Jonas Lodge restauranteur

Sat at the table in my own restaurant writing my blog… didnt see that coming when I wrote the first one sat in the staff canteen of Tesco’s!

It hasn’t really sunk In and I’m not sure it will until opening night. My stress levels have definitely been increased, and not really for the reasons I was expecting. I thought I would be very worried about having a restaurant and the customers coming in and hoping they all liked it and stressed about reviews.

Actually I’m stressed about what I should be doing first and who I should speak to next, and how do I decide what wine to order. It feels like a never ending list actually, just to get to the opening. Ken Heathcote once told me to eat an elephant you must eat a little bit at a time. Now more than ever is this helping me day to day. That and my wife!

Currently I need to design menus (mainly the wine list), pick wines for the list, make a cocktail menu. Find suppliers for everything, order a coffee machine and employ an assistant manger, oh and employ some chefs!

That’s my plan for this week by the way not the whole thing up until opening. Alongside these things the place has needed a big deep clean because it’s been shut for so long, I want to paint it all so it feels like mine. I need to find some new furniture and order some more kitchen equipment.

Ppppprrrffff even writing it is stressful!

It’s been nice to sit today for an hour and write some menus. Before today the food aspect and actually cooking stuff seems miles away. I’ve found a supplier who will let me pick a cow and take the whole beast which i’m very excited about so it means some beef dishs for sure!! I cant wait to start cooking I really can’t. You can see my first menu written up in the pic and yes I have spelt Swede suede! If you have read my blogs then you will be aware that spelling and grammar are not great at but I would lobe to here your feed back about it apart from the spelling! This will be the evening menu and for lunch I really want to address wtaste in kitchens. I will be using every part of everything to make both menus. I want “waste not want not” to become my kitchens strapline. The challenge for us is to really look at anything and any part of the meat and veg we think we can’t use for the evening and then create something amazing out of it for lunch. Things like excess beef fat from roasting veal bones each week for stock, or using the core of a white cabbage to garnish a beautiful starter after making malted cabbage ice cream fo the evening menu. It’s going to be fun, exciting and fucking scary!

My own business card
Business card

My own place…..Restaurant GL50

Today I’m sat on the sofa, my 10 month old son decided to get up at 5 am today which certainly wasn’t my preference but after some milk has now been sound asleep for 40 mins and I feel like writing.

Having a baby is one of the main reasons I want to open my own restaurant, so I can actually see him. I know that sounds mad but as a head chef your at the beckoned call of your employer and if there are no chefs that turn up for work your in, if the owner wants to open on Christmas day, your in, if the owner wants to save money on staff you work more hours and maybe even get to do the washing up cuz the kitchen porters been given less hours!

I’ve missed so many weddings, funerals, parties and weekends away with my friends and family I’ve lost count, and actually it doesn’t feel worth it because I don’t work for any of those places that I gave my time and my memories away for anymore. If I had given it all away to push my business forward then I think it wouldn’t of felt like a waste.

I hope that my own business will mean I have the control over at least a few of those aspects of chef life. I’m going to be closed on Christmas day so I know from now on I will get to see my family on Christmas, I’m planning to be closed for two days a week, so I cant be called into work on my days off!

I’m not a fool though, and I don’t expect an easy ride and not to be working on my days off in another capacity (like very boring paperwork!) but that’s going to be in my control and for MY business.  Hard work for the next few years for my own place might mean that when my son starts playing football on Saturday afternoons I might have a head chef by then and I might be able to go and watch.  I didn’t ever think that would be an option as someones head chef… If I manage to open a successful restaurant that doesn’t fold in a year or two then it could be argued that all the things I’ve missed over the years for the last 17 years….I guess I will say it was worth it!

 

The restaurant update is mostly just lots of stress and lots of big and small decisions and thoughts which constantly go through my head, from what size should the sign on the wall be, what plants should be at the front of the restaurant, maybe there shouldn’t be any plants, what will we lay the tables up with, will flowers on the tables look rubbish or do I just need to find the right flowers? what pictures should go on the walls, what sort of music am I going to play and will I have different music in the day than the night?!

Oh yeah and when will I get the keys?!?!

Turns out that buying a lease takes a ridiculous amount of time, I was expecting keys 3 weeks ago and then another bit of paperwork shows up that needs another weeks worth of discussions between solicitors and then another weeks just gone by and I wait some more. Very frustrating but its giving me time to get as much of the other things sorted out as I can without being inside the building.

I’m sure my next post will be from inside my place, Restaurant GL50 coming soon!

The Tenerife Empire

First day. Chef was offended. Very impressive to see 280 covers in a night. Food was good. Noted a few things to work on after a productive meeting with the boss.

