Monday, December 27, 2010

And the universe bestows her gifts...

So, in my typical Taurus/bull fashion, I've been wracking my brains for how to get movement on The Project. I am worried I won't be able get funding in time... that the space will be rented, that Stein will need to find a job. And so...

Without going into too much detail (he is a super private person) I pitched my ex husband and asked him if I could borrow the money to get started. He still owes me some from our settlement and so he basically said I would likely be able to get the money in Feburary to get started. AND wouldn't have to pay him back...

This is a huge relief but I also have this weird feeling that the normal hoops you have to go thru to get regular business funding etc are kind of checks and balances on having a good workable plan and the more eyes that see what you are doing and give input, the better.

He made some great suggestions... because the first tear of being is business is the hardest (most businesses fail because they are underfunded the first year) he suggested I ask for a deffered lease. So I offer to pay $1200.00 a month, but not to start paying until next year. So if you have a three year lease, you would pay nothing the first year and then 1.5 the amount of the next two years.

So if I can get some kind of agreement like this, plus not have to pay myself the first year... I would be in a really good position to have super low overhead starting out.

I also talked to Mike Whipple, an old friend of Brion's who is a wine consultant about getting some premuim local small producer wines...

He is totally ammenable to helping us scout out the kinds of wines I want. I plan to do the little plastic menu holders like this with the wine and beer list to put on the counters and the tables. Mike said the typical purchase of initial wine a restaurant will buy is about $400. I want to bring some of the salumi and do at least a little bit of pairing. Anything I get will have to go with salted and heavily spiced meats.
I am profoundly grateful to know so many creative and talented people who are willing to help me. It is amazing how much easier things seem to flow when you feel comfortable marketing youself and your product and you know so many knowledgable fantastic peopele.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Deepest Sighs...

The funding group cannot fund anyone over the age of 35. This is how grants and things work and I am a bit dissapointed but undaunted. IF I could have found someone under 35 who was willing to take on the liability of the loan, they would have still gone forward, but I just can't ask anyone to do that. It is MY baby... my risk.

So on to the next possiblity!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

First steps towards being adequately funded...

Mr Sullivan from the SBDC called and said they had a group of people who were interested in investing in a new small business so we quickly got together the various items they wanted/needed and he pitched them my business on Friday morning. Then I got a call asking how old I was (40) and figured out that the group of investors was looking for a business owner who was under 35. It is likely part of their grant criteria, but Mr. Sullivan is going to see if they will make an exception. I am flattered that it did not even occur to anyone that I might be over 35!

This is just how the process goes and I am totally mentally prepared for that. I am super grateful for all the help I have received.

I did a chacuterie platter of many of the products I've done in the past year and it really made me feel like I've accomplished so much! The picture of it is above... it is really a think of beauty! I wish I could have sent in a platter like this to Mr Sullivan to show the investors :)
I've started to dream about my cafe... working in it, puttering around making my sausages with Stein. Chatting up customers... I can't wait.
I will be submitting my stuff to the next poetntial lender after the first of the year. I am so excited! I know it will be a process but I am mentally prepared for that.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Limbo... and not the fun party kind...

I am in a weird space where I am waiting for a few things to happen, but I am pretty much done with School. Only one more final this week and then finishing up my Cross Cultural healing Class this weekend and I am done with school for the semester. I have pretty much done everything else I need to do for the time being.

