“Toms in the Dishpit”

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Francisco sorry for the late text hope it doesn’t wake you up when you have to wake up early for the midterms or something. I just wanted to say I was proud to open those 2 beasts of restaurants together. We are both writers so we have to try and remember this experience together, it could be one or both of our big breaks. I want to know what I looked like washing dishes do you have any pics of me on the dish machine? I only have pics of your hand. Pics or it didn’t happen bro, no, words or it didn’t happen Mr. “Toms in the Dishpit” (not allowed to call it dishpit.) Yes my last memory of you from this restaurant opening will be you wearing Toms in the dishpit. Thank you for so much for being there for that, the laughs, the delicious chocolates and Oreos and of course, the sass. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

Les Roches

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Dear Arthur,

A quote from one of my favorite writers, Saint-Exupéry: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea…”

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Well… if you want to know how much influence you had on our students, it is quite simple, most of them came to Chicago wondering about the Hospitality and catering industry and when they left, the Class Leader, in her final speech, said that most of the students had developed a strong passion during their Chicago Tour, meeting great leaders such as yourself, who inspired them and now were sure they wanted to make a career in the industry.

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Your story telling for which you are so amazingly gifted, the time you and Todd dedicated to the students and your own passion for your people and for the restaurants had a formidable impact on the MBA students of Les Roches. On behalf of the school I cannot thank you enough for being an important milestone in their personal development.

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With many thanks and best regards

Philippe

The Spaghetti Train

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Cruz Blanca – Wednesday, August 31  

Mood Scale, Tears of Joy Edition: Two students from Les Roches returned with thank you presents for Todd and me, and to talk about our restaurants’ environmentalism.  These students were so thoughtful with their gifts: catnip filled mice for my cat and a thumbdrive with a cumbia mix on it for me.  I had to take a minute downstairs because I teared up from the gesture.  I provided notes about Frontera’s sustainability programs, which will be helpful info for their final project on green restaurants / hotels for this class trip.  They were most interested in the rooftop garden and Chef and Deann’s production garden. When I mentioned the living wall of succulents at QueBo! in Mexico City, they showed me photos of the vertical forest in Milan (worth googling.) 

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SG’s:  Joe, a guest in CB2 who was not part of the party, used to work for Harpo studios and has lived in the West Loop for the past decade, was very excited to join us in CB for the first time and a joy to converse with (read: Oprah stories.) Restaurant industry folks enjoyed dinner and many beers at the CB1 bar, and Nosheen did a great job describing why we pair certain glassware with certain beers. A party of 4 returning CB dinner guests complimented Andrea and Leonard on their positivity and helpfulness in CB1.

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Shoutout:  JF must receive a shoutout for her funny Robert Deniro story in the AMM today.  JF you are my Robert De-Besteva… 

Shoutout #2:  Joe our West Loop regular had an amazing idea.  Joe suggested a dish, maybe queso fundido that featured some of JP Graziano’s big hits, like their spicy giardiniera, cured meats or cheese. I’m not sure about the execution, but I thought it was an awesome idea to find ways to show love to the neighborhood on the CB menu.  If Joe were in JF’s story, he would be Robert De-RealMVP…

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MVP:  Daniel was amazing as the busser covering both floors:  CB1 and CB2, and patio, were spotlessly bussed and Daniel communicated with the bartenders every time guests were ready for another round.

Tom Skilling says… expect late-September like temps with highs in the lower 70’s and cooler readings yet along the lake.

Perfect Service

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Lena Brava – Tuesday, August 30  

Mood Scale / Sounding Board for the Staff / “The Natives are Getting Restless”:  Service was impacted by being short 1 SA and 1 barback:  servers and bartender in LB2 shared concerns that they were not able to offer their guests the full LB experience (not able to spend as much time up-selling, and describing, and making sure all the details of service are attended to) due to physical demands put on them when we go short.  Lanie, Todd, and I took turns helping out, but that takes us away from managerial duties on the floor, leaving the non-impacted staff feeling like they do not have enough managerial support.  There are also concerns about tipping out on floor 2 when there is only 1 SA: the server ends up tipping out the same percentage to one SA that they would tip out to 2 SA’s, yet ends up working harder with less support. I recommend we address these concerns with the staff by acknowledging again that we are working on this, update them on where we stand on hiring, and reaching out to the FOH staff for ideas how to make operations run more smoothly until we are fully staffed, and how to make the tipout more flexible for situations like tonight.

Carolina Mostasa de Oro

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Cruz Blanca – Friday, August 26

Steady Friday from lunch through the evening to the dinner rush.  Full temperatures from the early afternoon almost to close due to beautiful evening weather.  Alex and Gladys were the dynamic duo on the CB1 bar, exemplifying the “warm smiles, cold beer,” ethos instilled by TW. The CB2 bar was a little more mellow today, and Nosheen had some excellent strategies for that (see next section.)

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MVP:  Carolina is going to be missed at Cruz Blanca!  Even though she is near the end of her final week, and with a sore throat that made her voice raspy, she toughed it out and made guests smile all night.  Carolina is taking a job in her neighborhood to have more time with her kids and we wish her the best.

Tom Skilling says… resurging humidity over August’s final weekend heightens chances for more thunderstorms.

Moonfish Hunger Dream

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Cruz Blanca – Wednesday, August 24

Wild and busy Wednesday in the CB, made for an action-packed shift that was a lot of fun for the staff and guests.  The night mellowed around 9/9:30PM.

