It's been a long, tough debrief of Viand East Four, and we're not done yet.

Lots of details below but there were a couple of major problems:

  1. We have succeeded in becoming an underground restaurant. The result is that we have created expectations in our guests that are inconsistent with our goals. The goals of the Viand, established in January 2007,  are to interest people in sourcing their food as directly as possible from farmers and artisanal producers. And to do this in a context which draws attention to community, encouraging people about the power and pleasure of community and the possibility of community projects. In aiming to provide a high quality alternative restaurant experience as a hook to these goals, we have become more focused on quality, quantity, and timing and less focused on education about the food, education about cooking, and community. We need to re-design the expectations so that people are not buying a meal, they are buying a ticket to a community food experience.
  2. as usual we didn't do a precise food budget. Then were shocked to find we spent 4x as much as ever before, nearly $25 per person, as opposed to $10. Good thing we raised the price from $10 to $25 just one Viand back (VE3)... We don't mind cooking for free, but the 4 days of pre-viand planning and 1-2 days of cleanup are just too much to be doing for free. We did hope to get paid something for that. But we broke exactly even. That's how we used to do it for a long time (or even a little in the red). But our intention was not to do it that way any more, because as it gets better and more sophisticated it's more and more work.
  3. The result: people had NO idea the level and quality of the food they were eating. Most people have probably not ever had cheese that is $30/lb, or wild food (ramps are $9/lb because they  wild and have such a short season). Even the sugar is organic and fair trade. We didn't cut a single corner in this meal (nor do we ever) but we don't convey this to the guests, so we did not enable them to appreciate it or consider its significance.



Ideas for Improvement


• work/trade setup was awesome. we got to hang out with friends and not work so hard. also we had really fantastic, skilled workers! ben and ana did the fish. jim exuded calm. sarah problem-solved everything and kept us on track.

•bao zi! chocolate meringue! seaweed salad!
• glad we had leftovers for worktraders
• fantastic to have a greeter & amuse supervisor. everyone paid!

• new ritual (pasta)

• ben and ana, again! loved ana fixing the menu at the last minute!

• better gantt with service, oven, and stovetop lines

• tags on light controls less stressful, but still a lot of wild light variations.


• oven backup again (must calculate 2x normal cook time)

• amuse wasn't ready on time. could have been a problem for $.

• not taking time to salt before serving

• first work trade shift much more fun (and educational) than second one (mostly cleaning). not sure what to do about this.

• we jumped the salami dish into the amuse spot. this was ok as a finger food, but what it meant is that a major and expensive dish got lost because we didn't walk it, explaining to everybody what it is and what's special about it. that dish had a lot of provenance and educational value, and people probably missed that. so while we often jump dishes due to kitchen backups, it's particularly problematic to jump into the amuse spot, because we lose the presentation.

suggestions for next time

• lots of little maldon salts all over the room.

• make sure to put phone number in confirmation email. someone got lost and never made it.

• put a cover over the light switches near dining room so people can't lean on them.

• reduce cheese quantities. we bought 3.7 lbs, twice what we needed. for 40 people, get 2 lbs of cheese total weight. (but it looked beautiful!)

• assign someone to keep the wine table tidy.