Oyster Mushrooms, Walnut Cream, Hip Roses (Photo Credit: Amass)
The last week and a half has been full of so many emotions. From excited to nervous to pissed off to disappointed to happy to extremely satisfied back to pissed off and finally, so grateful for the staff that we have and the sense of family that is forming around the restaurant. Thank you to everyone that supported us this week and the time leading up to it.
Thanks Mads and Henrik. You guys really elevated the room. (Photo Credit: Amass)
Lets go back to Thursday the 13th of July around 15:00. We were still waiting for the kitchen to be finished. The kitchen builder asked me if we were opening in a couple weeks and I smiled and casually said that we had our first test dinner in 24 hours. He laughed like I was joking around. We officially entered an almost complete kitchen at 15:30 and started to clean. We cleaned for almost five hours. It was a construction site and we had to get rid of the layer of dust and dried grout that was left all over the tiles. We started to organize the fridges. We have no walk-in refrigerator mostly due to the fact that our menu is constantly changing and products are being used on a day-to-day basis. It also forces us to stay organized and tight. I can honestly say that the kitchen is actually a bit larger than I anticipated. Trust me, I am not complaining in anyway. As soon as they cleared all the construction equipment out and we cleaned we all kind of stepped back and thought “oh shit, this is amazing.” It’s pure minimalism. And because of that we’re able to stay nimble with our constantly changing menu.
New Potatoes, Virgin Butter, Grass and Sunchoke Leaves
Grilled Spring Onions, Bitter Greens, Salted Mackerel Vinaigrette
While we are on the subject of constantly changing menu, I should talk about the process of how we are changing our menu. Before the restaurant opened, René was kind enough to let me use the test kitchen at night and on Sundays and Mondays. A couple of the dishes we are serving now came from those sessions. The menu we served at the test dinners was in no way the one that I wanted to open with. I was really hoping to be inspired by the dinners and to be able to learn and adjust from those two services. Because the kitchen workers were still finishing sealing up the kitchen two hours before service was to begin, we we did not get a chance to learn from our service and our mistakes. The second night we really took the time to examine our movements and to reconfigure the service. We tweaked a couple of the servings and opened with a much stronger menu.
And on top of all this, one of our investors came to town from the US and was going to eat on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. I wanted to do a different menu for them everyday. While I was writing the menu for them, I had this overwhelming need to change the menu and our approach to it. That night, I talked to the kitchen staff after service and discussed every dish. In the end we decided that we would try not to be so calculated in our changes and instead focus on the ingredients’ intensity and complexity. We changed things everyday for the rest of the week and I truly believe that the food that was coming out of the kitchen on Saturday was so much more exciting for us to be cooking because it was so spontaneous. We did three different menus for Manny and his wife Willette and from that experience it defined how we were going to approach the kitchen day to day. To Manny and Willette. Thank you for pushing us. See you on Wednesday for your fourth menu.
Peas, Samphire, Crème Fraîche and St. John’s Wort (Photo Credit: Amass)
What did our first day look like? See below….
13 kilos of meat hurts your arms
Lavender! (Photo Credit: Amass)
Staff Meeting before 1st Service (Photo Credit: Amass)
Girls who grill. (Photo Credit: Amass)
Prepping…. (Photo Credit: Amass)
Multi-tasking….(Photo Credit: Amass)
Full House! (Photo Credit: Amass)
Dinner Rush (Photo Credit: Amass)
Sundown (Photo Credit: Amass)
(Photo Credit: Amass)
Coffee! (Photo Credit: Amass)
Fire! Fire! (Photo Credit: Amass)
Darkness… (Photo Credit: Amass)
Nightly Staff Meeting. See you tomorrow morning…. (Photo Credit: Amass)
Yes, we’re still working on it…(Photo Credit: Amass)
The dining room is more or less finished. Now we are waiting for the delivery of tables and chairs, which were delayed by one week. The installation of the kitchen is well under way. This is the first time in my career that I will have worked in an entirely new kitchen. You measure equipment and draw the space then re-measure and draw again. You repeat this over and over again and when you finally think you have it down, they dig into the ground and find a large electrical line that they didn’t know exists or there is a wall that they had planned to take down, but later find that it is a wall that supports the entire building. Then everyone stands around smoking cigarettes discussing what should be done next and then goes home early because they didn’t bring the right equipment. AAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!. WHAT PLANET ARE YOU FROM?!!!!
