I told you a while ago about being hired to create a new menu for The Union Club. The menu and recipes are finished. The next step involves me working with their staff to launch it. This is the most exciting stage. Seeing my work come to life as the kitchen learns to prepare the new dishes is profoundly intense. The only thing more nerve-wracking is watching the guests as they take their first bite.
When a dining room has featured the same menu for a long time, it’s critical that the new menu transition both the kitchen staff and the dining guests smoothly and deliciously. Like any efficient operation, a professional kitchen has an ordered rhythm necessary to produce consistent high-quality food. Before I arrive on site, I’ve designed the work-flow to ensure that the kitchen staff will have fun with the new menu and not be overwhelmed by it. I’m well aware, that no matter how good the menu is, a disgruntled cook can sink it. I need to have every person in the kitchen own and love the new food. They are the engine of the restaurant; the men and women responsible for delivering dependable, well-prepared, delightful food, day after day.
And there’s the magic…
For my money, a chef or a line cook’s skill level makes little difference, if he or she can’t stay true to the original recipes. I suppose that sounds funny coming from a person who rewrites recipes every day. The difference is when a guest enjoys a particular dish at a restaurant or, in this case, a private club’s dining room, they expect it to be just as delicious the next time they visit. Have you ever had a fabulous meal at a restaurant and then gone back, excited to have the same experience and been disappointed? The menu is calling it the same thing, but whoever is in the kitchen that night decided to put their own spin on it. It doesn’t work – full stop. Even if the restaurant’s chef creates the menu, consistency is critical.
My job is to write a menu that will excite the guests and be worthy of the kitchen’s loyalty. That’s what I love most about what I do. Working with talented cooks, successfully inspiring them to pour their passion for food into the new dishes and so they can knock the new menu out of the park!
Being hired to develop a completely menu for the Union Club was an incredible honour for me. The Union Club is a legendary Saint John landmark housing an iconic dining room. Several decades ago, the dining room was a much coveted foodie haven. Over the years, due to a multitude of reasons, their kitchen fell behind the times. On my first kitchen site visit at the club, I felt I’d walked through a time machine catapulting me back to the 1960’s. Still, despite the culinary generation gap, my imagination went into over-drive! The dining room was full of enthusiastic men and women sharing wonderful food and discussion, the servers happily caring for and anticipating the guest’s every need and the kitchen team humming!
As I wrote the new recipes, I was keenly aware of the members who’ve remained loyal to the dining room. I wanted to create an understated yet eclectic menu that would excite the current membership and entice new members. The grandeur of the building lends itself to all matter of service. Given that this menu will be prepared for lunch, I created food inspired by Maritime tradition with a twist. Not so twisted that the food on the plate will be unrecognizable. Instead, I replaced dried herbs with fresh, looked for interesting condiments, celebrated seasonal food stuffs and had a ball with my plate design. I would describe the menu as handcrafted, honest Maritime cuisine.
The Union Club is not open to the general public. Membership is required. If you’re interested in the club and the new menu, contact general manager, Deb Tremblay at [email protected] or 506-634-6184
The next few weeks are going to be a blast. I’ll keep you posted.
Thanks for reading.