So we're kind of up and running! We don't have a full menu yet, but after a very long week of really pushing to get things operational we are mostly there. Our biggest stumbling blocks had been the lack of water and no working elevator (a problem when you are on the 9th floor and the lower floors are still under construction). We were promised both by Tuesday ( we were also promised both by January...so I wasn't holding my breath), but Tuesday came and went with no water or working elevator. On Wednesday we were assured that things would work on Thursday, and despite our skepticism we were told not t worry it was a sure thing. Then there was a problem with the pump, and no water was had on Thursday, but we were told that when the power came on at midnight (load shedding still affects our work greatly) they would be able to pump water.
Standing by reception looking toward the kitchen
I show up on Friday morning around 7am, and there is no electricity, and there is no water. People are working on the elevator, but it isn't working and I need to prep the whole place for a small party that includes the shareholders and some close friends, numbering from 12 to 16 people total. Staff isn't coming in until 1-2PM in expectation of a late night and I have until 8pm before people should start arriving. Still the kitchen is just getting stocked so I have to start baking bread, making sure we have all the sauces we need, etc. Our plan is to offer all 20 burgers we have on the menu. Appetizers would include nachos and wings which means getting salsa, sour cream, ranch, and Gorgonzola dip ready. We can't just run to the store here, we do it all from scratch so it's a bit more work. I'm preparing two batches of bread (about a 4 hour process) in expectation of a few people wanting an extra burger and in case we get a few added people.
Our entrance area
But it isn't just cooking I need to manage. Pepsi needs my PAN certificate to open our account. I don't have it so I'm chasing my lawyer over the phone to get it dropped off. Liquor was dropped off the night before, and now suppliers who are interested in branding opportunities are showing up and wanting to sit and talk. Our interiors are being finalized, and though those guys don't need supervision, there are pots being carried through the space, hammering going on around reception and whatever. I'm trying to get the kitchen equipment service guy to come and fix the starters on my grill and one oven. Light bulbs need to be put into lights, I need an A/V cable to hook the laptop to the amp, and the speakers still need to be wired. The electrician is still finishing the wiring and trying to figure out why some lights aren't working. I need a hole cut in one of my counter tops at the bar for where the Pepsi pre-mix machine is going. I need menu's printed for the evening. I need about 30 Kg of ice for the bar. I need order pads for wait staff. I need to finish assembling the outdoor furnishings.
I love our bar.
So staff start to show up and there is still no water. The elevator still isn't working. Apparently the night before they had pumped water, but couldn't figure out where it went. It had gone to the fire tank. They are now trying to fill our tank, but it needs cleaning or something too. I'm not all that familiar with what is involved with rooftop water tanks as we just don't use them back in the US. I have no idea why the elevator isn't working, it's been being installed since November so there is no logic that I can see in what is holding this thing up. I'm trying to cook the tart pastries but these Chinese ovens, while I'm getting more comfortable with them, are not very temperature accurate and it's taking twice as long as it should for the pastries to cook. The electrician is hooking up some lights, the guy that's supposed to fix our starter on the grill is a no show, I take it apart and light the grill manually.
A view from Behind the Bar
A few more very hectic hours pass and we still don't have water. We still don't have an elevator, but the kitchen is fully prepped, the electrician has wired everything up, and Mike's guys have polished up some of the last remaining interior elements. We still don't have ice for some reason. I was trying to get staff to order it yesterday, but oh well. We get 15Kg, it's enough to fill up one bin (we have 3) about a third of the way. We will clearly need to invest in an ice machine.
View from my favorite seat in the house.
It gets to be a little after 6pm and there's water at the bar. The initial excitement at the prospect of having water is muted a bit by the apparent leaking water in the bathrooms and behind the bar. This being Nepal, I had mentally prepared myself for the fact that this would likely happen. People appear on our floor and start playing with the plumbing. Both bathrooms have leaks, water doesn't seem to be flowing in the kitchen, and there is a pool of water behind the bar. People are supposed to arrive at 8pm. I still don't have order pads for wait staff, and I'm getting phone calls indicating that the guest list might be slightly bigger. In fact people we've invited are getting calls from friends that want to come too. There might be too many people so maybe we'll do a cash bar after 10pm. I try and prepare the staff for this. The elevator is apparently working now.
These signs have been waiting to go up since July
People start showing up and I oscillate between chef mode and host mode. Some time out talking, then back into the kitchen to check on business. Appetizers are easy, just Cajun Wings, Buffalo Wings and Brian's Uber Nachos with vegetarian chili. Still it's the first time staff has prepared things in the kitchen. Remember I don't speak much Nepali and some staff doesn't speak much English, so things can get a bit confusing when it's hectic. First batches go out, and are devoured at a rapid speed. So back into the Kitchen.
There is no Buff in Buffalo Wings...honest
When out talking to people I'm promoting drinks, which means I've had an odd mix of stuff to drink. I had to show the bartender how to work the shaved ice machine, so one margarita down, then it was time to make chocolate martinis for some of the ladies, which I had to taste, and then I promoted the New World Chai (which of course I was drinking too) which is cocoa infused tequila, bourbon infused with vanilla and cinnamon tincture. Luckily it hasn't been much really so I'm fully ready to start making burgers. There are well over 20 people here at this point. My cashier counted roughly 30.
The Coconut tree wall under the skylight
I start the first few burger orders. French fries are in the fryer, grill is fired up, bread goes into the salamander, condiment and topping trays are full and ready to go. Things go surprisingly smooth. Then more orders come in and it gets a bit hectic. I'm starting to sound like every chef I've ever worked around, and I quickly devolve into swearing about bread not being toasted, or telling wait staff to keep their damn fingers off any plates until I tell them to go out to the floor. I'm low on sliced onion rings and I ask someone to cut more. A minute later I'm plating four burgers and my onions are gone. Swearing and rhetorical questions ensue, and shortly after my onions are restored to their rightful place and the burgers go out.
In my kitchen- no whining. Really.
After a hectic forty minutes or so my 25 rolls are used up. No more burgers can be made. I move back out to mingle. Some people are naturals at mingling with crowds and creating light conversation. I'm not. To quote Augustus in Rome "Mother you know I can't talk small." I'm no good at feigning interest in things I'm not interested in, and I don't see the point in speedy conversations that act as nothing but prolonged greetings. That said, this is easier than normal as there are plenty of interesting people to talk to here, which helps quite a bit. One guy tells me he's happy there is a place in KTM finally doing real cocktails. Another informs me that his burger was as good as anything he had in America. Others decide it's time for us to have another round of New World Chais. That drink is really good by the way.
Our first frozen margarita, which I was the happy recipient.
It's getting late. I had told staff that we might go a little after ten. It's already 11am. I go back to the kitchen and we assemble the tarts. People want more nachos too. Tables are moved to make space for dancing. Luckily the tarts are easy to assemble and go out without any problems. I've been up since 6am, and been quite busy and now it's getting to midnight, but I'm more excited than exhausted. It's a good sign that people don't want to leave, but I start letting some staff go, since it's getting so late. Finally sometime after 1am people start filtering out and we start shutting down.
Awesome to have other people enjoy the place.
So we aren't quite fully operational, but we're getting there and we will be doing small groups over the next two weeks before we hope to open around Nepali New Year. It was a crazy day, but lots of fun and I'm looking forward to a few more lime this one...maybe with less hassles from the water and elevator though.