So we met Jennifer at a Starbucks and boy were we intimidated. She showed up in a power suit ready to go. She has worked all over Spain for the past 15 years and has trained with some of the best. She is here in NYC wanting to make a name for herself…the minute she said that we thought “not sure if she’ll be able to do this making schnitzel.” Once she was through pitching herself, it was our turn. I looked at Yoni expectantly, we needed to make her want to go from 5 star fine dining to…schnitzel. I watched her eyes go from hopeful to “thats it?” Needless to say, she was not that into us. Two kids sitting at a Starbucks pitching schnitzel to a seasoned chef - it was a little off balance. Jennifer was a power house, she cut right to the point and told us she was a) not interested and b) we couldn’t afford her. My brother thanked her for her bluntness, I was scared shitless. We were not interviewing Jennifer, it was quite the other way around. We looked at each other awkwardly, unclear about what to do next: shake her hand? smile? cry? Before we could make a decision, Jennifer, as per usual, took control by shaking our hands firmly and walked away.
(This is some of Jennifer’s work)
Jordy Lavanderos: 1st Tasting!
Hope you enjoyed Jordy in the kitchen! A couple of things we noticed about his culinary style is that he is very organized and clean as can be seen throughout the video. We had 1 hour to get in, prep, cook and get out so that Thalia could begin blanching fries for their lunch service. Jordy finished with several minutes to spare. His professionalism and cleanliness in the kitchen were impressive to say the least, and we couldn’t wait to try the Schnitz!
We sat down in the dark but cozy lounge area at Thalia and anxiously waited for the final explanation of the dishes before we could dig in. The layout was as such; two veal and two chicken dishes, one with “Bamberg” style breadcrumbs and the other with panko and cornmeal. As we began to try each dish we noticed a few things right off the bat. Firstly, Jordy has pretty much nailed the flavoring and consistency on the “Bamberg” schnitzel. The first dish we tried was the chicken thigh with Bamberg and it was bursting with flavor. There was a real depth to it as all the different herbs and spices he infused into the crumbs lasted throughout every bite. The chicken was moist and tender, this was largely due to the buttermilk which I admit, I have never tried before. This schnitzel was firing on all cylinders; crunch, flavor, not too greasy and thickness. Next we moved onto the veal Bamberg. Who doesn’t like veal? It was soft, crunchy and possessed the same flavor as the chicken. The only issue we had was the air bubbles that formed on top of this thin slice. Ya gotta let the crumbs to sit in the buttermilk (or egg yolk) for some time to make them “stick” more. Unfortunately time was not on our side this morning.
After being floored by Jordy’s Bamberg style schnitzel, we moved on to the simple panko and cornmeal breadcrumb option. He soaked them in buttermilk and paprika to give them a boost of flavor however we all agreed this breading was the weakest. For some reason, the buttermilk made the chicken almost too soft and borderline mushy. The flavor was also missing in both the chicken and the veal options. All we could taste were the plain panko crumbs. While the three of us agreed that the crunchiness of the panko was working, everything else (flavor and consistency) fell very flat.
All in all, this was a great “first step” in the right direction with an extremely attractive candidate. The three of us enjoyed being with Jordy and interacting with him and speaking with him throughout this process. He is very smart and grounded (unlike some other chefs we’ve met) plus he GETS our concept. There is a lot to be worked out before we can move forward with him. Jordy currently is a consultant and has business called Spain and Latin Fusion where he does food menu and kitchen design. We would like for him to join full time and become a real partner on the Schnitz team. We will keep you guys posted as usual on our chef search, but keep your fingers crossed because we think Jordy has the potential to be OUR guy!
Quick update on our search for a chef. This past weekend we interviewed Michael Dinces atStarbucks on Astor place. Michael had one of the best resumes in our pile. He’s been a line cook/sous chef at some great restaurants around the city including Jean Georges (under chef Angelo Sosa), Spice Market (under Stanley Wong) and Scott Conant’s Scarpetta.
Michael was very calm and attentive. He seemed very interested in the quick serve schnitzel concept and after 8 years at some of the most demanding restaurants in Manhattan, he seems ready to partner up in a new kind of venture. We’ve asked him (like we do with all the candidates) to mock-up a menu and send it over to us. One concern we have with Michael is his ability to transition from a full-service kitchen to a small, quick serve environment but we’ll let the food speak for itself.
Speaking of mock-ups, one of our first interviewees, Jordy Lavanderos, submitted a menu for us to review. You can see it below. Jordy definitely has a lot of creativity but we need to give him direction. For instance, while I want to stress to our customers that we have all-natural, locally sourced ingredients, I don’t think we’re fooling anyone by saying we’re “green”, “organic” and “healthy” lol. The way I see it, we are who we are. You don’t walk into a Shake Shack and see them playing up the “green” and “healthy” angles. Nevertheless, we’re going to give Jordy feedback and invite him for a tasting.
Choose 1 (or Choose All!)
*Pork Loin Cutlet
*Veal Sirloin Cutlet
*Chicken Breast Cutlet
Served with Ligonberry Preserve and Bavarian Sweet Mustard
(We exclusively use Panko Breadcrumbs)
Mildly Seasoned 12 Herb Breading
Zesty Tri Pepper Breading…Ya!
Ze Breading of Ze Week!
Berlin Curry Breading
Savory Austrian Mustard Potato Salad
Zesty Red Cabbage Salad with Dried Cranberry, Crushed Pepper and Orange Zest
Hofbauer Spatzel and Cheese with Imported Muenster and Gruyere Cheese
So yesterday we scheduled to have 5 chefs meet us at Thalia restaurant for a first round of interviews. They all responded to our Craigslist post and confirmed a few days before. To our complete surprise, NO ONE SHOWED UP! It was shocking and eye-opening to say the least.