Day two. Sat down with chef and got him on my level and talked through some changes .Very receptive today and had a good service with a couple of new things implemented straight away. More things tomoz. Went for lunch at Restaurant 88. Japanese. Amazing view good food. Had shashimi to start.butterfish which I haven’t had before then sea bass and duck for mains.

Day three. Changed the pork dish, chicken fritter dish and pork terrine. Head chef was great to work with and I was very happy with food. I sweated like I was gonna die. Tonite I finally feel less ill and can breath out my nose!

Went for lunch in a new restaurant in the group called legatto. Very good looking restaurant and a very nice new kitchen! Food missed the mark a bit. Truffle mash was faintly truffley with a tiny gesture grated on top. Pork cheeks which I love weren’t shown quite enough respect and were slightly chewy. Burger was just a burger. Blackpudding and egg on toast was huge! Under seasoned. Toxgxui beef carpaccio was too salty.

Day four

Later start after the meeting we had planned didn’t happen so a short ish service. Only 200 covers! Food looked great , changed the dish cake from two cakes to one larger one. Looked a lot better.

We ate at id which is by far the most forward thinking food I’ve seen on the island. Very small place that you wouldn’t even see unless it was pointed out to you white decor and an open plan kitchen. We ate an amuse or cherry tomato and onion which came with fresh made bread and banana aiolli which was tasty. A clever way of giving you pan con tomate which most Spanish start their meal.

Nxt was croquetas. One of a local goats cheese and one of cod. Both beautifully smooth.

Then we had a milfiulle of foie, goats cheese and a fruit that I don’t know! Maybe guava. It was delicious.

Then we had mini bao buns with pigs cheek and pickled mushrooms. Very nice take one Chinese food. A little bit sweet for me but they were still really satisfying.

Nxt up was volcano tempura veg which were veg in a squid ink tempura which I really liked the idea of and will be using in the future for sure.

Last we had a cod and potato dish with squid ink pilpil and Scot ate a smoked rib of been which had a smoke filled closh for theatre. It was a great meal. Sadly we couldn’t fit in a pudding.

Day 5

Lunch at dedos which is ventures take on a fast food joint but with waiters and we had a very good chicken burger, chilli fries and chicken nuggets.

A chocolate cookie with ice cream for a fairly un fulfilling dessert.

Work was good, just before service I sat down with the owner and head chef and general manager and had a run through of the week. He invited me to stay past Sunday and carry on which was flattering but I said I must return to my pregnant wife! But I will return to help them in the near future for sure.

Over all I’ve had a really good week using my knowledge to help a big and busy steak house improve their offering and teach the chef a few new things which he seems to have really grasped.

I hope I’ve inspired him a little because it is hard when your a head chef in the same place for a long time to be “re-ignited” if you will.

Tried the new chicken fritters and they are very nice and I made a new burger relish instead of a fairly poor watery tomato kinda ketchup they did serve (this has been moved to the inside of the burger) and the burger now is looking really good!

So that’s my week and now as I write this sat at the back of the restaurant watching the waiters and waitresses serving the last courses to the last tables I feel like it’s time for a beer and my Saturday in the sun with no more work!!

Humans are clever…

As exciting as me trying to find somewhere to let out my creativity is… I wanna write about some random shit that goes through my head and that my wife always tells me I should write!

I’m basically amazed at how the human race has discovered food, cooking and preserving and what’s edible and what isn’t all across the globe.

Let me try to explain what I mean, so in Greece for example they make Feta cheese and after you make Feta cheese you can then make Halloumi from the whey. Both of these cheeses are synonymous with Greece and at some point someone had to work out how to make these things from milk…. can you imagine what a great day that was ?! I’m amazed that one cheese can be make from milk and then either the same

. clever person or someone else worked out you can make another cheese from the left over stuff!! Incredible.

We were traveling through Romania last year and there was a small market with a cheese stand and my wife got me to try Telemea and I said “oh, this is like Feta!” At which point my wife very angrily told me its not Feta it’s a Romanian cheese!! Then the next cheese she gave me was exactly like Halloumi! The thing that makes us humans awesome is that these two countries didn’t tell each other how they did it, and it’s not a Greek cheese really it’s just cheese. No one checked on the internet or watched a YouTube video. Yet they managed to invent the same things miles away from each other from the things they had available. This is just one example but when you start to look you see more and more.

