she could get her massage license  in a reasonable amount of time, and she felt confident that she could.  I saw several restaurants and foodservice establishments that were always looking for qualified help. That was all I needed and I came home,  Jenn and I felt it was the right thing to do, and we started making plans.  We put the house up and it sold in a matter of hours and we closed in, I think it was 13 days.  Yes we did.  Thank goodness our friends in NC told us that we could live with them until we were able to get jobs and settled in our new town.  I put in my notice, we packed up our stuff in the largest UHaul they make and I headed out with Jenns Dad making the trip with me.  Jenn stayed behind with Amos to finish off her job and then came out with my Mom a few weeks later. Before I left I sent 2 resumes to 2 different foodservice jobs.  I probably had a little bit of reluctance to send the resumes to these jobs, because I had seriously considered getting out of the business all together.   I sent the resumes and got interviews with both, one a high end local restaurant with a Asst Mgr. of the Front of the House wait staff and the other a small foodservice company out of VA taking over the dining services at Guilford College as Sous Chef/Sustainability Manager.  I liked the idea of Sustainability Manager because it was something I am committed to in my personal life and I wanted to see how all of this "green" stuff could be translated in a corporate setting.  I was offered both jobs within 2 days of my arrival and felt drawn to the Sous Chef/Sustainability Mgr job and started  right away.  

The company I was now working for had just taken over the dining services at GC and there was a lot of transition to take place, still taking place.  I worked most of the summer some terribly crazy hours as the Sous Chef.  I think I might have gotten a day off a week and was putting in 60 + hours per week most of the time.  It sucked and I felt like I was just spinning my wheels again in this business.  I wanted to move out here to be able to have friends again and working like that just made me want to not be around people after I got home from being around lots of people asking me lots of questions all day long.  Not even 90 days into the job I really began to question why I was doing this, again.  This same old cycle I have been in for years, going to the next best foodservice job as a chef, or cook, or front of the house manager, or waiter, or food salesman, or you name it I have done it in this business.  I even went to a EAP counselor and started asking if I was crazy to be thinking of a career change.  

I finally talked to my employer and we decided that I should be out of the kitchen and actually be doing the Sustainability Mgr job.  I thought I would at least give it a try, although I was hesitant.  My boss and I said that I would JUST be doing that job and that it would not be a good idea to fill in in the kitchen or front of the house because it would just be too easy to slip back into those roles.  We even said that I could work until I got the job done and even if it was not a full 40 hours that was ok.  The first week or two was good I started on the list of things to do and mostly started making contacts for all of our local/organic  food stuffs.  I worked Mon - Fri about 35 hours and felt good.  Then all of the sudden I am on the Manager schedule 3 times a week.  I was told that this was to help create a management team and so that the other managers didn't get upset that I was only working M-F.  Ummm, I think the other managers were hired to actually do that, you know be Managers of the Kitchen and Front of the House on various shifts, weekends included.  I did it for a few weeks but never felt like why I was doing it was so that we were creating a "Management Team."  I guess that is why I was aprehensive in the first place about taking the SM job.  I have been in this business too long to think I was going to get away with a M-F position, I knew it would not last.  It didn't.  This week I talked to my boss on M and told of my concerns and that I was going to start looking for a new job, outside of foodservice, but that I would stay on to help make the transition as long as needed.  

Then on Wed I get up and am having some serious chest pains on the left side.  It was some pains that I had been kinda ignoring for a few weeks.  The pains would come and go, but when they came it hurt and was taking my breath away.  I didn't really tell anyone and then Jenn noticed and started telling me go get it checked out.  I went Wed AM and spent all morning in the Dr office getting all sorts of tests run.  EKG, blood work, pee pee test, chest x rays.  The Dr. was concerned that my blood pressure was off the charts, that the left side of my heart was enlarged, I had some sort of junk in my upper chest, and that my liver function was not what it was supposed to be.  It scared me and the pain was really bad.  The Dr. prescribed me a blood pressue med, pain med, and antibotic. As long as I was just sitting and not moving too much the pain was bearable.  As soon as I got up and walked pain was really bad.  I came home and Jenn who was off that day was also scared.  I mean this is the kind of shit that I have seen others in this business come down with and have heart attacks.  A job was not worth my health.  The cycle had to stop and I was the only one that could stop it, I gave my official 2 weeks notice on Thurs.  I have been home not doing much of anything since Wed waiting for the meds to take hold and finally on Saturday the pain subsided and today there was no pain and I actually went to the park with the family and we went to the pool this afternoon.  

