Thursday, February 12, 2009

Charting the course

Greetings, from Delta flight 2079 to Los Angeles! The last few weeks have seen a return to a hectic travel schedule. I can’t really remember all the cities, or some of the details, but I’ve seen some neat stuff.

Last week I was on the local Atlanta FOX channel, Showtime and the NBC Super Bowl pregame show.

I’ve also filmed some stuff that I can’t discuss much, but will air soon. I shot an episode of Food Detectives with Ted Allen. I participated at NATPE in Las Vegas. My demonstration that day has led to a few opportunities, including reading for a bit as host of a new chef program.

On the cooking front, of course, I’m getting ready for Flip’s expansion. With three cities expected later this year, and up to 9 the following. I just wrapped a dinner at Stevenswood Spa in Mendocino, where chef Patrick Meany is doing some real progressive food. And I’m on my way to meet with two very different groups to discuss a Richard Blais project in Los Angeles.

All of this sounds good and fun. Even typing it is fun and exciting. But, it hit me at some point during this run, that I’m just lucky. And I’m mad about that.

These opportunities just sort of happen. I don’t pursue them. In talking with my wife, I used the analogy that I will share with you now. We don’t know how to fish. We eat plenty of fish. But the reality is that we have a bucket on a boat and every once in awhile a fish jumps in it and dinner is served.

For the most part, we don’t even choose what fish to eat. We don’t get a menu. And the anger sets in when I realize that there are certain fish that I really WANT to eat. But instead of charting a course to find bluefin tuna, we happily nosh on buckets of flounder and smelt. Maybe an occasional cod or striped bass… you kind of get where I’m going, I hope.

Man, some super, high-grade, bluefin sashimi sounds great, doesn’t it?

So here is, a very personal description of that tuna that I seek…

it’s a home in the Bay Area. And don’t read into that so much, people can have multiple homes.

it’s a restaurant concept that incorporates super creative food with the casualness and comfort of your favorite neighborhood spot. And of course I’d like to see that concept happen in San Fran, NYC, LA, or maybe even London.

it’s figuring out what this book is about. Truth be told there are a few people who want to do a book with me and I’m just frozen at the keyboard. I’m never frozen at the keyboard.

it’s a television show that promotes creative cooking to the masses.

it’s having FLIP become an iconic brand.

it’s having Trail Blais develop giant ideas for the way we eat today and finding the connections to make those ideas happen.

it’s a really big fish…

I know.


Scott said...

Richard I am begging you to do a show that shows creative and cutting edge techniques and equipment for the home cook. There is nothing like it on tv and there is an audience.

Louis said...

It's not just luck, Richard.
Who put that bucket on the boat that happens to catch fish? You did!

People create their own luck. That's hard work.

Deanna said...

I'll disagree with your assessment. Part of success is sheer luck, but you've done the work to enlarge your fish bucket.

You said it yourself in the "Chicken & Caviar" post last week. Opportunities abound for those who present themselves well and show respect for others and their craft.

I don't know you personally, but that's one thing I really appreciated about you after watching "Top Chef" last season. You conduct yourself in a way professionally that would make your mama proud. Don't discount how much of the path you've forged for yourself.

Los Gatos Girl said...

Please let it be Los Gatos, Please let it be Los Gatos, Please let it be Los Gatos :-) It's close to San Francisco and Santa Cruz, and we can sneak down to the Monterey Bay Aquarium & swipe a really good fish when the people aren't looking...
Ok, that's a joke. But we already have two Michelin star restaurants here, and we need you. I need you :-)

Deanna said...

I'm a giant dork and should've read more closely before I commented. I see now that you were talking about the quality of the fish. So here's to good fish in your big bucket! :)

biskuit said...

This is a bit of a long winded comment - but some food for thought... at my last consulting company, we had a whole offering for Fortune 500 companies around "Destination Planning" - the gist of it was that if you haven't spent the time to really lay out where you want to be, how can you possibly get there?? That's what you're talking about - but a slightly different analogy (fishing vs. traveling).

It's all about actually thinking through where you want to end up vs. just enjoying the meandering ride with no idea where it's taking you.

So, what's the real playing field, what "type" of trip to do you want to take - are you "competing" against other restaurants (Flip vs. other casual dining options), other "celebrity" chefs (Richard Blais vs. Mario Batali), other "lifestyle" personalities (Martha Stewart!)?? What is the real business you are in??

Then, once you know that, what do you want your diners/customers/audience to think about you, to FEEL about you and your food, how do you want them to actually act (dine every week at your place, use your book as their first reference for cooking, etc.).

Finally, so what's the end result - what will YOU get once you reach that destination?? Fun stuff, whether you're a Fortune 500 company or an ambitious chef.

KristineB said...

Richard, I've been trying to post a comment on your Top Chef blog, but it won't let me, and I had to bust your chops somehow! You wrote early in the season that a caterer (among others) would never win Top Chef. I know it's not over, but with 2 in the finale, care to comment? Really, love your blog, still love Season 4 the best. Hope to try your food someday.

Anonymous said...

Your old friend is very proud.


Wined & Dined said...

If NYC is one of the locations slated for your expansion, you may need to do some proactive trademark and trade name protection. I just read the following earlier today about a "Flip Burger" opening up soon in Bloomingdale's:

(from website Eater)
TONY has the lowdown on the new La Frieda burger joint, Flip, inside Bloomie’s. They write: “If trying on clothes sounds like fun, wait till you try out the burgers at Bloomingdale’s latest food concession: Choose from three different Pat LaFrieda beef blends—hearty (short rib), sweet (brisket) and refined (Wagyu)—or opt for lamb, turkey or veggie, among others. With toppings like a fried egg, chili, Canadian bacon, and multiple cheeses, you can dress that baby up or down—just like the mannequins in the windows.” Status: Not Open. Opening on the 23rd. Bloomingdale’s, men’s lower level, 1000 Third Avenue; 212-705-2993. [TONY]