Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ogres Have Layers

Meet John, Chinese Shrek/Ogre, AKA our Contrator
That's John doing what he does best...chain smoking. That is but one simple layer of John. Underneath that is hair that hasn't been groomed for god knows how many months. Below that, are teeth that a jackhammer couldn't clean. Peel another layer back and you have his enormous pot belly hanging over the top of his jeans that have a pocket ripped half way down his thigh - to which I pointed at and he quipped in Mandarin, "You think you're over budget? I'm broke then." This, my friends, is our beloved Ogre. Even beyond all these layers, lies the core of John, who after much poking and prodding, is coming through for us.

I'll rewind for you guys a bit, we were just starting to pick up some steam with our construction and it seemed like we would have no problem getting things done for our intended soft opening weekend of February 6th/7th. For fear of me weeping like a little girl from how depressing it is to run into even more delays this late in the game, I'm simply going to ramble everything off in probably very poor English and grammar. *Deep breath* We were *this* close to ordering all of our induction cookers from Dipo since we were told they were NSF certified just to find out that they weren't so we were back to the Mr. Induction ones that are backordered and won't arrive till February 4th (yes two (2) days before our intended soft opening), finding out that the plumbing coming into our restaurant was inefficient and we couldn't get a hold of our plumbing engineer to help recalculate everything leading us to have Wayne and Ash go through everything with Virgil from Red Mountain and now we're waiting for the great *cough* City of Costa Mesa to install a new meter for us, our walk-in refrigerator was ordered over a month ago and we still don't have doors for it making it very counter-productive in keeping it cold, our stainless steel hood vents have been in fabrication for over a month now due to the holidays and maybe just all around apathy, our grease trap installation was delayed from the rain storm we experienced last week, Ash and I drove around San Gabriel Valley trying to find an affordable Shabu pot only to find cheap ugly ones and then finding out that the pots are going to be $10 more for each one now and it's going to take about a week to get them, our Point of Sale system showed up on our doorsteps missing a cash drawer, our ABC representative has decided to pull a Keyser Soze on us right as she was supposed to come in for our inspection, the list of setbacks goes on and on (I'm sure you would rather rake your finger nails over a chalkboard than listen to me complain more) but us ramblers have been ramblin' to get everything into place as soon as possible.

Even with all these crazy hurdles, John and his crew has been working hard to get us open by next weekend. It looks like Mission Impossible, but we are all burning the midnight oil during the last remaining days before Ash and I are buried neck deep in meat, pots, water, and vegetables.

Poke John's belly to take a peek at what's been going on with construction lately. We also decided to post some movies of the grease trap excavation, because well, we like big machines making holes.

Bobcat Tearing Up the Blacktop
video

Caterpillar Looking for Dinosaurs
video

I know I said we were going to post up photos of our new staff, but that will be coming soon!


Smoochies,
Len

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Training Day, Part 2

Ash and I have decided to part ways...in regards to our duties at the restaurant. OK, maybe I exaggerated or mislead you guys a bit to bring you guys to the edge of your pneumatic desk chairs. Did it work? Did it? Did it? Oh well, I tried.

After our crash course on all kitchen duties, Ash and I discussed what our individual functions would entail for the restaurant. We came to the conclusion that Ash would focus primarily on the meat slicing and prep while I would focus more on managing the service and back-office. Though we have been (actually, this is a continuous work in progress) cross-trained on each others duties, we both have relatively comfortably slid into our respective roles.

We still aren't quite at where we should be in terms of truly running the big show, but I'm not at all ashamed to say that Ash is kicking some serious tail on the slicer:

Ash Kicking Some Serious Tail on the Slicer

We have to get a few pictures of the meat he's been plating, but it's darn near tear drop inducing. Ash has been getting a good mix of things by watching how Arturo and Satoshi go about preparing, slicing, and plating differently. As a result of this, Ash has developed his own style, technique, and procedures as well as coming in early in order to perfect everything that is involved.

I, on the other hand, haven't been able to put in quite as many hours honing my skills since I have my day job. Still, working 8 AM - 4:30 PM at my soul draining office job and then popping in to work at Shabs from 5:00 PM - 11:oo PM and sometimes later hasn't been a walk in the park. It's been quite an adjustment for me, especially trying to juggle around any free time I have to run my errands, see mi mama y familia, spend some time with good friends, and SLEEEP! As rough as it's been, time flies by when we are working there. Kenny has taught me how to run the waiting list over the last couple of weeks, which is pretty much managing people's expectations and wait times as well as a complicated game of human Tetris (cue theme three (3) on Gameboy Tetris) trying to squeeze in the maximum amount of Shabu lovers given the amount of seats we have available in the shortest amount of time possible while still maintaining a high level of customer service. I always thought it looked so simple, just yell out the next name on the list. Man O man, if it were truly as easy as that.

Making Sure People's Tummies are Smiling

As with preparing the vegetables and kitchen duties, there is so much going on behind the scenes in the dining and waiting areas that no one notices. The way Wayne put it, "Everyone who comes in here is so spoiled. They may have to wait to get seated, but once they sit down, they are eating within five (5) minutes. What other restaurant do you get that?" Wayne didn't mean this in a bad way at all, but he was merely reinforcing that everything we have learned boils (pun intended) down to learning the method and routine for every customer that comes in. Ash and I just have to perfect that, maintain communication between the person who runs the list and the rest of the servers, and keep our customers happy, we'll be good to go!

