Opening a restaurant is a challenging endeavor in all aspects. There are always delays, whether it's related to permits, utilities, or funds. New restaurants frequently open with a different cast of chefs than originally planned, since almost everyone in a chef's coat works for metaphorical peanuts and, unless they have a spouse who can pay the bills, can't survive in limbo for long.
When enough red tape has been cut for a crew to finally step foot in the kitchen and test some recipes, it's a huge relief. Once an opening menu has been decided on, friends and family nights are established (more on those in a later post).
Once a restaurant is finally open for business, genuine feedback rolls in. If the friends and family didn't like something, that doesn't mean it should be removed immediately. My sweet corn flan confused a lot of the masses at first, and I was directed to remove it. But I decided to keep it around for another week to see if people, when actually given a choice and were paying, would order it. Turns out the flan has a small but devoted following, so its execution date was pushed back to the actual end of summer.
Unfortunately, one dessert on my menu, the panna cotta, just plain didn't get ordered, despite it being listed at the top of the menu. It's not a bad dessert; in fact it appeared on a menu of mine at another restaurant, and sold great there. People just didn't know what it was, and I had to adapt.
I've admittedly had issues adapting to customers before. I'd compromise and end up stuck with something I didn't want my name on and couldn't remove. So I decided to be a little crafty. Taking a look at the top sellers, which are a tres leches cake and a peach cobbler, made me realize that people saw those names, likely said, "I know what that is," and ordered based on the familiar.
"So instead of replacing the panna cotta with something equally unfamiliar, I made pudding."
So instead of replacing the panna cotta with something equally unfamiliar, I made pudding. Vanilla pudding, to be exact. I'd been wanting to work on pudding recipes for a while, so I seized the opportunity. Three batches later I had my ideal vanilla pudding.
Though many pudding recipes do not include eggs, I like yolks in my vanilla pudding for a little extra richness and color, and for that "French vanilla" flavor. This pudding pairs wonderfully with any end-of-summer berries or stone fruit, but would also be great with most roasted fall fruit. I'm currently serving it with raspberries, a blob of super tart lemon curd, candied lemon zest, and crushed amaretti cookies.
About the Author: Anna Markow is a pastry chef obsessed with doing things that no one else does and giving unusual ingredients their time to shine. You can follow her sometimes-pastry-related thoughts on Twitter @VerySmallAnna.