Archive for June, 2010

Done

Posted: June 21, 2010 in Trev in LA Boot Camp

Wow. 2 weeks have already passed. I just read through the 200 pages of notes that I have taken, its amazing all of the things that I have done and experienced.

On Saturday Phillip, his wife and I catered a party at a Jewish temple for 400 people. We worked out of a small corner in their kitchen. We prepped for 6 hrs slicing hundreds of cucumbers and avocados and mixing pounds of spicy tuna. It was a great experience for me because when it came time to actually make the rolls we used an assembly line (exactly what we will be doing in Sabi) so I was able to see what things could make things easier in our store and what steps take the most time. We served at the party for a couple of hours. I have never seen people go so crazy of sushi. We had to make more of everything and that still wasn’t enough. Sabi needs to find these people and open up a restaurant in their neighborhood, business would thrive!

Sunday was a day off and I spent it watching the US Open and yelling at Tiger. At night I played with Phillip’s daughters and showed them the secret Ragan Family magic tricks. We late nighted at Subway then watched Kill Bill 2. For the past 2 weeks this family has really opened up and welcomed me as part of the family and has made this experience that much more amazing. I mean think about months ago we saw Phillip on the Food Network, we cold called him to discuss our idea. After a month of discussions we flew him out to Duke for a couple of days. Now here he is letting me live at his house and work in his restaurant for 2 weeks. Absolutely amazing. It was exactly what needed to happen for Sabi Sushi. Now we know how to turn all of our plans and dreams into realities.

This past 2 weeks wasn’t easy at all. In fact it was one of the harder things that I’ve ever had to do. I learned how to live in the grind of the restaurant industry. I was in the restaurant 13-14hrs a day but my mind was on the restaurant 24/7. I was put in situations where I had no clue what I was doing, but from this experience I learned so much: I learned how to work under pressure. I learned how to lead and get the most out of people. I learned how to become part of, and work in a team. I learned how to make rice, slice fish, wash dishes, etc…I can’t thank Phillip, his family, and the Sushi Central crew enough for welcoming me in, letting me be part of the family, and showing me what it’s going to take to actually do this.

Next up for Sabi Sushi:

We are going to pack up and leave Durham at the end of the month. From there we will go check out some possible locations in Chicago for a few days. Then, off to Lander, WY for the 4th of July! (by far the best place to be in the entire world for the 4th of July weekend. We’ll then head down to Colorado where we will set up shop for a few weeks and search for more locations. Shaan will be headed out here to go through his 2 week Boot Camp and Dan will follow.

We are putting in the hours. We are doing the research.. We are training and learning from the best in the industry. Our foundation is starting to come together, and it couldn’t be stronger. Sabi Sushi is right on track.

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Day 11

Posted: June 18, 2010 in Trev in LA Boot Camp

What a great game. And what a great place to be to watch it. The restaurant was too fun. Customers were there but they realized that we had to enjoy the game too. Food was only prepared during the long TV timeouts and at halftime. Craig Robinson was there again and brought a couple of his friends to watch the game. We would go crazy over every play, it was great to be around people that wanted the Lakers to win even more than I did.

It’s official, I am now a sushi chef; last night I completed my right of passage twice. I sliced my finger. The first one I caught the tip of my thumb, the second was a slice right down the side of my middle finger. But this was a great teaching point. Immediately the cuts begin to bleed everywhere but you have orders to make. A band aid won’t cut, because it will fall off when you handle the rice and dip your hands in the water…Behold the power of the finger condom. These little guys were an absolute lifesaver. Whenever you cut yourself in the line of battle just slip one on (remember, make sure it looks like a sombrero before you roll it down, if not remove, discard and try again) and you are back in action in no time.

Sabi will be the first restaurant to decorate finger condoms; we may cut our fingers, but never our style.

Day 10

Posted: June 17, 2010 in Trev in LA Boot Camp

Today I was a sushi chef. I worked behind the sushi bar from 12pm-10:30pm. The restaurant was ridiculously busy so I was constantly making rolls. It was far the best teaching experience I have had so far. Anyone can do something when there is no pressure and they have plenty of time to think things through, but I believe the best learning occurs when you are under stress, don’t really know what you’re doing and have to do everything on the fly. That’s exactly what last night was. I was making rolls that I had never heard of. Phillip, Dino and I were like a sushi making machine as the orders began to pile up. At one point I was making 6 rolls at once while the waitress badgered me to get the order out. That pressure is what you have to love and thrive on. And that is the best way to learn anything.  A lot of “pressure” that people feel in a given task is mostly self inflicted. If you can find away to take a step back and realize that nothing that you are doing in that particular moment is going to make or break the world. By looking at the bigger picture you can get rid of that feeling of “pressure” and just do your thing.  If you are someone who can do this, and in doing so work or even thrive in pressure situations, people will know that they can always depend on you in any situation.