As of now I do not have a new job to start in two weeks when this one is done.  I have been gathering and filling out apps for all sorts of various jobs that until now I would have never considered.  I have some skills to offer someone, when all you have done is be in foodservice since you were 17 and that is all you  know I realize that I will have to start over in something. Something,  just not sure what, yet.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


This Sunday will be the 1st birthday of Amos Michael Long. 1 already. Kinda hard to believe that time had gone by so quick. Almost 1 year ago we picked him up and made him ours. He has grown so much and is now really walking, babbling all the time, eating table food like a champ, and becoming his own little person! Here are a few pictures of the year:
This is the first pic we got of him from the hospital

Mother's Day

When we went to Dallas to finalize the adoption and he was officially ours!

Super Amos at Halloween

I could go on with lots more, but I think you get the idea. He is one special guy in our house! Looking forward to many years to come with him in my life. I couldn't imagine what life would be like without him. No matter how bad things seem to be, it always make it better to drive in from work and be greeted at the front door by a 2 toothed smile!

Decisions to be made

Well, the time has come to make the tough decisions about a few things. The first is the restaurant. I am STILL waiting on the bids, but have just got off the phone with one of the contractors and he should be wrapping it up with the last few bits of info I just gave him. On that note a reality check has been taking place with me, Jenn, and this whole project. What started it all is a very unhappy me, mostly because of my dead end job. Last week a few things happened at work between me and my boss and it was all i could do to not walk out with my hand in the air and a few choice words shouted over my shoulder. I did not, but the last little bit of respect I had for him and the place I work. Jenn is feeling the same way with her position. Back to the restaurant, I know that this project is going to cost upwards of $250K to get going. Like I said before, I don't have that kind of money or the collateral to go to the bank for a loan. All of the potential investors we have approached have not responded in a way that would lead one to believe that they are interested in handing over any of their hard earned money to someone they really don't know that well. I really don't have the reputation in town either to warrant anyone to come and say, "Yes we would love to fund your restaurant." So, that leaves us here, still with no money to get this going no matter what the cost is going to be. I am pretty sure that I am getting the picture that this might not be the time or place to make this happen. I know that it is a great concept and that it would go over here, but all the moral support we have received from all the people we have been talking just won't pay the bills or get us the loan. Needless to say I am still not going to quit until I at least get 1 of the quotes back. After that I think it will be time to wrap it up. I am quite bummed to say the least. Up until about a week ago I just was really sure that this thing was going to happen some how, some way. I had all these ideas about how it was going to happen and that our idea was what this town needed and someone would realize that and come our way with $$. Hey, who said I couldn't dream?

Now we have to make some even tougher decisions. Does this town hold anything else for us? What next? How much longer can I survive at my job? Do I even want to stay in the restaurant business? If we were to move, where? Jenn really, really wants to practice massage. How can we do that and where? We really need insurance. Where can we get work that will offer decent coverage? This time is so much more complicated. In the past if we had been in this spot, we would have given our 2 weeks notice, packed it up and moved to the next great location. Now we have 1 more to consider and a house to sell. We know that we just can't do it like we have in the past. We need to have at least one job before we go anywhere so that we don't get behind and have to play catch up again.

We started job searching this week to see what options we have available. We are looking all over the place, not just here. A chef friend here has been wanting to talk to me about the possibility of me working for him/ with him to really get his place going full steam. I am open to conversations. It would not solve Jenn's desire to practice massage or the insurance delima. I told him I am not a line cook and that is not what I want to do. I need more on a daily basis. I like to interact with people and deal with food. That is a big reason I wanted to open my own place, so that I could do it all. We have talked to some friends of ours that really would like us to come out to see where they live. It has a lot of restaurant and massage opportunities. It is somewhere neither of us has ever been. We are interested and are thinking about making a quick trip out that way to check things out. Right now I am just trying to move on and start thinking about the next step.
One day at a time.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Lots of good things......

