Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Chef wants to meet you

It's been about two and a half weeks since opened our doors and I can't tell you what a thrill it is (and relief, considering the mountain of debt we amassed in this crazy venture of ours!) to not only see people coming in day after day, but the same people already coming back with their friends.

Considering these long days, working out the kinks, fine tuning the menu, hiring new cooks, teaching the servers the new menu, serving larger than anticipated crowds with not enough staff, I think Tony and the staff (All of you! You know who you are!) are doing a fantastic job. Is everything perfect? Of course not. We are learning as we go. But when issues arise, we respond, fix it, do better next time. All in all, I keep hearing how people are liking the food and plan to come back and tell their friends. But I don't think it's just the food they're liking.

Tony came home tonight and as if to make a revolutionary discovery, tells me (something I've been saying since day one, thank you very much!), "Ya know, people really like it when I come out and say hi."

I think it's finally sinking in, how much that adds to the dining experience. It's nothing to Tony, he loves to socialize and meet new people. Any of you who know him already know this and are probably smiling and nodding. You know how he is. He is in his element when he can come out and chat with our guests. Even when it's busy, he tries to make rounds in the dining room.

But I was thinking about that more tonight. Trying to think back to all the restaurants Tony and I have eaten at over the years. All of our dating years plus the past 7 years we've been married, and I can honestly say I cannot recall a time when the cook, let alone a chef or owner of a restaurant came to our table to greet us and ask us how our meal was.

Sure, we'd get the occasional manager of a place doing rounds, which is always nice. But there's just something special about the person who prepared and cooked your food (and, in this case, the guy who drove to the bakery to buy that bread and picked up the fresh fish that day) genuinely wanting to say hello, thank you for coming in, and wondering what you thought of your meal. It's nice Tony's finally seeing how much that means to people. Although the social person he is, he'd do it anyway. He's just that kind of guy.

And what you've been giving him back is what's making it a pleasure to be in business. And I don't mean just dollars. The first thing Tony told me when he came home tonight was, "the customers are just so gracious." He's so humbled by all of you. And I get to hear the stories. Since we opened we've had people in from Puerto Rico (and a lady from Ponce, Tony's home town), a couple who drove from Wisconsin just to have dinner at Caribe, a woman who came in and later brought her Jamaican husband in for their anniversary (who loved Tony's Jerk Chicken, by the way. There's no greater compliment than when Caribbean natives approve of the food.). We've had regulars from when it was Jay's Cafe returning. We have people from the neighborhood come in regularly, some several times a week. And even had a local radio personality come in one day, a personal favorite of Tony and me, who's name I won't mention, as he's not one to want to be in the spotlight off-air.

So thank you for all you've given back. It makes our job a pleasure.

Next on my to-do list is an online T-shirt store, since we've had so many requests for the "Caribe" shirts that Tony wears. Watch for that coming soon!


Wanda said...

I can't wait to try the Pan de Mallorca. I hope is like the ones they make at La Bombonera in Old San Juan, in Puerto Rico. Ay que ricas!

Wanda said...

Another comment, where is the mofongo?????