Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My Dish on Dreaming Big and Eating Well


I told you that our friend is making good on a dream and we were there Saturday at the VIP party to celebrate with him.

CJ is his name and he is a good guy. We met in college, both of us waiting tables at a quirky place called Bombay Bicycle Club -- which wasn't at all like the name implied. (I'm not sure what the name implied.)

I was new to the "joys" of waitressing and he was kind to me, reminding me many times over the years not to sweat a bad tip or an ugly customer because "things always work out in the end." And don't they? That evil assistant manager who made made my life hell...she finally got booted. And once I started seeing the working conditions from CJ's point of view (great hours, good money) it was a pretty sweet gig, and I am glad I stuck with it.

Rumor has it CJ was forced to graduate or face a whole new catalog. So, despite a knockout-effort to keep those sweet college days alive, eventually, ten good years did amount to a Master's in Petroleum Engineering. That's the day job.

The dream was always to run a restaurant. And CJ was doing R&D before he even realized it, working both the front and the back of the house at various restaurants. I remember a project of several months that he initiated to cut food costs without affecting the customer experience or food quality (no college hours involved, folks.) While the rest of us were just "schlepping food," he was taking advantage of an opportunity, never afraid of getting rice under his nails.

So how could I not feel some sense of pride on Saturday at the kickoff party? I saw our little bird fly out into the real world and now he's all grown up. CJ's building the nest he always imagined and he's ready to see what he's made of....if all the planning was realistic, if his chops are ready, if his instinct will lead the way. I'm so rooting for him!

I feel strangely involved, knowing I was there when it was just an idea and nothing more. And now its four walls and a heartbeat. I am amazed by how developed the concept was in his mind all this time. The name, the menu, the food, even the pictures on the wall were all described to me years ago.

Did CJ revise it silently while doing the day job that made this possible? Did he rehearse the details in his mind everyday on his drive home? And where did the patience come from to work on a business plan for years, when he could have surely thrown his hat into the ring sooner?

The Dream is called The Far Seas Grill: casual food, exotic and familiar flavors (OK, so I made up the tag line to help convey the idea.) Its a fusion restaurant that serves up burritos, stuffed pitas, and "mixing bowls" with a little bit of everything. The flavors are inspired by TexMex, Asian, and Mediterranean cuisine and the house signature is a huge made-from-scratch egg roll, (his mom's recipe) assembled in full view as you meander along the counter-serve line. Heaven for a foodie like me, but there's something even the pickiest eater would enjoy. Great prices, too!

Of course CJ has some kinks to work out but even the corporate dynasties started somewhere. And don't you yearn to see the family-run places go up against the Starbuckses of the world and MAKE IT? Yah? Then I'm not afraid to ask you to give 'em a try.

And there's my dish on dreaming big and eating well!

The Far Seas Grill is opening this week in Katy, Texas (Barker Cypress exit.)


Aggie2percenter said...

Awesome write up for CJ! We should definatley get some free egg rolls now. Ken Hoffman's got nothing on you!

Woman Interrupted said...

You mean Ken Schmoffman, that hack!? Gotta go, Zagat's is calling.

Girly Stuff said...

Great write up for CJ. Ask him if I can come pick out paint colors for him.

I love Ken Hoffman. Next post should be from the perspective of a schnauzzer.