Been a while since I last posted. Since then we have been quite busy and it seems hard to believe that it is now March. Amos has up and started walking. Took his first few steps the first part of Feb and is now running, sorta, all over the place. He came down with a double ear infection and I got the mild case of the flu this week. Lot of laying around and sleeping for both of us. Went to a funeral last week and was once again reminded life is too short sit around at a crappy job and feeling sorry for yourself. My lovely wife sent me a nice quote -

"Take your needle, my child,and work at your pattern — it will come out a rose by and by. Life is like that . . . one stitch at a time, taken patiently." — Oliver Wendell Holmes

Back to patience, again. Although we got the restaurant plans over to a food service designer and he was able to get them fixed. One of the bids on the build out of the space should almost be finished and the other right behind. I am thinking that in the next few weeks we are going to know one way or the other if this is going to happen. I have been talking to more people and trying to get this idea in front of as many people that I can. We have nothing to lose and we need to get the word out, this is a great idea for this town and it would be good to get some more of these going here. Too much chain food, not near enough local eats. If this town continues to attract people who are 1)retiring 2) students at Angelo State University (student population of 6,000 with plans to grow to 10,000 3) military personell and Goodfellow AFB and 4) middle aged adults who are sick of the big city life then our concept is going to be what these people are looking for. It just frustrating that if you don't have money then how are you supposed to get something like this going? In a few weeks we will find out, I just have a feeling and then we can finally take the next step. Out of here is a possibility, but where is a mystery.

Friday, February 1, 2008

A Weekend for Me/Us

This past weekend we jetted off to our fav little town Fredericksburg. Situated in the Hill Country of Texas, this little German community has quickly become a favorite weekend getaway for Jenn & I. Last week we had a suprise visit from our great friends from Chicago Dr.'s Chad, Joann, and son Guthrie. They were in Austin on a little vacation and decided to drive out to see us and spent the night here as well. We had a great visit and felt recharged in the friend department, at least for a little bit. On thing Chad told us during a converstaion was how important it has been for him to be sure to take care of him! I think I was just writing about that recently and then got to thinking about getting out of town for the weekend. I got up Friday morning and asked Jenn if she wanted to call in to work and we could pack up and get out of town to Fredericksburg fo the weekend. She was like well lets go to work and then head out right after that, sounded great to me! Since it is the slow season down there we had no problem gettting a room and we left here at 7pm Friday night. Amos was in his pj's and it was his bedtime so he slept peacefully in the car the whole way. We got there in no time at all and got all situated and had no real plan for the weekend except, relax, eat, drink good wine and brew. Saturday rolls around at a liesurely pace and we head out to stroll the streets and do what we do best, window shop and people watch. We had a fine lunch at Hannah's on Main, fellow culinary school grads, walked around some more and window shopped even more. The weather was perfect and it felt like it has been some time that we had all been outside, I think I even got a little sun on the face. It felt great to be out doors getting the fresh air not thinking about what was going on back home with the restaurant or our jobs. We had very relaxed afternoon, Amos napped back at the room and then we went to dinner at the Fredericksburg Brewing Company. We really like that place and feel very comfortable there. Amos was quite the ham while at dinner and kept numerous tables entertained. It is funny to see him in action. After dinner we went back to the room, put Amos down for the evening and just talked and worked on the garden plan and called it an early night. Sunday we planned to get up and go have brunch at another favorite place, the Rathskeller. It is in the basement of an old building and just the kind of place we would love to create here, warm, inviting, cozy, unique, etc... I always have to Hill Country Hash ( sauteed duck breast, diced potatoes, peppers, onion, all topped with Hollandaise sauce and 2 poached eggs)! I just love it. We usually have a mimos and coffee and just sit and take it all in.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Update on More of Less of....

I have been trying to keep working on my "resolutions" and have beendoing a pretty good job. We have been eating more home cooked meals and have not even missed or thought about eating out here at all. Our food is much better and done the way we like it! I am not a huge fan of leftovers, but I am trying to get better at doing my part to eat them up. Jenn and I have been doing out little yoga video after the boy goes to bed and have been doing it 2-4 times a week. It might not be much, but it has been good. I have espcially like the breathing exercises and slowing down to stop and focus on my breath. It has been something I am trying to do even while at work to try and relax a little.
We are working on the garden plan and need to get busy because spring is just around the corner here and some of the things we are wanting to plant need to get into the ground soon.

I am feeling a little better with these few small changes in my life and will continue to keep working on them on day at a time.

Restaurant Progress

Well, things are moving along in the land of opening the restaurant, still slowly. As of now I currently have 2 General Contractors working on giving me a bid to build out the current space. We are hoping to take half of a 5000 sq ft space that used to house an electronics store many years ago. It has been vacant for sometime and will need to be gutted and then we will take our half. The space is not in my ideal location in this town, but this was the most reasonable and the landlord wants to work with us and the owner of the center really wants a restaurant there. We would love to be able to do this in the old downtown, but we tried that with the brewery and just cound not make it happen, so we will make this space work.

