“In cooking, as in all arts, simplicity is the sign of perfection"
Pastiche at the Metro
411 East Mason Street
Pastiche Brown Deer
4313 West River Lane
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The last few months have had us saying goodbye to some wonderful people…
January 7, 2015
The last few months have had us saying goodbye to some wonderful people. I read last night that Branko had passed, at 91, and was saddened by the news. I’d never claim to have known him well, but he celebrated a few birthdays in our restaurant, and his family members have been good customers as well. Angela and I have enjoyed many memorable dinners at Three Brothers, which always included a visit from Branko, and a story or two. His girls would come in to the restaurant and I’d get updates on his health, and sometimes they’d let me make something for them to take home for him. From what I’ve been told, he’d led a great and colorful life; war hero, local character, award-winning restaurateur, and family man.
My old boss Ron Kuhlman also passed during the holidays. I knew him better, of course, and of all the people I’ve worked for over the years, I felt like he “got” me better than the rest. I always worked extra hard for him because he left me alone to do my job, and I knew when I needed anything all I had to do was convince him of it and it’d be there. Actually, most of the time he knew what I needed before I did, and made sure I had it. He was larger than life in most respects; a self-made millionaire, engineer, airplane pilot, builder of championship golf clubs (even though I don’t think he ever took the game up), and I believe most important to him, Dad and Grandpa. I hadn’t seen Ron since leaving The Legend, but his daughter Risa and I have stayed in touch over the years. He had a great impact on my life, believing in me when I didn’t anymore, and he let me work to build things that not only helped me to recover from the difficult years I’d had prior to getting that job, but gave me confidence and made me feel like I’d been part of accomplishing something that was truly special. I’ll always owe him a debt of gratitude for that.
Last fall we lost Angela’s father Ray, or “Newt” as he liked being called by his family and friends. Because he and his wife Bonnie lived in Florida, I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with him, but liked him very much the first time I met him and more as I got to know him a little on his visits to Milwaukee. I learned more through listening to Angela’s stories and her sharing experiences with me. An avid golfer, he played almost every day, and had had a hole-in-one a few years back. We went down to his memorial service and spent a few days with Bonnie at their home, which is a real testimonial to two people who truly enjoyed each other’s company as well as the company of others. Angela gets some of her artistic talent from her Dad, and his drawings and paintings both in his home and in ours are elegant and beautiful. I know she misses him every day, but judging from some of the golf shots she’s hit, and the bounces she’s got, I’m sure he’s up there looking after her and happy that she’s painting and golfing and doing something that she loves for a living.
We’re going back to visit Bonnie, and also my Dad and his wife Karen, soon. We’ll bring the golf clubs, and hope for some warm weather.
Here’s to a good 2015…
My frustration had been slowly building for several years…
January 5, 2015
My frustration had been slowly building for several years, and I’d finally had it. If you ask any of my vendors, I’m pretty sure they’ll tell you that I’m a pretty loyal customer. I like using the best quality ingredients, and feel that the price is worth paying to be able to offer my customers the best quality dinner I can.
I’d been buying spices from a local company for just about twenty years. I first started at The Delafield House, and brought them with me to the Metro, Quad Graphics, three Legend Clubs, and finally Pastiche. A few weeks ago, I was in one of their stores, looking for anise extract for some cookies Angela was baking. This store had an entire section devoted to baking products, and shelves of spices, spice mixes, and extracts. No anise. I waited in line for about ten minutes, behind two customers. The middle-age lady (a weird thing to notice, but the entire company seems to be populated by pleasant, matronly middle-aged women) behind the counter was chatting away helpfully with each and every person who passed as she was looking up prices and ringing in purchases, much like people did in the last century. The lady in front of me was trying to explain why she should be able to use a two year-old coupon to get a free small jar of dried thyme, and I was trying hard to be patient and wait my turn, already about a half hour late for work.
When she turned her attention to me, and I asked about the anise extract, she told me that they don’t carry it and I should try another store which specializes in baking products, and where I’ve gone before and would rather get a double root canal before going back to because their customer service is so bad. Besides, I can get anise extract at any Pick N Save or Woodman’s store. I left, resolving to find another spice supplier.
What that experience represented to me was that the company had gone from a great supplier to some of the finest restaurants in the country to a great retailer to homemakers. Their antiquated practices had made it so difficult that it would take me up to fifteen minutes on the phone to order about 20 items. As a retail customer, you could order from home, online, and have the entire transaction completed before I’d get past giving them my customer number. I couldn’t help but wonder what the thinking was behind the decision to forego wholesale restaurant business in favor of retail. Someone who goes into the store to pick up a jar of spices might spend five or six dollars; less if they have a coupon. My orders were five or six hundred dollars each, probably seven or eight times a year. Why not cater to both?
Someone from the company called me last week to inquire after an open invoice from September of last year. After we cleared the matter up I mentioned that I was no longer going to be doing business with that company because it had just become too difficult. The person said “Ok, thank you”, and that was it.
There are a lot of companies selling spices, and at least one or two other local ones. I’ll find one I like, who doesn’t make it a headache to buy from, and I’ll be fine. More importantly, that experience will make me appreciate my customers that much more, because there are other restaurants out there, too.
Musings from Years Past
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