The art of curing was discovered by many countries and can be seen all around the world some more than others and I find this amazing as well that they worked it all out by trial and error. Dry countries with low humidity are the best for hams and salami because they keep well, hung from the ceiling unlike in England where we have a lots of moisture so we just didn’t go down that route.We pickle things, Scandinavia and Hungary mainly ferment. Why don’t the British ferment? I assume because it’s cold here, in Hungary you can leave cucumber in a brine outside for a day in the sun and it’s fermented! In England it takes a week in an airing cupboard and I’m pretty sure back in the day they didn’t have airing cupboards! However we do ferment here, we make alcohol and from that someone discovered vinegar and then someone worked out if you cover stuff in vinegar it’s won’t go off! When you don’t have a fridge this is some very useful information! In Spain most of the traditional recipes are made with onions, garlic and dried peppers or chillis and salted cod…. Why? Because you don’t need a fridge!

The fact that to make salami (these days) you need to carefully monitor the ph levels to make sure they are safe to eat but I’m pretty sure in the mountains of Romania they didn’t have ph monitors or special humidifiers to make sure they stay just right. They just worked it out! I have tried my fair share or curing and pickling and fermenting and bread making but the way I do it is by reading a book or watching someone’s insta or a bread making YouTube video! I still can’t do it very well!! Imagine life without these things, just the need to provide for your family and a leg of pork you can’t eat before it will go off… That’s when these techniques were discover or found , necessity that’s the answer to it all really. Too many vegetables ready at the same time to eat but not being able to afford to loose them, killing a whole cow but not being able to eat it all!

Don’t get me started on how we know now what plants are edible and which ones are poisonous! Must of been a lot of death and diarrhoea I think!

Humans are incredible when it comes to food… I think.

job job job job….

The last post I wrote about opening my own pub by way of leasing from a brewery sparked a few interesting conversations…I couple of friends who run pubs gave  me some advice which was quite mixed, and a gentleman who has a few pubs who read my blog got in touch too.  Its interesting because I think I’m a very logical and realistic person and even though I had thought about most aspects of being a republican I think I still had rose tinted glasses on. I would like to think that when your the person in charge you can for example shut on a Monday and Tuesday, maybe close on a Sunday night and take a holiday when it suits you and your family.

However stupid it may sound I didn’t consider that that’s only ever gonna happen if I have enough staff, if I am making enough, if I can pay the rent in the month.. and when and if I’m on holiday then how many phone calls will i get and what happens when my general manager doesn’t turn up to work while i’m throwing shapes on the dance floor in Pacha?!!  So all of this was pointed out to me.

At the same time as I was viewing this pub another pub with rooms was having a refurb in the area and I was contacted to become the head chef when it opens. Now the job sounds like my dream job to be honest, beautifully refurbished pub in a small Wiltshire village thats will have 5 exquisite rooms and wants to serve locally sourced home made fresh food.

The conversations with friends who own or have owned their own businesses was unanimously  take the job if you can! haha I couldn’t believe it but as they pointed out you get holiday, have less stress, get a pay check each month no matter what and (in this case) still make a name and build a reputation from nothing.  My decision was made, I will try my best to get this job!

So far I have had 3 interviews (yes three!) to get this job. The kitchen isn’t finished so the normal head chef selection process of cooking for the position isn’t possible. My interviews went very well and as I write this I’m waiting to hear back to find out if I’m the guy or not!?!

In the mean time I’ve been helping out at the Red lion freehouse and helping with consultancy and some shifts at a new opening in Marlborough. The consultancy has been great fun, helping someone else out with ideas is quite interesting and to create a menu that I wont be cooking is also a challenge. To try and suggest things that make the owners happy but that i think is possible, and logistically good for the place really make you think. Normally my kitchen is my problem so if I put a dish on the menu that’s a ball ache then I’m the one who have to deal with it but that wouldn’t be fair to put on a menu for someone else with a different set of skills.

The kitchen is small so that’s a big consideration but I felt that small sharing plates of British food would be a good fit for both the area and the restaurant. Sharing plates is great if you have limited space because you can send the food when its ready and not all at once. It also means you can work with less staff which was important to the owner. I’m really excited to see how it blossoms so watch this space and I’ll keep you posted on how its getting on when it opens.

whats next…?!

Since we last spoke a lot has gone on hence the gap between posts!

So….I had a son on the 1st of November, big change in my life and it’s made me change my outlook to work actually. My main drive in life has been to work, I chose work over life by working crazy hours, missing many important events and generally ignoring most things apart from work, food and cooking! I think I was working this hard to make a name for myself, to make sure I always had a job and money to buy the things I wanted. Now as I find myself looking for the next step in my career, trying to find a job or maybe take on a pub of my own, the reason that I keep feeling inside me is so that my son can be proud of me.  I have never had this as my driving factor before, I want my son to be proud when his mates or his teachers or anyone really asks him what his dad does.  I don’t want to be a temp chef, I don’t want him to tell people “my dads a temp chef”, I want him to be able to say “my dads a head chef” or “my mum and dad run the best pub/restaurant in Wiltshire”.