This really one of the last parts to the puzzle of this project, besides funding. I have done everything else that I can do to get to this point so that we will know how much money we really will need to make it all happen. I said that from the beginning I really felt like we would do the whole project for $300,000 or less and as of now I am thinking it will be pretty close to the $300K. The bid for all the restaurant equipment is in and all the other costs have been figured to the best of my knowledge and now we need to see what the price to build out will come to. Our plan is to then get all of our things together and go to a few people as potential investors and to the bank to see what we might be able to borrow. We could know sooner that later what the future will hold for Jenn and I in this town. On that note we have also started talking about the possibility of the restaurant not happening and what our next step will be. Unless something dramatic and crazy were to happen we have been talking about moving out of here at that point. We are not to that point yet and moving is a lot more complicated this time. We can't just give our notice at work and pack it up in a few weeks and strike out to the next place. The house will need to be sold, jobs located before we leave, Amos and daycare will need to be thought about, ect...

So until then, we wait. Again.

More of, Less of...

I have been writing in my head for over a week now and finally get the chance to put it down on "paper." I know it will not be what I have been writing in my head, but close.

I am not one to make New Year's resolutions, and don't intend to start now. I have decided that this is a good time to try to implement some changes in my life. I have been thinking about things that I need to do more and less of and this is where it started. Since I am going to be here for a while, until somethings happen or don't, I need to work on being more of the person I am and not who I think others want me to be so here are a few things I am going to do to help that along:

1. Cook more at home. I actually really like to cook at home for the family. It is a chance to try out new ideas and recipes that seem interesting. I went to culinary school to learn how to be the best I could be in the restaurant business and just happened to find out that cooking is something I really enjoy, esp on a small scale. I am a big fan of the magazine and especially the website of Cook's Illustrated. When I am looking for a new food idea or just an old favorite this is my first, and usually last, stop. I would venture to say that 99% of everything I have ever tried from them was really good if not great. I would be that the other 1% would have been the same if I has actually followed the recipe a little closer. That is the chef part of me, I usually take a recipe, unless I am baking something, and use it as a reference or starting point. I am not afraid to improvise and give the recipe what I think it might need more or or less of, especially when I come to spicy (my wife doesn't have a high tolerance for Scoville units). One other source I trust for the most part is Alton Brown, although some of his stuff needs some serious tweaking. I really like both of these source because they each take the time to figure out the science of the food and tell you why they came to the conclusion. I appreciate that.

2. Exercise more. For a long time in my life I exercised and enjoyed it. When I was younger I was involved in numerous sports and never really thought of it as exercise. The older I got the less sports I played and the more beer I drank. I have never really felt like I was totally out of shape, but there have been times when I just needed to get out and do something, anything. I really enjoy being outside and especially working in my yard and garden or helping my Dad at his farm. It is not only a source of stress relief , but good exercise. I love feeling like I accomplished something good and also got some exercise. Last year I even joined the gym at work and had someone help me get a "program" program going with some weight lifting and lots of cardio. I was really getting into it and feeling like I was getting somewhere and then we got the call to move with the adoption, and that was the last time I set foot in the gym. No big deal. Well that was in April of last year and a lot has changed in my life since then and I have now officially felt like the beer and inactivity has caught up to me. I have been contemplating yoga for sometime now and so has the wife. I like the fact that you can get a great workout for the body and the mind. Jenn bought a cheap DVD and we are doing it together to see if this is something we might want to pursue a little more seriously. So far, so good.

3. I want to do more things that I want to do. This year Jenn is planning a great garden. It has been the joke around our house that Jenn is filled with great ideas and plans and I am the one who generally carries them out. Well this year we are going to garden together. She is getting it going and I will help with getting it in the ground and laid out. Should be a great experiment. We have had a small garden in the past few years and have already started to see what worked and what didn't. I figure we really don't have much to lose and a lot to gain from the whole project, seeds are relatively cheap and I have the time (for ow). I also want to try home brewing. I really enjoy a good micro brewed beer and have always been fascinated with the brewing process. One of My best friends from college was a brewer and quite a good one at that and he showed me alot about the process. I used to hang out the in the brew house at the brewery he worked at in Durango, CO (Steamworks) and just watch and ask questions. He always amazed me in the fact that he just learned it from doing it. He started out as a helper and keg filler and then moved his way up to head of brewing operations. He brewed beers that won Gold medals at the GABF. He created new beers by taking a recipe and making it his own. Good beer is just as complex as a good wine and can be matched with foods just like wine. Now unfortunately this is also a subject that I need to d a little less of. Beer drinking. I don't drink alot by any means, I am not 25 any more, thank goodness! I tend to have 2-3 beers a night, sometime a bit more if the mood strikes, but I don't get drunk or crazy. The biggest reason I need to cut back is financially. This stuff ain't cheap. So, I am going to cut back and see how it goes and then if I can save enough money by cutting back I might be able to just buy my own home brewing kit and then make my own beer saving even more money! It is a master plan that sounds great, but we shall see.

