What the heck just happened?

I am mostly alive.  I am slightly zombie… ish.  I am living a new life.  Since the last time I posted the world has been flipped on its head once again.  Gone are the days of distilling and nights of Amor, now is the time for pork buns and flaming cocktails.  Starting last November I took a position with Momofuku to champion their bar program at Ssam Bar in the East Village.  For the last four months I have been working with the incredible Dave Arnold and a team of amazing bartenders to flesh out a new cocktail bar, Booker & Dax, featuring a craft cocktail menu based around some newfangled and amazing tools created by Dave himself.

This post is not about the bar.  If you want to learn all about the awesome stuff happening at Booker & Dax then I will go into the bar in detail another time.  This is a post about the demands of running and opening a new establishment, about falling off the face of the earth, about sacrifice, success, and shortcomings.

The moment I started at Momofuku it has been a constant slamming of information, research, administration, creation, press, cleaning, hiring, firing, drinking, ordering, inventory, and lots and lots of hours logged.  Never before have I been so immersed in one single all consuming project.  7 days a week, 15 hours a day.

For better and worse, I have been so inundated in Booker & Dax I have not posted a blog post in 4 months, called my friends, been out in the city, been on a date, cleaned my room or washed any laundry; my gym called me yesterday to ask if I still wanted my membership because I hadn’t seen them in 3 months.  There are so may facets to cover when joining a new company, opening a new bar, and then running it that constantly demand all of your attention.  It has left me overwhelmed not a few times.

Why it’s worth it:

{I am entering this blurb post writing this blog post: I didn’t realize that I needed to spew out all of this below, I think the last few months have been so emotionally charged/draining that once you get started you can’t really stop an outpouring as such this is.  So the following is less informational and more… therapeutic}

The people.  There is one thing above all others that makes this constant battle worth it, the people.  Throughout this entire process I have constantly met and enjoyed the company of so many amazing individuals.  First and foremost are a team of bartenders who have such an extreme passion for what they do that they will endure anything just to learn more and be a part of something so great.  Working side by side with these guys has taught me so much about not only bartending, but work ethic, loyalty, creativity, and the unmatched energy that has made Booker & Dax the bar that it is.  I’m constantly blown away by what these people bring to the table everyday and I count my lucky stars I have them to lean on constantly.

Dave Arnold is a mad man with a pension for genius, and has quickly turned into one of my best friends.  Working with this man has educated me on carbonation, the physics of liquid nitrogen, using a rotovap, clarification, dilution, dirty jokes, flavors, interviewing well, and more importantly all about family and friends.  There are very few men on earth who command such loyalty from everyone they encounter.

I am now thoroughly convinced that if you gave me a cardboard box, a couple of pitchers of malt liquor, and a phenomenal caring bar staff that it would millions of times better than the most perfectly crafted well appointed bar with manikin like bartenders.

As this bar only just begins to find its stride and allows for some breathing room, the staff and management can begin to step back and start to unravel everything.  More than any success we have gained has this project illustrated my short comings.  Only when put under such great pressure do you ever see the cracks in the dam, and boy have I ever found a long list of cracks.  What my priorities are do not always seem to coincide with what the bar priorities have to be to make it succeed.  Balancing my time between costing out cocktail prices by dashes of bitters, staffing costs, over time hours, inventory, making sure we have the most cost effective blocks of ice, employees W-4’s are signed, and all of the admin drudgery versus the much more attractive side of my position like creation of recipes, tasting new spirits, events, and normal bartending… is hard.  Also, I make horrendous excel spreadsheets. I’m terrible at scheduling.  Routine, not my strong point.  To answer this all though, I now know this, and am starting to learn how to not necessarily fix these things but rather combat myself.  Once again, without the bartenders, dear god we would be lost at sea.


On entirely an entirely different note: I am now 26.  Some years back, I believe in the ever impressionable era of 9th grade, Robby Nelson explained to me that the male body peaks for distance running at age 27, and ever since then I have committed myself to the idea that it is at 27 that a guy is perfect. (also it may just turn out that after 27 I may actually commit to the idea of being a man and not just a guy)  Absurd, I know.  My father, who is ancient, is far fitter than I am and could kick my butt while hog tied… but, none the less this gilded age of 27 has wrung in my head as the epitome of fitness.  While this last year has actually been fairly successful as far as staying healthy goes, this up coming year it the focus.  First step: cut out the daily doses of pork belly… yeah.

There is so much more I want to write, but I am becoming more exhausted just thinking about everything at this point.  So after getting this unorganized mass above out of my brain and on to paper I do believe I could produce a coherent post on the actual bar, cool new things, home bars, eating out at amazing restaurants… the fun side of things. Tomorrow.

Much love to you all.

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