Chef Driven

What a difference a chef makes: Marianne Miller, newly established at Bobino, turns an old reliable into a new joy

All told, though, these are all doable adjustments in a restaurant that has already made major, major strides. I'd say Bobino is now at least five or ten times better than it was when I last reviewed it, so I also say, hats off to Bobino's founder and owner, Chris Paddock, who took a big risk in messing with his old reliable. I wish more local restaurant owners were as brave.

What, you think it's a no-brainer, taking a likable restaurant, and adding a great chef? Guess again. Many restaurant owners see real, talented chefs as a problem wrapped in an ego tucked in a cost overrun. Here's why: First, a real chef will demand you spend ridiculous amounts of money on strange ingredients that most people don't even recognize. Then, instead of dealing with one purveyor with one check, suddenly you're writing checks to a dozen purveyors for God knows what--and worse, your accountant constantly has to be on the scene to write checks for it all. Then, they pick fights with servers over God knows what. They're constantly trying to replace a perfectly good $8-an-hour kitchen prep worker with some $14-an-hour pain in the neck straight out of cooking school who'll last six months, tops. And at the end of it all, if you give them every single thing they want, they go off and open their own restaurant, taking all your customers with them. On the other hand, there are plenty of docile clock-punchers who also graduated from cooking school, but who can be trusted to make Caesar salads with what you give them, make peace with whoever's on the premises, and keep everything as calm, predictable, and as (mildly) profitable as white toast.

But not at Bobino, where they've chosen bravery over fear, and hit the jackpot.

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