I drove by the space this morning on my way to county recorders office (marking one more thing off the to-do list). Martinez has such a cute downtown area but it is a bit off the grid.
I feel impatient to move forward, and strange about the lull in activity. I hung quite a bit of cured pork jowl for drying and I also started a new batch of pastrami. I tried making pastrami without the nitrates and the color was really off, so I won't likely do that again. I am thinking about experimenting with the celery powder that charcutiers are using to replace pink salt as the celery powder are natural nitrates. but I don't know if they will affect color?
The squirrels are having sex in my roof again. I know we should do something about them (they chewed a hole in my ceiling a few years ago), but they seem so happy there! And it has been brutally cold, albeit today is gorgeous.
I've been in school long enough so it feels very strange not to have school any more... I am pretty much done with the classes I need to get my Baking and Pastry and Culinary Arts certificates. Next semester I will take two general ed online classes to also get my hospitality management associates degree. Plus I need to take one more unit of PE, but the school has this drop-in program where you just have to bank a certain number of hours. I am sure getting the exercise will be good for me!
I've been feeling so stressed, I have been working out to try and mellow myself. This week should be fun though. Debbie is on vacation and Roric is in Budapest, so Rhawnie will come and hang out as well. I have really been missing feminine energy in my life.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Small Business Funding and other various mysteries...

The process is just beginning and it's already not what I expected... basically, I thought... write a comprehensive business plan and it was a big part of the funding process. But in reality, no one looks at your business plan. They are focused on your credit history because these are unsecured loans. The first round of loans you go for are from SBA lenders, who get SBA grants and charge low interest rates. Typically you fill out a short one page loan application. I have the loan application but I am waiting to submit it until I can clear a couple of things off my credit report.

I will never go an extended period of time without checking my credit again. I did not realize I was being charge unsecured property taxes on my boat in two cities and was only paying one set. Now I have three liens on my house for not paying boat taxes in Stockton. Well, I paid the taxes last week and the liens will be released soon, but it might prevent me from being able to get an SBA loan. For something so stupid... deep sigh.

Anyway, so far the Small Business Development Center has looked at my Business plan, but no lender asks for it as part of your loan application in the intial stages. I feel like the loans are not really based on anything but your credit and the merit of your business plan is not really relevant to the process... which makes sense really. Banks are really skittish after the past few real estate years. I mean, I know this is all reasonable, but I feel like I wasted two months on a business plan that no one is even going to look at.

And the one page lender form is baffling! It asks me how long I've been in business... well I've been officially catering for 6 months, with a business lisence and fictitious business name and all that. However, I've been catering since I was 19. Also I am not opening a catering business. I am opening a delicatessen. Most of the loans are for expanding a business, not for start ups... so it's been reccomended that I list the current catering business and the money I made this year, and say I am looking for funds to expland. The cost of the rent on this site is so low, it would cost me more to lease most kitchens for catering anyway. It's just... nothing is all that clear cut.

I talked to the fire inspector this week as well. I will be able to use the smoker, but I won't be able to use a deep fryer. I also received my resellers permit this week.

Also I took the Servesafe exam today. It is a requirement have someone that is Servesafe certified in a restaurant like I am planning to open. I took the class three years ago and some of the laws had changed. Thank goodness the nice lady where I took the test sent me some practice exams, they were emmensly helpful. You only need to get 75% and the stuff was familiar enough that I feel pretty good about how I did (knock on wood).

So to date (in order):
Ficticious Business Name
(Pay $75 to advertise the name int he paper for 3 weeks)
Home Occupancy Permit
Business Lisence
Federal Tax ID
State Tax ID
Reseller Permit
Servesafe Certifiction

OH plus I will have done all of the work for my Baking and Pastry Cert and Culinary Arts Cert as of next Thursday (We don't get our actual certificates until next May, I can apply for them at the beginning of the year).

The business plan is about 300 pages long as of now.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Next week is show time...

HACCP's and Business Plan (all three copies) are pretty much done (I think I still need a pickling HACCP flow chart). I just need Stein's resume and I can start pounding the pavement next week for funding. I don't know why this is so terrifying? My credit isn't great, and I can imagine lenders are pretty gun shy at this point in history, so who knows how that is going to go? I suppose THAT is a pretty good reason to feel terrified.

I've done all this work and if I get turned down... I suppose it is all still there for later when times are not so tight. And what if I GET funding? That is way scarier! It means I will be doing the biggest scariest career move of my life.