Foot soldiers waiting to be unleashed…. (Photo Credit: Amass)
We don’t really have a project manager overseeing the entire project, so it has been a challenge to coordinate the painters, electricians, builders, graffiti artists, etc. I just got off the phone Diana with whom I have organized the pick-up of our trash. I know, really exciting huh? For me, just the fact that she is so quick to respond to emails and the process with her has been quick and efficient really got me excited. You would be surprised at the sense of urgency – or should I say the lack thereof – that I have experienced during this process. As hard as I work to coordinate everything here, I can’t control everything. And sometimes I feel I’m playing Russian roulette with contractors. Most are very hard working and do what you need them to do, but when there is that one person that doesn’t come through…ARGH! I just have a hard time relating to that because, for the most part, I have been surrounded with people that really care about what they are doing. I guess we are lucky to be able to do something that we are passionate about. I can’t imagine having a job that I didn’t like or didn’t interest me. Especially working the way we do. Even though there are bad days, I am thankful every day for being able to do what I do for a living. Imagine if you had a bad day at a job you hated. No thank you – and I never take for granted how fortunate I am.
It’s alive, Dr. Frankenstein…it’s ALIVE!!!! First pot of water boiling…. (Photo Credit: Amass)
Through the eyes of a B&W worker (Photo Credit: Amass)
I cannot remember the last time I have done anything productive at 6:45 in the morning. When I was growing up in San Diego, we used to wake up early to go surfing. Now you may say, surfing?! That is not productive! But you would be amazed by how productive you are throughout the rest of the day after having a little session before work. OK, now I am rambling. That’s what happens when I am up this early. NEED COFFEE NOW!!!!!!
It is not the first time that I’ve managed a team of people, but it is the first time I’ve managed a team of people in my own restaurant. Before I just had to worry about the kitchen staff and if anything went wrong in the dining room I went straight to the Manager and he or she addressed the situation. Ironically, I have my hands literally in every pot and need to over-organize everything so I can do what I love most – COOKING.
A little Danish snack provided by Annette, our fearless tour guide. (Photo Credit: Amass)
So a lot has happened in the last two weeks. We had our first all staff meeting with everyone. We were short a few during the first staff meeting due to some of our members living outside of the country. It is really incredible to stand there and talk to all these people about how you envision the restaurant and the culture that you want to create around it. When you work for someone else, even if you are running the show, you still have to work within the boundaries of that particular person’s culture and ideologies. Knowing that we have a blank canvas and we have the chance to set the standards from the beginning is amazing. You sit there thinking about everything that you have experienced over your career, the good and the bad, and how you process that information to create what you believe is the ideal place to work in. Throughout your career you are constantly chasing this myth of the perfect restaurant to work in. It does not exist, but the idea of it does and that is what keeps you motivated.
Backstage at B&W (Photo Credit: Amass)
Speaking of motivation, last Monday was the first official day for the entire staff. But before we started the nitty-gritty of getting this place in order, we took a two-hour walking tour of our immediate surroundings, Refshaleoen. Formerly the site of the old Burmeister and Wain shipyards, the location of the restaurant defies description. There’s just so much history here and that energy still lives in space. Anette Skov, who is somewhat of an authority on the old shipyard, was kind enough to walk us around the island. We were also joined by Kim, a friend’s father who actually worked in the shipyard 30 years ago. The first thing that we learned is that the building in which the restaurant is situated in is the old tool depot for the shipyard. It’s where the workers would collect their tools and clothes for the day. By the way, we also learned that the space was nicknamed “The Death Cave.” (I’ll personally explain it to anyone when they come and eat at the restaurant). We gained a whole new respect for the island after I realized who came here before us. I hope we can translate this new-found respect to our guests and show them how special this area really is.