We entered the six month mark at Meatzilla! a week ago. I got mildly twisted at Wendell last night and ended up all in my feelings. Damn, dude…where did half a year go?
With any start up business, particularly a restaurant, you grind from day one. Menu development, permits, labor, press…a cornucopia of moving parts that don’t stop no matter how exhausted or unprepared you are. By the time you have a chance to look up and breathe six months has flown by and you start asking yourself “what the hell am I doing this for?”
No days off, 14+ hour work days, lack of sleep, texts from employees saying they are too high to come to work, text from employees saying they are too sober to come to work, mercury is in retrograde, calls from friends asking where the hell you been, customers who fuck up your day, oil spills on your new shoes, it never ends. By the time the month wraps up you’re just crunching some numbers and keeping expenses as tight as possible in hopes you can hit over 20% profit and still have enough left over to buy a six pack and a fade from Fantastic Sams. Straight doo doo.
This industry is such a commitment and like anything else, you got to really enjoy it or at least a large enough part of it to see the logic in continueing on. Chatting with Colby last night (bar manager at Wendell, cool dude go say hi) and he was complaining about the lack of reliable, intellegent, self sufficient employees in this industry that you can trust and rely on to handle shit when you need it the most. Agreed. You can’t clone yourself (Elon Musk where you at on this one?) so what’s a boss suppose to do?
Colby is a fresh daddy with a month old and a working wife. Posterchild for the modern day family man. Now on top of dad life he gets to come in every day for the next few weeks because the crew gets too twisted to work or decides to not show up. But really, what other choice is there? Gotta cut out the parasites and keep the beast moving before it devours you. If no one else is gonna hold it down, guess papa is gonna have to plant two feet and do it himself.
At the end of all the frustration though, we just got to laugh, take our shots and plow on. Its what we do. The life we chose isn’t for pencil sharpeners and TI-84 enthusiasts but it sure as hell beats a desk job. Charles Schwab may give you benefits and PTO but I never met the guy and he sounds like an asshole.
I will say it is extemely important when you find good staff though to treat them with the respect and recognition they deserve. I’ll buy burritos, cook food, slide beers and give any day off requested to the employees who hold shit down because that’s all you have. It takes a huge village to run a restaurant and without the rockstar crew you are nothing. Just a smart ass with a few ideas, a flat top grill and your dick in your hand. Piss on it.
To round out this post and not sound completely negative, here some of the highlights of the past six months I deemed worthy of mentioning and good for a laugh…
Got my burgers on Eater LA’s hottest 12 list without having to smooth talk Farley Elliot and the gang or pay for that shit like I’m sure some did (seriously, Umami? You died in 2013). Fleischman hit the kid up for comment.
Was labeled a child molester by some random woman because I refused to pour her a bottle of water.
Had to drag a woman out of our bathroom for trying to shoot up on the toilet.
Almost witnessed Johnny (my biz partner) get punched out by some dudes daughter after he called her dad an asshole for starting drama over our choice of music.
A solid 6 months thus far i would say. I’m tired as hell and quasi broke but it’s always satisfying when you build something for yourself. A lot of exciting stuff coming up in the next 6 so keep your specs peeled. If you happen to read this and live in LA come cruise by and say hi. Free fries or tots on me.
“It’s not about the money.”
“I don’t care about the fame.”
“Recognition isn’t important to me.”
Too often we hear and utter these words in hopes of convincing ourselves and others that this is somehow true…but why?
If you manifest an idea into a tangible product, write a book with something worthwhile to say, have a magnanimous personality worthy of an audience or any other list of services that create value to your surroundings then the end results SHOULD be money, recognition, fame, respect. There is nothing wrong with that.
Even more important is to surround yourself with a team that shares in this vision and is focused on selflessly building you up as they also grind for their own passions. Naysayers, negativity and selfish people have absolutely no place in your life when you begin building your empire and fulfilling your dreams. Quality people only. Drop the rest.
It is one thing to pretend you don’t care about your value but far worse to allow someone else to take it from you.
In the end no one cares about the work it took behind the scenes, only the person who was publicly given the credit.
Protect your turf and take the money, fame and recognition you’re rightfully owed.
One week into opening Meatzilla! and already getting complaints about our choice of music.
If you don’t like the fact that we like our music loud, because it is hip hop or that the lyrics make you feel “uncomfortable” then cool. Don’t choose to come and support us. There are plenty Olive Gardens and Chili’s in the world where you will feel right at home.
We had a guest throw trash in my business partners face today simply because we were unapologetic about what we play. I used to deal with this type of mentality when i owned Yeastie Boys. Complaints about music, our openness about drug use, the fact we had “other shit” on the side of our food truck. The entitlement of some people who believe they can impose their world/social/religious views on others is something i dealt with my entire life and I have absolutely no time for.
Surprisingly the annoying, offended man did say we have the best burgers in DTLA though, so at least he was woke to something.
Simply put, you either get it or you don’t. Not here to please the masses but the margins.
Long before Roy Choi, Seoul Sausage or the millennial corn cheese craze was the original Korean/American hybrid. A post Korean war stew that was born out of scarcity, Budae Jiggae (budae = Army, Jiggae = stew) is a true hustler’s entree that appropriated surplus American ingredients left behind (think Spam, American cheese, hot dogs, etc.) with a rich base made from anchovy, kimchi and and one of the Korean secret weapons…gochujang.