I keep rolling over the details in my head. I will have to roll out production of charcuterie so I can have a good selection ready to go when we open, but it will all have to be made in the restaurant, since my home kitchen is not a commercial kitchen. I won't have 6 months of curing time to get things ready... if I am lucky I will get 4-6 weeks.

So what kind of salumi can be done in that amount of time to accomodate my needs (muffuleta sandwich, salumi platter, pastrami, etc)

Less than one week lead time:
Smoked Turkey
Smoked Duck
Smoked Chicken
Corned Beef
Hot smoked chorizo
Cured Fish
Smoked Fish

Less than 2 weeks lead time:

4-6 weeks lead time:
Small circumference dry cured sausage

3 months:
Beef middle size salumi

6 months
bung stuffed salumi

So technically I could have a plouoghman's platter of bacon, smoked fish, wiesswurst, pastrami and Spanish style chorizo with pickles... only I am not sure what to do about house made pickles in Jan/Feb... I can do beets, onions and fennel house made and buy decent gherkins already done.

I could also do confit...

I called the fire inspector last week, but have not heard back (not surprised with the holidays upon us)... I am kind of excited ab out the prospect of being able to deep fry... I will add fries, deep fried gnocchi and aranchini to the lunch menu andbeignet to the breakfast menu if I can deep fry.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New To-do list

  • Write 3 HACCP plans (Cured meats, Smoked Meats, pickled items)
  • Talk to fire inspector about electric smoker and electric fryers
  • Get details on coffee from Weavers
  • Study for ServSafe exam
  • Do my menu project for Nurtition
  • Take final in Meat Fish and Poultry
  • Take final in Supervisory Management
  • Take final in Nutrition


I just sometimes feel like they make it so difficult to start a business that it is a miracle anyone does it.

Last night I hopped in the bath with the food safety booklet that Ghislane brought me (she works for the Napa Health Department) and, not that I am surprised TRULY, I need to write a HACCP plan for smoked, cured or pickled items. I will be doing all three! So I have to write (3!!) HACCP plans.

Here is the template I am using, which my beloved sweetly put in excel form:

And I need to renew my ServSafe certification so I called to see if I could do the online test with a proctor (they have someone watch you take it) and it seems I will have to do the written one, which takes longer to get the results of. And I have to repay for it... which is only $75, but still!

AND... AND... and the fire inspector who does Martinez has a full voicemail box and the other number they gave me is going straight to voicemail, meaning everyone is on vacation for Thanksgiving, so I won't be able to get that thing crossed off my to-do list either.

But the positves are...

I got to chat with Stein yesterday and I think we are on the same page about uniforms (baseball jersey types with "Compass Star" on them and funny sayings). We went to this little Italian style deli in Alameda that seemed quite popular. I was pleasantly surprised to see the tables change over several times while we were sittign there, plus a lot of to-go sandwiches etc. I have my projections based on 40 covers in 4 hours and they easily saw more than that in the hour we were there (which was admittably the lunch hour rush). I also need to add a commerical toaster to my list of stuff I need... I am not sure how I missed that in the first place?

I was really encouraged by the experience because I had the hot pastrami sandwich and it was decent but nothing like mine. I am not sure how they can even make pastrami without imparting that peppery smokey flavor... it really isn't pastrami without that. Stein had the meatball sandwich and I noticed others got that as well, making me more determined than ever to serve my meatball sliders.

Today I am trying not to feel discouraged. It just seems like every time I move forward a bit, there are ten more things I need to do that I was blissfully unaware of just the day before. But my determination to do this thing is, if anything, stronger now than ever. Next week are my final Nutrition Class plus Supervisory management. Then I will just need to finish Cross Cultural Healing and I will be done (with the Culinary Arts Certificate and the Baking and Pastry Certificate), then I just need two online classes next semester to get my Associates Degree in Hospitality Management. Whew.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Opening my own restaurant...

And other feats of hubris and ego...

So I am merely seconds away from begining the funding search.

