My restaurant, Mulvaney’s Building and Loan, has been open six months now; our team has served many happy customers. It has been a steep learning curve for all of us: How do you turn four walls, an oven and grill into a restaurant? I think we have a great place. The team is coming together and things are beginning to run smoothly. But now, in the space of a week, two key people have announced they are leaving: Our chef, Jon Kosorek, is moving to the Bay Area to be with his fiance and our manager, Andy Kingsbury, has decided to go work full time at his other business.
Because our menu is constantly changing, the chef needs to be in constant contact with all our purveyors. He’s always asking questions: How much longer for Ray’s tomatoes? Did the bugs get to all of Bear Flag Farm’s apples and pears, or are there some left for us? Do our olive oil guys still have any of last year’s harvest, and how much of this year’s small crop will they save for us?
Once we know what we can get, then we write the menu, hoping it will be interesting both to us in the kitchen and to our guests. We also hope we will be able to execute it efficiently, for the next step is to get the ideas from our heads onto the plate and do it through our kitchen crew.
I always have a picture in my mind’s eye of how a dish will taste and look. The challenge is to present that picture so that it lodges firmly in the mind’s eye of each of the cooks. After six months, the boys and girls have a pretty good idea of what I want, so the task has become easier.
Now comes the challenge of working with a new chef, starting over but not from scratch. Mark Riccardelli, just moved here from Atlanta, is a natural teacher&emdash;patient and, so far, gentle with the cooks. His skills and his palate are good; now we need to learn about each other as we begin to dance.
This is a three-party rumba, because once the plate is made it goes to the diner on the floor, a place with an entirely different rhythm and different dancers. Young Andy leads the choreography in the front of the house. Having known each other for many years, we don’t step on each other’s toes too often. It is safe to say we are each saddened by his imminent departure.
And while he will be missed, we move forward, even hoping for a day when he may join us again. Perhaps it is better to look at the restaurant as a square dance, changing partners as we move to the rhythms of the clients, the dancers and the seasons.
Chef Patrick Mulvaney is the owner of Mulvaney’s Building & Loan in Sacramento and Culinary Specialists catering company.