culinary inspiration

What No One Tells You (I Don’t Want to Open a Restaurant!)

As part of the requirements for me to graduate from culinary school, I must present a restaurant concept as my Senior project. We have to build a menu, cost out at least 20 dishes (not recipes, dishes), create a staffing plan, present all the financials, design a logo and come up with a mission statement. Now, I think most of you have been around long enough to know– I have no desire to open a restaurant. For those of you who are new here, just so we’re all caught up, I have NO desire to open a restaurant. I will gladly support my friends when they open their restaurants. I’ll come eat there, and pay full price, and never ask for free stuff or stand around in their kitchens getting in the way or offering unsolicited advice while they bust their asses trying to get out of the weeds. But me? No thanks.


What no one tells you is that from the moment you start thinking about this theoretical restaurant concept, it will become the thing you think about All. The. Time. It lures you in the moment you decide what kind of restaurant it will be. If you, like me, make the fatal error of deciding it will be the kind of food you really love to cook, it becomes an obsession. Then, you start coming up with the dishes for your menu: the five salads, the two soups, the eight entrees, the five desserts, the cocktails… and you really start to get attached. I’m waking up in the middle of the night with wacky ideas for things that aren’t even required for the project. Happy hour menus, patio specials, Pick Your Own Veggies From My Expansive Kitchen Garden promotions. Seriously. I DO NOT WANT TO OPEN A RESTAURANT!


What they don’t tell you is that when you find this real estate listing online that (budget and zoning being non-factors in this scenario) would be perfect once renovated– you start thinking about how to widen the front porch here, knock out some walls there, relocate the kitchen here. And then you get an assignment asking you to put all of the aforementioned on paper, and you’re imagining a bar made of reclaimed barn wood, and tiny vintage half pint jars of flowering herbs on the tables, and buttery yellow paint on the walls next to dark wood baseboards and crown molding. You guys, it’s a trap! I’ve been Ackbar’d.

I really do not want to open a restaurant. I can feel how my badly knees will ache and throb after a long night of service. I can picture that ONE guest who just cannot be made happy, and how badly, and personally, I will take it. I can feel the headache starting to form between my eyeballs when someone on my tiny kitchen staff no call no shows on a night when the book is full of reservations and I can’t reach anyone to cover.


Not a single person will mention to you that the moment you actually cook one of those dishes from your menu at home, and serve it to people who really love it and who “get” your food, you’ll start to picture the happy guest who also gets it, and keeps bringing friends and family and out of town guests to your little restaurant because, “You have to try these pot roast sliders!” You’ll imagine family meals full of laughter and really dirty jokes told in half English, half Kitchen Spanish. You’ll start to make plans for what happens after you, miraculously, get the first year under your belt and you can really start getting creative.

The thing is, though…

I really, really, really do not want to open a restaurant!

However, this exercise will not be in vain. What it’s given me, or rather, given me back, is something for which I’m incredibly grateful. It’s gotten me back into designing my own dishes, creating my own recipes, and it’s gotten me back to that place where I’m constantly brainstorming how to put all my favorite flavors together in a new way, or how to incorporate new flavors or different cooking techniques into old favorites.

I’ll admit it. I’ve felt like I’ve been in a rut. I’ve wondered if going to school, cooking things someone else’s way, and on someone else’s timeline, has stifled me a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m learning a ton! I’m cooking things I’ve never cooked before, and thinking about the culture behind the food so much more. But I was starting to get worried that I couldn’t do it on my own anymore– without prompts, without assignments. But this project is not only taking me back to the place where I feel the most…  productive, the most imaginative, the most inspired, and the happiest, but, because it is for school and it is an assignment, I’m doing it with intent, and with my very best effort.

So what will I do with this menu? I’ll cook it! I’ll perfect the dishes. I’ll tweak until they’re just like I want them, until they taste in reality just like they taste in my head. And then I’ll serve my best dishes, the ones I really love, at one hell of a graduation party. Wanna come?

Hatchery Happiness

If you don’t already know what a Hatchery box is, let me explain.

It’s 5-6 sample sized, carefully sourced artisanal cooking products that come to you in the cutest red box. For food/cooking enthusiasts, it’s like Christmas and your birthday all wrapped up in one box, but it comes EVERY MONTH! For just $20/month (FREE SHIPPING!) you get a new set of samples to taste and experiment with.

I have enrolled in services similar to this in the past, but I was honestly a little less than enthused about the products I was getting and always ended up cancelling.  However, I was cautiously optimistic, based on all the wonderful reviews I read from actual Hatchery members on various social media sites, that Hatchery would be different. It seems my willingness to give this kind of thing just one more chance has been rewarded.

First of all, can we just take a minute to appreciate the fact that each item is individually wrapped? First you get to open the box, and then you get to unwrap each individual item. It’s possible I’m being a little ridiculous about how happy that makes me, but it’s the little things, you know?

January’s box held such variety, each absolutely tickling a different part of my very single-minded… erm… mind. You guys, I think about food and cooking a lot, and the items in this box have my noggin’ going overtime, in the best way possible.


The January box contains:

* Meso Nutso Blueberry Extract

* Mangé Pear Vinegar

* Mustard & Co. Mustard Sauce

* Maui Maid Spicy Teriyaki Marinade

* Noble Handcrafted Tonic 02 Vanilla and Chamomile Infused Maple Syrup

* Fogg City Spice Co. Sicilian Blend

If you’re interested in trying out Hatchery, just go here and click the “Request an Invite” button. They tell you it’ll take about a week, but I got my invite in three days. Boxes ship out on the 15th of every month, and if you decide after your first box that you’re just not into it, you can cancel. Somehow, I don’t think you will. Often, all a tired, over-used recipe needs is just that one, special ingredient to liven things up and make it new again, so even if you don’t feel inspired enough to turn any of these products into something brand new, you might just find it’s the little spark you need to get your kitchen mojo back.

Of course, you have to know that as I’m playing around with the products in these boxes, I’ll be sharing my ideas with you. If any of you decide to sign up for a Hatchery subscription, I’d love to do a little “cook-along” with one of the items every month, so be sure to let me know in the comments if that’s something you’d like to do.

Happy Weekend, everyone! I’m off to play.