Essentials Checklist:
  • Fictitious Business Name
  • Home Occupancy Permit
  • Business License
  • State Tax ID Number
  • Federal Tax ID Number
  • Resellers Permit (in the mail)

Business Plan Checklist:

  • Menu
  • Itemized Menu Price Costing
  • Vendor List
  • SWOT
  • Executive Summary
  • Mission Statement "House Cured and Hand Crafted"
  • Weekly Cash Flow Projections
  • Monthly Cash Flow Projections
  • Quarterly Cash Flow Projections
  • Yearly Cash Flow Projections
  • 5 Year Cash Flow Projections
  • Funding Disbursment List
  • Festival Schedule
  • Demographic Information
  • Marketing Plan
  • Employee Information

Now I am contesting a few small things on my credit report and plan to do a couple of small things to improve my credit score and after that... I have the names of two non-profit lenders who do small business loans I will be contacting, plus Gerad from the local Small Business Administration will be looking my stuff over as well. Today the business plan is with Mr. E from school for input etc.

I want to get together with Stein and brainstorm some details like.... what will we wear? Chefs coats? Rugby Shirts? Dress shirt and black pants with a black apron? How do we want to do service? People sit with menus, or do they come up to the counter and order, then we give them a number and they go sit while we prepare the food? What kind of signage would I do? I kind of want a carved wooden sign that looks like one of the old English tavern signs hanging out above the door. Compass Star with a pig, or with a compass star, or both. I have friends who would probably do it for me, I just need to ask.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

It's so... beautiful

So I got the new (to me) buffalo chopper all cleaned up today and took it for it's innaugural spin. I chopped 3 # of back fat and 6# of lean leg meat, plus about 75 g salt, 10 g #2 salt and 40 g of a fennel/peppercorn corsely ground, plus about 4 g fennel pollen, 200 g of moscato wine and about 4 g fresh grated garlic, plus about 6 g of bactoferm. I froze the back fat and did a corse chop in the choper, then I also did the lean meat in the chopper, which I have not done before, but I think it had a nice texture. I hand stuffed it in a beef bung.
I then did a butcher's twine wrap on it and reinforced the hanging strings (since the sausage is about #10) and hung it up in the outside fridge. I am extremely proud of it and I hope it is as delicious as I think it will be!
I went and got a whole new load of meat today to make another batch of salumi. I only used 1/2 of one beef bung for the whole 10# sausage! So now I have to figure out what else I want to make? I really want to make mortadella since I now have the buffalo chopper and I have an event next week with a meat platter, but I also acutely feel that I should be putting in as much salumi to dry cure as I can now in case I do open my own place next year.
I also sarted 3 bellies for bacon, picked up two really cheap partial boneless beef shanks (I did a bresaola type cure on them, we will see how it turns out!) and I already have one 3 # capicola going and about 15 # of lonza in cure as well.

Friday, October 8, 2010

SO much has happened in the past few weeks...

I am working solidly along on my business plan and the more I do, the better I feel. AND in some very exciting developments... I was rummaging around in a used Restaurant supply store and found a buffalo chopper for $400, which Sue and Paul gave me as a gift!

This is so exciting as it's use in making sausage is absolutely priceless. The difference between chopped meat vs ground meat is substantial when it comes to the texture and color of the finished product!

Mary and I picked fresh fennel this weekend and gathered up the pollen so I can make Finocchinoa this weekend. I got my beef bungs in a few days ago and I am so so SO excited to use my new chopper.

I will blog the process this weekend!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Excited and Terrified

So it has been a busy year already; I am finishing school and exploring all of my options. I am scared of the future because I know the mainstream critical path to Chef glory; but I am not in a position to travel down that path. Working for free in some world famous place, then working 2 jobs while I get experience (making $10.00 and hour), then becoming a line cook, then purchasing or sous, then executive chef, where you might make 35k-60k and work 80 hour weeks. You know why a lot of women are not world famous chefs? You can't spend time with your family.