I not only enjoy eating this dish but preparing it as well, and the thought of re-appropriating an appropriated recipe creates a cool American to Korean to American paradox. Fuck your authenticity.
Like most stews, Budae Jiggae is best cooked in large portions in the biggest pot you have to develop some real depth of flavor. Add in a few friends, a couple bottles of soju and Nelly’s “Country Grammar” and you have a recipe for a good Friday night.
When solo though, the thought of preparing a dish for eight people feels not only daunting, but excessive. I don’t want to spend 45 minutes preparing dinner for myself when all i want to do is curl up on the couch and cry to the soothing sounds of Pure Moods Volume 1.
A recent hack i started implementing when feeling lazy is to boil the soup base from Shin Ramyun with all my meat products and various accoutrements. Add noodles, cook until desired consistency, then finish with American cheese and various herbs. Add a fried egg if you trying to get your Bobby Flay on.
Not as deep or complex as what Grandma Kim makes but hey, what more do you want from a white boy? Literally takes all of 15 minutes. Schwing!
I’m a 28 year old, American born white boy who grew up in the 90’s. Between Blockbuster video and Ninja turtles i have consumed many a burger. You could say I know a thing or two about meat and buns (no pun intended). A lot of “chefs” these days are riding the coat tails of the gourmet, super stacked burger issued in by the Umami Burger trends of the food world. Trash. I have strong opinions about burgers. Strong opinions i believe to be absolutes. You probably will disagree with me and that’s okay, you’re not perfect. Below is my personal canon for a properly made burger…
Buns. Fuck brioche. There, i said it. I am so tired of places trying to hype up their burger game by throwing it on a brioche and parading it around in adjectives on their menu. Brioche sucks for burgers. Why? It is too airy and delicate. It can’t absorb all the meaty, fatty juicy goodness that oozes from a delectable patty. Two bites in the bottom portion is soggy and falling a part like a wet paper towel. They work well with egg sandwiches or delicate proteins i.e. chicken salad, tuna, lobster roll, etc. but burgers? Nah dude. fuck off with that French shit.
Best bet is to go with a classic sponge bun, sesame bun or even a nice potato roll. I’ll throw in King’s Hawaiian rolls for sliders. Although they are extremely sweet they can do wonders with a little caramelized onion and aioli set up.
Cheese. People give me shit for this one constantly but i am sorry, it is true. To have a true cheeseburger, one that stands the test of time and says Fuck Off in the face of all beef adversaries it must contain American cheese. Yes i know it is fake yellow plastic or whatever. Possibly causes cancer. Who gives a shit. It tastes delicious and the melt-ability of two slices of American cannot be replicated. The closest thing to be found is probably Muenster.
I get it. I like fancy cheeses too. I’ll do a port and stilton, i dabble with an aged sharp cheddar. But in the end, processed, dyed yellow American cheese reigns supreme. It oozes into every crack and crevice of a patty like a teenage wet dream. Sorry Red Leicester, pack your British ass and go home.
Patty. Best quality beef you can find. Cuts vary as long as there is a decent amount of marbled fat. Chuck is considered the golden standard but if you want to get all Wylie Dufresne with the beef, be my guest. Seasoned with a generous amount of salt, pepper and formed into a patty. Nothing else. I will repeat, NOTHING else.
If you feel the urge to throw in chopped onion, Worcestershire sauce or for God’s sake garlic powder and paprika just walk away from the kitchen for a few minutes. Drink a beer, kiss your partner, maybe go watch a couple scenes from Mrs. Doubtfire and come back to your senses. Realize you’re a dumbass and had a momentary lapse of reason. ‘Nuff said.
Accoutrements. Onions and pickles are a REQUIREMENT. I don’t care if its raw, grilled or caramelized but onion must be present. Same for pickles. Play with some b&B, dill, sweet…whatever is giving you a chubby. But if those two ingredients are not involved i want nothing to do with your burger and most likely nothing to do with you.
Tomato and lettuce are a nice touch when in season and/or of good quality. Lettuce should be used with caution because of its high water content. Too many leaves and it begins to be reminiscent of a bad salad. The main purpose is to provide crunch and a bit of fresh, earthiness to cut through the fattiness.
I’m over arugula, frisee, pickled jalapenos, hatch chili, etc. All fun for a minute but one hit wonders.
Q Lazarus had one hit song featured in The Silence of the Lambs but where are they now? Case rested.
SEND ME ALL THE HATE MAIL YOU WANT BUT ABSOLUTELY NO AVOCADO.
Sauces. I tend to lean towards ketchup, mustard maybe mayo but this is the one area i feel is the most flexible for creativity. I’ve had some bangin’ aiolis, BBQ sauces, wine reductions, caper spread, etc. and feel done right, any sauce that balances flavors can be a great addition to meat and bread. Balance is key kids. Balance.
Although it looks good in photos, don’t be like this guy. Micro greens? Avocado? What the fuck is this. Probably mixes flax seed in his burger patty too. FAIL.