Big, major announcement! ZOMGreally!

2010 is shaping up to be a busy year. Among the several things I have to announce is a career change. See, I’m currently employed by unemployment, having lost nearly all of my freelance gigs in 2009. In the next few weeks, though, that’s gonna change, assuming everything proceeds as planned.

Here’s the announcement: I recently agreed to become the bar manager of a new restaurant. My hobby is about to become my profession.

The restaurant is called Cook & Brown Public House (there’s a website, but it’s pretty skeletal right now), and it’s opening on Hope Street in Providence in late February. The owners are a young couple, Nemo and Jenny Bolin. Nemo’s worked at Craigie St. Bistro, No. 9 Park, and similar places in the Bay Area. His sous chef just finished a stage at Gramercy Tavern. Nemo envisions a menu that changes daily, sourced from local, seasonal ingredients. They’ll be breaking down primals and whole animals, and Nemo’s planning to work with Farm Fresh RI‘s farm-to-chef program, which supplies local produce to restaurants.

For the bar, he envisions a small cocktail menu, also with a seasonal focus, using house-made tinctures, syrups, bitters, and sodas. As bar manager, I’ll stock the bar, create cocktails, hire a backup bartender, talk to suppliers, and take care of the more mundane aspects of running a bar.

(As an aside, I’ve been wanting to tell Camper English how closely I’ve followed the discussion on his post, “Why Can’t I Get a McDonald’s Hamburger at Chez Panisse?“, but until recently, I couldn’t say much about the new gig. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to serve people who ask for cosmopolitans, rum-and-Cokes, Bud Lights, and so on.)

You may be thinking, I don’t recall Dietsch mentioning ever working in a bar. You’re right, I haven’t. I haven’t actually worked in food service in any capacity since college, too many years ago. So, why me? How’d I catapult to the top? Nemo subscribes to Danny Meyer’s theory of hospitality–that most of the battle is about hiring people who have it, and then training them on technique, so his idea (and time will prove him right or wrong) is that he’d rather bring in someone passionate about cocktails and then let that person grow into the job of bar management.

I’m lucky in a way. The Cook & Brown space will be fairly small, seating about 50-60 people. We’re hoping that a good night, when we first open, will see about 50 plates of food go out. Even if all 50 guests order cocktails, which isn’t likely, I’d be mixing about 50 drinks a night. Some of you who tend bar do that in half an hour or less. Realistically, I’ll probably only mix half that number a night, when we’re starting. So I don’t expect to get weeded.

I know this market, and I’ve dined in other local restaurants that cater to it. You don’t often see drunken people misbehaving at them. I’m sure it happens, but this won’t be some dive or college bar. So I shouldn’t have to break up fights or cut people off on a regular basis.

I know this job will be about more than mixing drinks and offering bon mots in a cool setting; I don’t want anyone to think I’m naive. I’ll have chapped hands daily from all the running water, and they’ll probably get cut up even more often than I already expect. The hours will be long and seem longer as my 41-year-old back and feet adapt to a torso that’s upright all day.

The hardest part is that I’ll be away from my wife all day. When the restaurant opens, I’m committed to being there every day it serves customers, for the first few weeks, until I know the bar, the clientele, and the food. At that point, I’ll bring someone in to cover a shift or two a week so I can have a break.

But for Jen and me, our lives will change. She’ll still leave the house before 7 every morning to get to Boston, and she’ll still come home just before 7 every night, but the difference is, I won’t be here. This will affect her blog, and she’ll weigh in on that herself soon, but more importantly it’ll affect our marriage. Luckily, she has a standing invitation from the proprietors to come up to the restaurant and have a meal and a couple of drinks. They want her to be part of the family, and they want the restaurant to be part of the community. Jen’s such a strong proponent of the local food scene that just having her on hand could be good for business.

And this change will affect this blog as well. One thing I’m seriously hoping to do is document the process of opening a new place, from the p-o-v of a newbie. Taking this on is a challenge, but since I am so passionate about it, I’m hoping it’ll be a fun one. At times, it seems pretty intimidating, but there’s one thing that stays in the back of my head. I’m unemployed now, and my benefits are close to running out. It’s been a hard year as I’ve applied and applied for jobs with no result. I have very, very little to lose here, and potentially a very lot to gain.

Here’s to the start of an exciting ride, and I hope you all have a great 2010.


28 thoughts on “Big, major announcement! ZOMGreally!

  1. Congrats, Mike! Eager to lend this 47-year-old back and torso to whatever role you see fit. Passed eTIPs at 92%, btw. 😉

    You deserve every bit of this terrific opportunity, and I’m looking forward to every aspect of it!


  2. This is so exciting! You are going to have a blast! What a great opportunity.

    Very nice that they’ll let Jen come for dinner or a drink—I think you’ll see each other more than you expect. And having a night or two apart isn’t so bad (this has been my arrangement with my husband for a few years now, since he goes to school in another state.)