This has me anxious and exploring alternative routes to greatness. It just seems like there is no perfect path. If I wait two years to get more experience, I will be opening up my business with no safety net (I am still receiving child support and alimony currently, but that will be greatly reduced late next year). Ideally I would work in the industry for a couple more years, gather information and experience, then the money fairy would visit me miraculously and the perfect place would appear (cheaply) on the horizon and I would open my dream bar/pub.

So... with all that in mind... I found a small place in Martinez that was a coffee shop/cafe that is for lease inexpensively. The downtown is dead on the weekends and in the evenings, which is why the rent is so cheap.

BUT, the place is a block from the court house and the Thursday farmer's market. AND they have frequent weekend street fairs and festivals and the person who manages the downtown seems very serious about bringing business to the area. The clientele would be pretty blue collar (the Sheriff's office is two blocks away, plus jurors etc). I have a fellow student who works at the refinery who would be willing to promote the cafe to people who worked there.

Downside, it would have to be a cold kitchen. There is no hood/range/oven and to bring them in would be outside of my budget currently. But I would sous vide cook, plus most of my items would be dry cured etc, which doesn't use heat anyway. I would need to find out if I can use an electric smoker in the back alleyway.

The quiet nature of the weekend business would not be all bad for me too. I can use the kitchen to prep food for my catering events, plus as many of the items would be very labor intensive, I could prep on the weekends as well. Salumi and home made Mayonnaise etc.

I would also have to figure out the coffee thing. The morning coffee business would be really important. Brion will be talking with Weaver's coffee to secure the best coffee (IMO) money can buy and my friend April, who is a shift leader for Starbucks will help me set up and train to do this. I think quick serve will be really important for this place.
I also will have to put in a bunch of meat soon if I want to open the place in like 01/11. It is all so nebulous... but the numbers don't look too bad so far. I think I would need to really get some good word of mouth to get people out of their office buildings and into my shop. Free samples would likely be a good idea... I think my product is really good and will sell itself.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Where is the line between interest, passion...

and obsession?

My outside fridge is filling beautifully with meat.... meat... glorious meat.

I was getting low on product so I started 5 pork bellies for pancetta, they are almost dry. I have 15 lbs of salumi curing using the spice mixture from Scappi's "Mortadella"... so Italian... fennel, cinnamon, peppercorn, and nutmeg. Fresh herbs: mint, majoram and thyme. I also have about 20 lbs of modern Nduja cased and ready to cold smoke, drying in the outside fridge. I did not use so much hot spice and peppers, and I added blood and mace. I love the sweet earthiness the blood adds to sausage and I find myself craving it in the smokiness of Nduja. I also did this amazing Scappi recipe of raw chicken breast, parboiled pork belly, saffron, Parmesan, currants and Italian sweet spices. The last sausage was the Saveloy, veal, pork and liver, truffles, raisins, eggs, fresh cheese and Parmesan. I hot smoked them over cherry wood.

I also brined brisket for MY pastrami. It is drying in now and developing it's lovely pellicle. I am sad that most Americans will never try fresh home made pastrami. The sad pale overpeppered and dry piece of shit we are served on deli sandwiches is nothing like the honey and garlic and pepper and coriander wet cured meat that is air dried and then hot smoked for 8 hours to a deep red, like the inside of a beating heart, and then let to sit for three days, then steamed until it falls apart, it's fatty bits like slippery pieces of hot smoke and spice.

I have two small Capicolla started, plus a Lonza in dry cure now. They sit in their little half hotel pans with their bellies peeking up like little fat Feziwigs sleeping off a Christmas party hang over. I am almost done processing the salumi that needs to get to curing and drying. A massive amount of it has been done this past week, thanks to the help of my beloved meat loving friends.

I also picked up duck gizzards with Ariane and smoked them in cherry wood, and then confited them in goose fat. They are deep red from the smoke and I put star anise, peppercorn and garlic in the goose fat.

I feel like... a Pioneer mother ready for winter. Larder fat with pickles and preserves... the smell of meat and peppercorn and bay in my meat cooler. 75 lbs and counting of meat. Soon... the fish.