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Today started with a group of 16 international students from Les Roches, the International School of Hotel Management in Switzerland, and 2 of their teachers, on their graduate student trip to Chicago – this was their second year in a row, last year we had them tour the Clark Street restaurants.  Big thank you to Todd, Matt, Lisa and Jacob (and Sarah, JF and all 900 staff who put up with us having a look behind the scenes.)  Todd blew them away with his in depth tour of the brewery. These students were from Singapore, Thailand, Kenya, France, Greece, India and beyond. There was one student from DF, who said this was the first time she has eaten properly done Mexican food in another country. The group all stayed to eat after the tour, which gave great energy to the dining room to start off dinner service. By the time they were leaving, a student from Vietnam had become emotional about the whole experience they today.  She said they have been in hospitality school for the past years in Switzerland, and this was the first time they have actually seen hospitality in action. Wow, thank you team so much for giving them this experience.

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Cruz Blanca – Friday, August 26

Steady Friday from lunch through the evening to the dinner rush.  Full temperatures from the early afternoon almost to close due to beautiful evening weather.  Alex and Gladys were the dynamic duo on the CB1 bar, exemplifying the “warm smiles, cold beer,” ethos instilled by TW. The CB2 bar was a little more mellow today, and Nosheen had some excellent strategies for that (see next section.)

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MVP:  Carolina is going to be missed at Cruz Blanca!  Even though she is near the end of her final week, and with a sore throat that made her voice raspy, she toughed it out and made guests smile all night.  Carolina is taking a job in her neighborhood to have more time with her kids and we wish her the best.

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Tom Skilling says… resurging humidity over August’s final weekend heightens chances for more thunderstorms.

Come Rain, Come Shine

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Lena Brava – Tuesday, August 23

Mood Scale:  This is the time of year that I get most excited about the agua del dia: we’re in melon season.  We had a minute before pre-shift formally started to talk about the kinds of melons we bring in from Nichols Farm, as well as some fun facts about the farm itself. Today’s agua del dia was yellow watermeon, amazing with the sour gose as a radler.  For a special service touch for Manny and Tony’s business table, we served slices of kampachi, with a half tasting glass of this radler, and it was well received for flavor and as a showcase for our seasonality.

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MVP: Gio was the MVP for his solo handling of the polish today.  Gio and I spent the first couple hours of service going through the polishing strategy, as it’s become more likely that he is going to have repeat solo performances now that Francisco is back in school.  Gio kept his head in the game all shift and thought through the next steps very well.

Glow Wine

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Lena Brava – Sunday, August 21

The good news was that it was a busy Sunday with lots of special guests and celebrations, and the staff, from the BOH to the FOH, knocked it out of the park!  The less than good news is that this week of staff transition lead to a challenging night for the sole bartender and SA on LB2.  Jose and Nosheen both had on their game faces and powered through, and I let them know we are working on getting back to one hundred percent staffing to give all of our guests the best possible service.

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SG’s: Owners of Dos Urban Cantina. Brien Dugan our amazing bartender dining at LB for the first time with his partner and mother.  Denise and Jonathan, from Xoco, celebrating Jonathan’s birthday. Friends of Jennifer Dahl.  Friend of Dana Armon. Big Rick Bayless fan, on her birthday, with her father from Arizona making the reservation and paying for dinner.  Guest with special cookies for her husband’s 60th birthday. Amy Gardner party of 4, super Topolo regulars, LOVED the plum and honey tart, and my Harry Potter inspired nickname for the dish: “Honey Plummer and the Half-Bruleed Tart.”

The Elephant Cutlet

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Cruz Blanca – Wednesday, August 17

Fun Wednesday in Cruz Blanca!  During the more mellow afternoon we had staff and I deep clean CB2.  We documented the specific 5 areas for the staff which I sent out in an email with photos.  Todd and I also documented a two-step technique for cleaning the CB patio tables (hard to reach those tomatillo seeds after a salsa spill) which we emailed out to the staff with photos. Great energy in CB1 for the dinner rush, which tapered off around 9PM. Full DR and patio for about three hours.  

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Mood Scale: Tonight I got a chance to make hot chocolate for a party of CB guests!   This party of 4 had shared 4 different taco platters, and had engaged both Franky (always da real mvp) and I as we set them up and checked in on them.  At the end of dinner, they were trying to “hard sell” me that they should be allowed to have Lena desserts… they had enjoyed a pecan square and wanted to have more.  I was able to gently decline and serve them the authentic hot chocolate which they loved!

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SG’s:  Lucila (alfies!) and her husband Joe.  Manny and Joe V.  Party of 5 West Loop regulars. Shane F and friend. Lots of couples today.

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Tom Skilling says… expect building cumulous clouds mixed with sun.

“Second Door To your Right…”

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Lena Brava – Tuesday, August 16

For a big challenge (the hood system stopped working as we opened for service, filling the DR with wood smoke) it was handled with great teamwork and professionalism.  Big thank you to the chefs for getting us back in action, allowing us to seat the entire DR and take care of a 4-course 30 person private dining party.  We learned a few ways to handle situations like this for next time if something similar were to happen, but the bottom line is the entire team made it their job to deliver the Lena experience our guests deserve, and we got through it together.

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MVP:  Lisa Carlson… working almost a true double to ensure the party went off without a hitch.  How is it possible that 3 months past the opening of a new restaurant, a 4-course private party for 30 people was the most boring (in a very, very good way) part of service?  Lisa Carlson, is the answer, as well as our amazing Chefs Lisa and Fred (and shoutout to Chef Andres! …and Chef Glenn!)

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Tom Skilling says… near 90-degree temps to nudge moisture-rich tropical air mass into producing sporadic thunderstorms at times into the weekend.