I also just turned 35 this week, another factor that makes me wanna find something I can really  get my teeth stuck into, a job I can make that name for myself and feel settled. Somewhere I can cook food that I want to cook and play with crazy and/or terrible ideas I have that I can’t do as a temp chef always in different kitchens and driving all over racking up the miles instead of writing down new dish ideas.

I had a great December working hard at the Red lion, that time of year for a chef is fun, exhausting, exhilarating, non stop and generally hectic! Then it ends and January is the polar opposite, instead of making 20 portions of something you make 5, instead of checking the next pre order for the next service you clean something and plan the next days staff food! For me the end of December meant the end of my time at the pub and time for me to find a job more long term.  Due to the vale of Pewsey having very little to offer in terms of amazing establishments where I would love to be the head chef I needed to find something else and I stumbled across a pub that is in need of a tenant.

The thought of running our own pub, cooking the food I want to cook, building my own kitchen and restaurant team, carving out a reputation in the area for ourselves….. is what any ambitious chef want but also….. really scary!

I would need to spend nearly all of my savings and then probably get a loan (mostly for really cool kitchen equipment (sorry but i am a chef after all!)), then trying to find staff out in the middle of the Wiltshire countryside is not easy. I know full well that some days when some staff don’t turn up I’m gonna be at work, when the housekeeper can’t come in I’m cleaning the rooms but still I really want it!  The other option is to get a job with  a guaranteed pay check each month which means I can buy the things for the house and my kid and pay the mortgage, all good things and it sounds much easier.

This is the dilemma for me and of course the dilemma for anyone who is thinking about starting their own business, so I’m certainly not alone in my fears.  I’m a very logical and realistic person so when it comes to things like this I over think things maybe too much instead of just fucking going for it!

In other news I have fermented some red cabbage and its awesome!!

 

Sourdough crumpet

I thought it’s about time I did another recipe and although it’s another sourdough one it felt like the right choice because I made them for breakfast for me and my very pregnant wife! So it’s also my first video on here.

First thing you need to know about is how to make a starter, which is simple water and flour (sounds easy right!?).

For something that has so few ingredients it’s by far the hardest thing I’ve made! My starter is now just over a year old but it took me and my whole kitchen team about 10 failed attempts till we finally got her alive and stable.

A starter is simply a way of creating your own yeast by collecting the natural wild yeast which is in the air all around us. The flour and water is basically the sticky thing it’s gets stuck to! That’s how I see it anyway.

First of all you need to mix 100g of strong white flour with 100g of warm water. The water must be body temperature because it’s that temp that bacteria thrive and we are trying to incubate bacteria essentially. Mix this with your hand and make sure all the lumps are gone. You must then find a plastic tub or glass jar (I use a kilner jar). It needs to be left in a warm place, again think body temperature. If yeast gets too hot it will die and if it’s too cold it won’t multiply fast and will take a long time. I found this very easy in a commercial kitchen because it’s really hot but my kitchen at home it’s cold in comparison. I have found a windowsill above a radiator works well or a window that’s drenched in sunlight for part of the day.

Leave your flour and water with a tea towel over it or a small bit of muslin just damp so your starter won’t dry out but can collect yeast from the air. The next day at the same time that your created her you need to feed her….

You need to get rid of 50g of the starter, just throw it away. Then mix 50g of warm water and 50g of strong white flour together with your hand then pour the rest of your starter into it and mix well again. Pour it all back into your container and leave it in the same warm place for another 24 hours. You’re gonna repeat this process at the same time each day for a week. You must be diligent in this and if you forget your newly born starter will die. Each day you should see some bubbles and you should start to notice a smell. If at anytime there are no bubbles and no smell then you can assume that she is dead I’m afraid.

After a week you should have a good bubbly pot of yeasty goodness. Now you can feed her every two days. You can throw away as much or as little as you like but always replace it with the same amount of flour and water. At this point I would reccomend making some bread! Each time you make a loaf you replace what you took out.

So now you have a starter! After some weeks you can keep her in the fridge and she will only need feeding once a week or after you make crumpets each morning so you don’t run out of starter.

The recipe for crumpets is simple,

250g starter

1 table spoon of honey

1/2 tsp of salt

1/2 tsp of bicarbonate of soda (last thing in!)

Please let me know if you have any success with your starter or your crumpets on social media, you can find links on the homepage. I look forward to hearing from you.