The list is short, but it is a good start. I would hate to put a whole bunch of things and then feel like it is too much to deal with, so smaller is better. I have already been working on all of the things and feel good about the changes. I am really feeling good about the cooking more at home because we have pretty much decided that all the food here in the this town sucks and we can make anything we want here at home and make it the way we want and even better!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


It seems like I always have so much going on in my noggin these days. Most of it being what I mentioned in an earlier post, trying to open a new restaurant. Some days I feel like this is just about the craziest thing one would ever want to do and other I think that this is an excellent idea, especially for this little town. This town is full of just about every chain restaurant you can think of and it seems like they are all busy, all the time. Have the people of this town just grown to love mediocrity? Sure seems like it. When we decide that we are going to go out to eat it always turns into a "What do you want?" question and that goes back and forth for a while until one of us gets frustrated and we just go get some thing that we really don't want to eat. Sometimes as long as I can get a beer, something non domestic, I am OK with where ever because it kinda makes the food go down a little easier.

What I am wanting to do is just create a place that has a local feel with some different foods that are still recognizable by the people of the city, that is not mexican or steakhouse. Something that I have been to and worked at in every other city I have ever lived, something local! The place will have a feel like no other place in town and will have food that is different and simple. Not a lot of heavy sauces or complicated cooking processes, but fairly healthy, homemade, with use of local products (when available), and with customer service like no one else can offer. Sounds like a great place to me!

This is something I have always dreamed of doing, and I kinda always thought that this town would be a good place to try it. When I decided that I was going to do it I talked to the family and they were all in support. That was about 6 months ago and I can say that things are moving along. I have the business plan written, sample menu ready, space picked out, designs of the space drawn, calls out to get some bid for finish out of the space, and have actually started talking it up to a few folks. The one thing that will either make or break the project is $$$$$$$$$$$$$. Yes, I have a pretty good $$ in mind and it is not the kind of money i have just sitting around in some account, but it is also not that much to the right person. Our lawyer really wants us to explore the option of using investors, but finding these folks with money is something I have never done before. This project is going to get to a point where we are either going to get the money or we aren't. If the time comes where we don't get the money there is always the bank, but they want some collateral in the form of about 20-25% down. That down payment is still more money that I don't have. If we have explored all the options and we still can come up with the money, well then at least I can say I did everything possible to try and make it happen and then I can feel like I can move on from there. Where to at that point? Who knows, but it would probably be out of here.

But anyway, that is kinda where we are at with the project. It is at times very stress full to be here and be working the job I am at right now. I really feel like my mind has been stretched and I work with quite a few people whose minds have never been stretched and well it is hard to be around that. My boss especially has told me that he is just there to ride it out until retirement, he is only 42. He has already been there 10 years. Does this tell you anything? That scares me. He seems to have lost any and all creativity that he might have had some years ago and his food shows it. He is the kind of guy that will never take any responsibility for any thing he does wrong, always someone else's fault. The biggest problem is that his boss doesn't say crap to him! So this is how I see it:

If the 2 people at the top of the department don't show any excitement or leadership it is just going to trickle down to the rest of the department. If the boss doesn't care why should anyone else? I have tried to offer my professional opinion about food things and it is always like I am from some other planet. I stopped offering some time ago and that is probably wrong on my part, but it sucks to continually get looked at like a weirdo or be asked your opinion and then never have your idea taken seriously. I kinda feel like this job is one of the biggest reasons of my frustration in this town.

I have never worked in a place with such a negative feel. Part of what has always drawn me to the restaurant business is the people. Not just the variety of customers, which I love, but more the people I worked with and the amazing friendships I have created with those people. I miss that. The huge mix of people that I went to culinary school with was one of the most diverse groups of people I have ever been around. More on those days in another post later. I have met some of the most interesting people in the various restaurants I have worked in over the years and I have friends that I still keep in touch with to this day from those restaurants! I never really thought about until recently, but I put it together and realized that is what I am missing, people! In the past when I started in a new restaurant it was like I almost had an instant group of friends. Of course not all of the people I have come across have been worth a shit, but I would say most of them have been great. I really want to get my restaurant going so that I can create a great place for everyone who comes thru the door. Someday. Soon, very soon.