Saturday, September 10, 2011

4-Month Vacation

Yeaaaaaa right!! There's a few good reasons why I haven't been able to update this blog since May.....

1. Weddings
2. Parties
3. Cooking Classes
4. more Weddings
5. more Parties
6. Luncheons
7. Bruncheons
8. more Cooking Classes
9. more Weddings
10. ....and..............oh, I know I'm forgetting something here..............give me a second, it will come to me..............................................shoot, what is it??


Oh, I remember!




WE OPENED A RESTAURANT!!


Yep, as if I wasn't busy enough already, I'm also a crazy lady who decided to open a cafe. Okay, that's kind of a stretch...I didn't exactly "decide" to.  Sometimes life throws something in your path or forces you in a direction you didn't expect to go in. And you can either fight it, try to change it, or roll with it and make the best of it.

Way back in January when we began talk of moving in to the Interior Marketplace to set up shop for our catering and cooking classes, we had talk after talk with the landlord, Tom, about what he expected of us and what the terms of our lease would be. You see, the space that we were interested in occupying is made up of three main parts:  A beautiful demonstration kitchen (perfect for my cooking classes), a massive commercial catering kitchen (self-explanatory).....and one additional room that separates the demo kitchen from the catering kitchen that is clearly designed to be a restaurant.  Plain as day: He wanted us to open the restaurant for some type of daily meal service because he wanted to increase the foot traffic to the Marketplace.

Well back then, 8 months ago, the words "open a restaurant" made me shudder. I could take the world by storm with my catering and cooking classes, but a restaurant? 6 days a week?  Ay yi yi! I have worked in restaurants since I was 17, so I know what an enormous, monumental undertaking it is and I never once envied the owner whom I worked for. Tom didn't make any specifications about what kind of restaurant he expected to see, he just basically said "Serve chicken salad out of a bucket, for all I care!" If you've ever met Tom, you can probably hear him saying this, and a huge smile has likely spread across your face. (He is hilarious!)

So as we dug our feet in, cleaned/painted/decorated/put our mark on the demonstration kitchen and catering kitchen over the next month or so, the poor lonely cafe sat in the middle, totally neglected. We walked through it every day, putting it off, putting it off, putting it off. We catered many a wedding, hosted many a cooking class and luncheon at the Marketplace, and found ourselves constantly replying "Soon enough!" when asked when we would get the restaurant open. It just seemed a million miles away.

We began talking of menus and employees and names for the restaurant. We pondered the decor and atmosphere. We pondered how in the world a catering business (The Chef Next Door), a cake business (Slice at a Time), and a restaurant could all operate out of the same kitchen.  But it was all just talk, and it still didn't seem like it would ever become reality.  Until it did.

Taylor and I, along with my family, traveled to Pawley's Island, South Carolina for our annual family beach trip at the beginning of June. It was an amazing two-week vacation as it always is, but the whole time we were there, we knew life was going to be different when we returned home.  We didn't have a firm deadline to open the restaurant, but we just knew it was something we were going to have to do to make good on our end of the deal.  It was time to hold hands and walk down the path that we never planned for ourselves.

We returned to Huntsville refreshed, relaxed, ridiculously tan...and ready. We knew we were going to need help, so we turned to a lifelong friend from Birmingham, Matt, to come up and help us run the restaurant. Without any hesitation, he agreed, left his job, moved up to Huntsville, and bought in to our restaurant. We knew we were going to need more money, so we turned to yet another lifelong friend, Joseph, to help with our start-up costs. Without any hesitation, he agreed, wrote a check, and bought in to our restaurant. We knew we were going to need help with the day-to-day operation of the restaurant, specifically the kitchen, so we turned to my dear friend, Heather, owner of Slice at a Time. Her younger brother, Matthew, who has extensive food-service experience and a hunger to own his own establishment someday, jumped at the opportunity, left his job, and moved down to Huntsville from Tennessee.  We had our team, we just had to create the restaurant.

I won't bore you too much more with the details, but it took from June 15th to August 20th to get it done. And I'm not talking 5, 6, 7 hours of work a day, taking Saturdays and Sundays off.  I'm talking 13-14 hour days, 7 days a week, for over two months. And when we weren't at the restaurant physically working, we were at home pecking away on our computers or at dinner discussing logistics. There was demolition to be done.  There was painting to be done.  There was designing to be done.  Logos to be created. Websites to be created. Cups to be ordered. T-shirts to be designed. Menus to be made. Ingredient lists and vendors to be lined up. Kitchen processes to be established. Marketing to be done. Licenses to be purchased. Paperwork to be filed.

With an onslaught of help from our closest friends and families, (honorable mentions here!), we brought this thing to life.  And with every passing day of working on the restaurant and getting closer to being able to open our doors, we fell more and more in love with it. We fell more in love with the idea of our lives being completely different from here on out. We fell in love with being able to offer something incredible and new to the people of Huntsville. Something that scared the Hell out of us at first was something we became absolutely passionate about and obsessed with. (Probably how new parents feel, huh??) Finally, the day came.  We all looked at each other and said, "Are we ready?"  We were.

We opened our doors to the public on August 20th, 2011.  We met our customer goal on Day 2.  We blew our customer goal out of the water on Day 3.  As of today, Saturday the 10th of September, we have been open three weeks, and WE. ARE. ROCKING. IT.  The customers are coming over and over and over and over and over again. Word is getting out and we are ecstatic.

It's funny how life pushes... no, SHOVES you down the road, sometimes. It makes me wonder what's around the next corner.  If you asked me a year ago if I would be where I am right now, I would have thought you lost your mind. Wow, ain't life something.   :)

Please enjoy our "baby", The Marketplace Cafe



Cheers,

The Chef Next Door

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