We realize it’s going to take a lot more time and persistence to find our chef. Not only do we need to be on top of the appointments we make and the resumes that come in via e-mail but we need to expand our search avenues. We re-posted our craigslist ad and we’ve now added listings at Chefjobs.com, chefjobsnetwork.com, the French Culinary Institute, and theCulinary Institute of America. Here’s one of our postings below:
We are seeking a chef/kitchen manager for a quick service schnitzel concept:
- Individual must have ability to create and design a menu and execute this menu during service.
- Must posses strong leadership abilities as well as display a high level of culinary expertise.
- Must have 2-4 years experience working in a higher level kitchen station position (preferably sous chef or comparable).
- This is a unique opportunity to develop a restaurant. It comes with a lot of growth potential and equity option.
This past weekend the Schnitz team got together to cook up Chef Chris’ leftovers. He sent us home with literally pounds of meat from different breadcrumb trials. We went crazy and cooked a whole mound and had some friends taste it. We received some very positive feedback. Safe to say, I have enough food for the week :-)
FYI, we’re not planning to serve beef but you’ll see it being cooked in the video below. It was pretty good.
We held a conference call with our beloved mentor Steve Zagor this afternoon to discuss some steps moving forward with Chef Chris Gesualdi. As we explained in our previous post, Chef Chris did not give much insight when we asked him about the process behind our consulting engagement. What are the milestones in designing the menu? How much time should we allocate? And, most importantly, how much do we need to budget? During the meeting, Chef Chris was primarily focused on creating a great product that represents us and we were ecstatic to hear his enthusiasm and passion for food. That being said, our business sense tells us that we need to put something in writing between us even though we feel we’ll have a great working relationship.
Steve was able to shed some light on an engagement such as the one we’d like to have with Chef Chris. Donna, Yoni, and I had a ballpark figure of about $15k-$20k. Once Steve started laying out the deliverables, it became clear the fee would be quite a bit more. Keep in mind, our menu is rather small. Below is a general outline for what may or may not be included in an agreement with chef Chris:
- The recipes need to be speced, costed and sourced
- We retain proprietary rights to the recipes
- Spec the kitchen
- Spec the equipment
- Train the staff
- Quality assurance for a period of 90 days after opening to ensure the kitchen is running smoothly. (We’ll talk much more about this in the future when it comes time to hiring a kitchen manager.)
For a chef of Chris’ caliber to perform the services above would require between $40,000-$50,000. Ouch! Lol. This is not to say we don’t expect to get a good deal ;-) but we’re going to have to talk amongst ourselves and determine if we can truly afford Chef Chris and if we may need to explore other chefs to help design the Schnitz menu. To be honest, we haven’t looked around much but Chef Chris comes HIGHLY recommended and his resume is fantastic. We were also very impressed during our kick-off meeting. We’ll need to increase the funds for consulting a chef in our pre-opening budget and see how much we can afford before seeking investment.
We’ll be discussing the formation of our company, an operating agreement, trademarks and, now, the drafting of an agreement between us and Chef Chris. Some giant steps in this process are imminent!
After weeks and weeks of working on a business plan, we finally took a major step in our mission to find the perfect schnitzel. Our mentor, Steve Zagor referred us to executive chef Chris Gesualdi. For those who are familiar with the restaurant business, his past experience includes Executive Chef at Le Bernardin and Montrachet. Since 2005 he’s been working at the Institute for Culinary Education as a chef instructor. Donna stopped by his office to pitch him the idea and the chef’s culinary genius started to swirl. We setup a date to do an initial sampling.
To say the least, we were very impressed. He had a room with 3 table settings waiting for us upon arrival. We sat down and he didn’t waste a moment before the schnitzel started coming through the door. We tried three different breadcrumbs on chicken (breast and thigh), pork and veal:
1. Panko with paprika, tumeric, cumin and cayenne
2. Ground pita with chili powder, coriander, sumac, onion powder and garlic powder
3. Matza meal with chickpea flour and sesame seeds
Check out the video below for our live reviews!
Following the taste test, the three of us and the chef sat down to review the restaurant concept and give as much feedback as possible. In general we felt it was a great first step but we’d like to see the following changes in our next sampling:
- Use the cuts of meat that are appropriate for a quick service model: pork butt, chicken thigh, veal leg
- Meat should be pounded thinner
- Larger presentation of the schnitzel
- Panko in all future breadcrumb options
- Need to use a deep fryer, not a pan
In terms of taste, we want to create an “original” breadcrumb that will be the crowd pleaser and then a spicy option. From what we tasted, we’re thinking we can work with option 1 above as our “original” breadcrumb and option 2 as our spicy breadcrumb. If you guys have any other ideas for interesting taste profiles, let us know!
We explained to Chef Chris that, in general, we’re looking to design a menu that balances exquisite taste with easy preparation, minimal ingredients as well as take-out friendly.
We also discussed the process moving forward for the menu consultation phase. How much to budget? How long is the process? Will it be based on a fixed-fee? Chef Chris explained to us that creating this product is a reflection of us as restaurant owners. We’ll need to work relentlessly to perfect the food. We agreed. At this point though, the costs of this engagement are still unknown. We plan to approach Chris during our next meeting about setting a budget and putting something in writing between us. We feel strongly that our expectations should be agreed upon before proceeding in order to avoid any conflict. In general, we feel chef Chris is very talented, he comes highly recommended and he’s more than capable of designing a brilliant menu.