Welcome back to On the House, a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to open a restaurant — or several. In 2013, Steve “Nookie” Postal shared weekly glimpses into his experience opening Commonwealth in Cambridge, and now he’s back as he works to open two cafes (Revival) and a beer hall (Mothership), all while keeping Commonwealth up and running. Keep an eye out for new installments of On the House on alternate Fridays.
Ugh, my life...so glamorous. Like on television, right? Like Emeril. Bamming shit or some fake-ass glamour Chef’s Table bullshit. They should do a Chef’s Table on grinders.
Anyway, sometimes I just have to laugh at the shitstorm I have stumbled into. Answers: Everyone wants them. I don’t have them. Anxiety: Everyone has it. This is nerve-wracking. It’s a Herculean effort. It takes a village.
That blind trust that everything is going to work out is hard; it’s heavy. Heavy shit. Stress. My dentist — what up, Dr. Foley — told me, “Hmmm, you’ve been grinding your teeth.”
I’m like, “No, I haven’t.”
Then I woke up the other day with a super-clenched jaw. I’m stressed; I’ve got a lot going on. I’m fine. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. I’ll tell you what: I am going to Paws up at the end of May. I am going. I have to figure this out.
Sometimes, if I wait long enough, the answers just appear, but I’ve got to be proactive. Ugh, I’m all over the place. Scattered. Need to be more organized, need a regiment, but I’m terrible with schedules. My wife bought me a Trapper Keeper to try to help; I haven’t used it yet.
I guess I try to surround myself with people who are smarter than me or have other qualities that I lack. Speaking again about my wife — and just a pause for a shout-out to her — I basically told her, “Just live our lives like I’m dead, and if I show for anything, it’s a bonus.” So kudos to her for dealing with my three kids, house, family, friends, and, well, pretty much everything. And me, of course.
I have been described as particular before. But we were talking the other day, and she was like, “You know what your greatest trait as a chef is?” I was liking the way this was going, and then she said, “You hire well.”
I hire well. Hmmm. I do; she’s right. The people are what make it all happen. Without the team, without the support, there is no Nookie. There is no Commonwealth. No Crema. No Revival. Mothership is a fart in the wind.
The people: They’re who make it possible. I need them. Their stress is my stress. If they are having a baby and are stressed, I’m stressed. If they are buying a house and are stressed, I’m stressed as well. Call it my management style: Get to know people. Take an actual interest in their lives. Care for them. Be stressed when they are stressed. And hopefully they take care of me as well; it’s a two-way street. I put in what I get out, and I don’t bat 1000.
As far as hiring, if you get four out of 10 right, you’re batting .400 and going into the hall of fame. Four out of 10. I feel like I’m inside of some Danny Meyer book about management and how to sell more salads.
Oh, I forgot — still building two cafes and a beer hall. Beer hall, ha. Mothership is evolving. Timing is looking like fall-ish, but it’s hard to put a date on it. What is it? I don’t know yet, but it’s gonna be fun, ‘cause I’m gonna need to play some damn games when this over.
Revival Alewife is humming along nicely; we’ll have a soft opening in maybe a month or so. It’s gonna be pretty, and I’ve got a pretty cool idea for the menu. I haven’t seen it before — I’m sure someone has done it, but I haven’t seen it, so I’m calling it mine. That’s not quite the way it works, I know, but I’m still jazzed about it.
Ice bin didn’t fit in the counter. No big deal, right? Wrong. Big deal. I mean, it was pretty tight. I thought if we just jammed it in, it would go, but I was outvoted...but I bet it would have fit.
Equipment is starting to show up, and it’s not like just buying a regular stove. One of my ovens, for example, is a giant-ass double rolling rack spiny-type oven. It’s 7,000 pounds and stands 13 feet tall. Her name is Gretel. Previously loved, and someone put a name on her. I left Hansel back in Fitchburg.
We are stenciling the floors because I liked some picture on Pinterest once. Staining a floor is stressful — you’ve got one shot at it. It’s basically like a floor tattoo. My first tattoo, awww. You basically grind it down and polish it, but before you seal, you paint this dye in. You need to make the mosaic pattern or whatever pattern you are making with tape. It took 28 rolls of blue painter tape. Roll it on, and pray for the best. I think I’m gonna love it.
Revival Davis is chugging along as well. We are now 100% fully zoned and permitted and are rolling. Floors are being leveled and resurfaced. New footings in the basement. Foundation getting patched and repaired. New electrical service being brought in. This is the home of the first ever Bertucci’s, which, if you are reading this, I’m sure you read this.
I have the original bocce rules on a board from when there was bocce in the basement. I’d love another piece of old memorabilia from when it started, if anyone at Bertucci’s reads this. And for the record, I like Bertucci’s pizza. It’s pretty good. And I’ve always liked playing with the dough at the table, so there is that.
Anyway, that’s really all I got. I’m fine; it’s all gonna be fine. I’m just being a drama queen. But it is a lot. People keep asking, “Aren’t you excited?!” They’re almost giddy when they say it.
Excited? I wouldn’t say excited. Terrified is a better word, I think. Terrified. Great. This is going just great...