  3. That is really great news. I am really hoping you’ll have time to do those POV posts as it will be great to learn with you.

    From what I’ve seen of Jen and your relationship, it seems that you’ll be able to weather the stresses of this change well. Frankly, the fact that you see the challenge puts you a step ahead.

    Congratulations again and cheers!


  4. Michael, that is awesome news. I’m jealous.

    I would think that J-Mo would have some good insights for you on getting the beer’n’shot crowd into cocktails. And if you’re interested, there’s a bar owner here in Orange County that’s been working on doing the same thing, and I’d be happy to hook you guys up for a conversation.

    Good luck, and be sure to give us lots of regular updates!


  5. Congrats! This news is wonderful. I adore Craigie and No. 9 Park. We’ll have to visit when we’re in that area. I’ll also tell my family in the south shore to pop in as well since they’re just down the street from Providence and appreciate fine eats in town.

    Also, my man and I have been dealing with the opposite schedules for almost six years now. He’s a bar manager and I work the 9-5 shift. It’s never easy. When you have a strong foundation and understanding though, then the change makes the time you do spend together much more valuable. Best of luck with this job. It sounds like an amazing opportunity to take your passion to the next level. You both take care!


  6. Ho, ho, ho… Boy, I can not wait for this. I was lying underneath the bar this morning at 7:30, lying in last night’s mop water and changing rope lights. Welcome to your new life.

    Seriously, though, you’re gonna do great. And, if by chance you actually enjoy it, then you’re in for a really great life. I’m thankful every single day that I actually get paid for my hobby.

    Welcome to the family.



  7. Congrats, Michael! I like the owner’s philosophy and am certain you’ll shine. And, as someone who spends a lot of time on Hope, and who looked on in dismay as they opened another Honeydew and now what looks to be another mediocre pizza place, I am *really* excited about this restaurant, and your role in it. Yes indeedy! You can count on us to order a drink or six.

    When does it open and where on Hope exactly?


  8. Congrats Mike!!!! I hope you’ll still be able to turn up at farmers’ market now and then. The bad news – you think the bar won’t bring it more than just diners when the word gets out about your cocktails? Ha ha…


    • Thanks, everyone! Couple of things.

      Man, that 2 looks ugly as a drop cap.

      Morgandollar, I’ll probably be hitting you up for advice. Chris Amirault tells me that Clyde Common is a pretty similar place to what Cook & Brown’s going for, so your advice will help.

      Camper, yeah, that’s gonna be interesting.

      Matt, I’ll probably take you up on that.

      PVD people, I don’t feel comfortable just yet talking about the restaurant’s location, publicly, because the establishment we’re displacing is still open, pending transfer of the liquor license and the closing of the final contract. I’m excited about the location, though, so I hope to say something soon.

      Let’s hope this list works. (I guess that’s a No on the list.) Also, I guess this is more than a “couple” of things.


  9. Mike–Congratulations! I’m sure you’ll feel your way and get into the rhythm soon enough! I imagine the owners would want to turn the tables at least once a night and serve 75-100 dinners, to make some money! You’ll be making some cocktails, for sure. Get some hand cream, my friend! With Jen coming in now and again for dinner, the separation will feel less extreme. I have great friends with a very strong marriage—he’s a bar manager and she’s a 9 to 5 er. Having some time apart has been good for both, to develop other interests and nights out with friends. It’s all good!! If I get to Providence, I’d love to try one of your tinctures 😉


  10. That’s great news!

    I’m psyched for you… and speaking from a place where your job consumes your life it’s definitely has it’s ups and downs… but nothing beats doing something you love for many hours a day.

    The marriage management is tough – definitely have to take a long term view. It’s the only thing that keeps me sane in the friends and family department.

    If there’s anything I can do to help please let me know. I’m here for ya!


  11. Really? Have cosmos jumped the shark that much? Oi. As a cosmo lover, is there another drink you would recommend that wouldn’t make me lose my epicurean cred?


    • Stella, a well-made Cosmo actually can be a good drink. I think the problem with them is that so many people have had poorly made Cosmos that they don’t know what a good one tastes like. Also, they’re so popular, thanks to that one teevee show, that they’re over-ordered in many bars, so a lot of bartenders are just sick of making them.


  12. Congrats on this totally exciting adventure! Farm Fresh is looking forward to working with you as well. Feel free to email me or Hannah with any questions. See you at the Market on Saturday.


  13. Well Done, Sir. Excellence and perseverance pay off. Such great news.

    Last Night’s Dinner…well, girl’s got to eat, doesn’t she? 🙂 Speaking from experience, I still loved to cook for me, when it was just me. I was such a good audience…

    You’ll be fine, the two of you, and probably get to know and appreciate each other in a whole new way


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