Welcome back to a special, weekly ongoing series of Eater column On the House, in which former Fenway Park executive chef Steve "Nookie" Postal shares his experience of opening two Cambridge restaurants: Commonwealth and Steinbones. Here's part nine.
A little bit of an up and down boring week. I have never been to so many "meetings" in my life. I actually got into cooking cause I didn't want to go to meetings. It's funny, I'm actually kinda of a little embarrassed how I got in this business. All the top chefs have these amazing stories on why they became a chef. It was the first slurp of an oyster in Brittany or it was churning butter with my grandma on the farm or?basically, I didn't come from a food family. We liked food, but a good meal out was to TGI Fridays. I remember meals growing up like a whole head of cauliflower, boiled, and then a slice of American cheese laying over it.
So I went to college and got my degree in economics. For my graduation present, my mother was going to buy me a suit for my interviews. I was standing on the platform in front of the mirror and the tailor was doing whatever it is that tailors do, and I said to myself, "I hate dressing up. I don't want to do this for the rest of my life. What is a job where I will never have to dress up or go to meetings?" Next day I called a bunch of culinary schools, and two weeks later I started at Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. I haven't stopped cooking since.
I signed the lease on Friday. Kind of a huge deal. It's been a done deal for some time, but now it's a done. No getting out now. I'm on the hook for a ton of money. If this baby fails, I'm up shits creek with a turd for a paddle. But it was super anti-climactic. I was expecting balloons, confetti, cake?nothing. Absolutely nothing at all. They did take me to lunch, Firebrand Saints (it was good), but I don't know, I expected more. Whatever. I'm a big boy. I'll handle it. Now time to get cranking.
Opened my bank account with Cambridge Trust. Great bank and great people so far. They gave me this little Jack Baueresque key ring where my password changes every 30 seconds so no one can steal my money. I have to admit, it makes me feel pretty cool. And now I have to learn the Staubinator way to keep books. Like I said, I have an economics degree; I have been around balance sheets and numbers quite a bit, but I just wanted to do it the right way. So Staub walked me through, step by step on how to keep my books. First thing he says to me, "So you balance your checkbook at home...right!??" I said, "Ummmmm, not really," and he's all like, "All right, now I know where we are starting." I hate disappointing him?
Getting closer to locking down the FOH market managers. Third interview tomorrow. By the time this is published, it will have been decided. I think it's going to work out. Had a great meeting today at the site, laying out the plans for the next couple of weeks. Hoping to go to permitting first thing next week. That puts us at three-four weeks 'til we start construction. Big decisions are being made now. Table size had to be made today. I think we need larger than normal tables as everything we are serving is family-style, so it needs to go in the middle. 24x30, 26x32 or 26x36??? We picked the one in the middle; that's usally the safest pick. We lost two seats, though, which is a big concern; it puts us at 68 seats in the dining room. Crazy to think you would have a 6500-square-foot space and only 68 dining room seats, but that's all that fit. We have a bunch at the bar. Private dining room that seats 22. Chef's table for 10, practically in the kitchen. 18 seats for the market. And an Italian-style coffee drink rail. Ohhh, and 60 more outside for dining on the Charles river. Damn, this place is big. I really only wanted 3000 square feet, but I loved the outside dining on the water. It sold me. People love eating on the water, and yet oddly enough, you can do it in very few places in the city. Anyway, that's it. Not the best post, but this is a true and accurate story, and, well, some weeks are, well, boring. See ya next week?