I Just Like this Picture, it Looks Like I'm Kung Fu Rice Boy
The Two (2) Hour Dining Culprits and Photographers

As always, great seeing you guys stop by for a peek into our chaotic lives. Thanks to Linda and Chandra for taking many unflattering photos of us which I will post in the near future.

Come feed our egos again soon to catch a glimpse of the new staff for Costa Mesa!


Smoochies,
Len

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Training Day

** Not to be confused with the Antoine Fuqua flick starring Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke of the same name. **

About a month ago, in early December, Ash and I started to oil our squeaky Shabu sprockets and began our training. From day one (1), Wayne has stressed to us that we have to learn absolutely everything that is involved in running the restaurant from open to close and kitchen to service. Since he did not want us bumbling around like idiots in the front, we started off in the back...from ground zero. Plus, Wayne only had these large t-shirts that we were swimming in, so we didn't mind hiding a bit from the public eye *ahem*.

Though it was long hours and we had to put in a lot of elbow grease, the first couple of weeks actually flew by really quickly. I won't go too much into detail, but here are some of the things we've now perfected (Yeah, right. The guys who work in the back are exponentially faster than us):

1) Washing stainless steel pots. Yes, this sounds trivial, but everybody who washes has a different technique and rhythym - one person bobbed up and down like one of those girls making lemonade at the Hot Dog on a Stick stands (We'll call him Worker X - who has since been trimmed from the staff for underperforming. Lesson learned, no matter how laid back of a boss you are to your employees, they have to respect you and their work).

Scrubby Scrubby Scrub Scrub

2) Washing and prepping vegetables. You can't imagine how much potential "food" gets dumped because customers expect the highest and freshest quality plants on their plate. Ash and I have been toying around with a few possible recipes for some stews which we may donate once or twice a week to soup kitchens, the animal shelter, and/or any other organizations that can benefit from perfectly edible, yet offensive looking vegetables.

Ash the Cabbage Picker

3) De-veining (*cough* de-shitting) shrimp. It was a mess. When is feces not a mess?
4) Massaging and rubbing giant breasts...of chicken.
5) Chopping and plating vegetables. This was the hairiest of all hairies. The way the workers arrange the vegetables, they look like little sculptures on display. When we first tried, Ash and I were infinitely slower, while the plates looked infinitely uglier. With some more practice, we started getting quicker and our plating, if I may say so myself, looked only a bit unattractive.

Not as Easy as it Looks

God, Look at My Hair. It has Since Been Repaired

This is a very condensed list of what goes on in the back. I never realized just how much work goes into making those little nine (9) inch plates of vegetables look so magical. There is no wizard in the back waving his wand around, just a bunch of very hard working guys who made time melt away with their humor and happy-go-lucky attitude. The crew, for the lack of a better description, really does work like a well-oiled machine. Hi fives go out to Sabino, Ricardo, and Oscar and an "Adios" to Worker X.

Check back soon for an update on the divorce of Ash and I in the drama filled sequel to Training Day.

Smoochies,
Len

Friday, January 2, 2009

BOBA - Blog On Blog Action

Let's start this off with a big HAPPY NEW YEAR! My new year's resolution is to put in an honest effort to try and update this sucker more often (fingers crossed). Things have been absolutely whirl-wind crazy lately, though, so please accept my sincerest *cough cough* apologies if you feel neglected. I still love you...yes i do, YES I DO...ISHUBUBU there there.

Some...scratch that, most of you have probably picked up a copy of the OC Weekly some time or another to check out new restaurants, upcoming shows, yadda yadda yadda. Some of you might have even hopped on to their site and poked around a bit. My old friend and fellow blogger, Ed Wu, happened to be bouncing around on the OC Weekly food blog and...wait for it...wait for it...came across an entry about us! If you're interested *shaking fist at face* take the leap on over and check it out here:

http://blogs.ocweekly.com/stickaforkinit/things-to-look-forward-to/california-shabu-shabu-to-open/

The blog is pecked out on keyboards practically daily by Edwin and Gustavo. For all of you closeted and outed foodies out there, do yourself a favor and drop on by their blog. There's an ease to their writing, almost as if they were friends telling you about the restaurant they tried last week or ranting about how terrible service was during a night out. Guys, if you're out there and are reading this, slap me at leonard@californiashabushabu.com, we'd love to extend an invitation for you guys to come out for our grand opening which should be coming up in (oh please oh please) about 3-4 weeks.

A few of you guys know that Ash and I have been putting in some ridiculous hours lately training at Wayne's shop in Fountain Valley. Some of you have swung by to partake on a tasty meal and throw a few back with us while we're out on the floor. One of you even came just to see me hustle and to point and giggle at me (YES YOU, LINDA). We've had a few photos of us snapped while we have been schooled by headmaster Wayne and will post them up for you guys soon!

It's been a rough few weeks, Ash and I are heading out to Mesa tonight for a few drinks. Anyone want to buy me a Kettle Tonic and tell me everything's gonna be all right?

Smoochies,
Len