By the end of the night everyone was worn out but from the hectic day. However, there was a table of girls celebrating a birthday. So of course we had to entertain. Out came the saki, and the fun began. It was great to relax and laugh with the whole restaurant staff. After clean up we headed out to a bar to continue the fun. I was talking to a girl at the bar and she saw my Duke ID in my wallet. She screamed and told me about how she is the biggest Duke fan and wanted to marry JJ, you know the whole spiel. Then the unexpected. She turns around and in front of the whole bar she pulls up her dress to show a perfectly crafted Duke “D” tattoo right in the middle of her left butt cheek…what are the odds. I wonder if the tattoo artist felt any pressure when he had to do that?

Day 9

Posted: June 17, 2010 in Trev in LA Boot Camp

Today Phillip and I were downtown at the fish markets at 6am. The place was absolutely nuts. They get all of their fish flown in from Japan each morning. To get the good stuff you have to be there early. For the first hour it’s a free for all as all the restaurant owners battle for the best fish. Phillip and I picked up some salmon, tuna, live sweet shrimp, live miniature crabs, and a couple barracuda. After the fish market we went to some restaurant whole sale stores and looked at pricing of all the appliances that we will be using in the restaurant.

We got back to Sushi Central at 10. Things were a little slow at first and I was just hanging out behind the sushi  bar. I was deep in thought about what uniforms we will wear when we work at Sabi when a big ol dude walked through the door and goes “gimme some miso soup and some suuuuushii!.” It was Craig Robinson, for all you Office fans out there Craig is the one and only Darryl. Apparently Craig is a regular at Sushi Central, he knew each person by name and even had a little joke for each one. Finally he asked “so who’s the new cat?” pointing at me. I told him I was from North Carolina and he cut me off. “Ohhh you one of those college kids trying to start Sabi, Phillip was telling me about you guys.” He ordered some salmon sushi and a spicy tuna roll. I sprang into action on the roll, acting like it was no big deal that a celebrity was sitting at the bar. I was careful to make this one perfect, and I will say that it was one of my top 3 greatest rolls of all time.

After his meal he said “man if ya’ll can serve sushi like this Sabi is gonna kill.” Craig couldn’t have been more right. For the next hour he sat and chatted up everyone at the restaurant and finished up his sushi, what a a great guy. After he left I texted all of my Office loving friends to tell them that I just made sushi for Darryl.

After he left the restaurant slowed down a bit so Phillip decided it was time to test my adventures side. He started off with one his signature dishes live sweet shrimp. Now this doesn’t sound too bad until you realize what is going on. First he told me to go into the fridge and grab him one. I opened the box and saw this 5 huge shrimp floating in the water. I reached in to grab one but he jumped and squirmed away and scared the shit out me haha. Finally after a few tries I wrestled one of the suckers down and brought it out for Phillip. Live sweet shrimp is served in 3 stages:

  1. The brain and liver. Phillip breaks off the head of the shrimp and the brain and liver fall out. He gives the head to the kitchen and puts the brain and liver into a shot glass. He squeezes some lemon into the glass and hands it to me. “Enjoy Trev!” Inside I was scared but decided to act like it was no big deal and I took the shot like a champ. Not bad not bad.
  2. He scoops out all of the meet from the shell and serves it like normal shrimp. Delicious.
  3. Next came the head, with the eyes still intact, back from the kitchen. They fry it up and put it in a soup. It tasted great but I couldn’t get over the little black eye ball staring at me.

After the shrimp he hit me with a some squid. Then a bunch of different kinds of fish. He finished me off with a piece of jelly fish. I felt like I was on fear factor. As we cleaned up Phillip said  “Impressive effort.” I guess I passed the test, we’ll see how I feel later on tonight haha. For now, we will have a little more simple menu at Sabi, it might be awhile until we bust out the jelly fish roll.

Day 8

Posted: June 15, 2010 in Trev in LA Boot Camp

After the day off things picked up full swing. Early in the day two people called in sick so there was only 4 of us to hold down the restaurant from 9am-11pm. It was one of the busiest but most fun days of the trip. Because there was only 4 of us we all had to do everything. At one point I rolled a roll, washed dishes and made a batch of rice in a 5 minute span. By the end of the night things got real busy and I was introduced into the world of being a waiter. I always thought that I would be good at it, but I’m telling you it’s a lot harder than it seems, especially when you have no clue what half the stuff on the menu is. I finished up the night doing dishes and mopping floors.

Learning to work like this is key for what Sabi Sushi is trying to do and for any entrepreneurial venture in general. In a start-up you have to be able to do it all. As a leader you need to know the ins and outs of every last job before you can be in a position to teach someone else. I think this is why there are so many successful entrepreneurs out there. Entrepreneurs are not afraid to get there hands dirty and jump into a task, and at the beginning that’s what it takes. Toughness and work ethic that is developed through the hours and hours spent doing everything yourself will be absolutely necessary for your business to succeed, and when your employees see that you are not afraid to do whatever it takes they become inspired to work harder themselves. Yesterday was a great real life example of this. At one point I looked over and saw Phillip take someones order, start to prepare their meal, realize that there wasn’t a clean dish, wash the dishes, answer the phone, take a to-go order, roll their rolls while on the phone, and then take the food out to the table. So here is the owner of this successful restaurant doing it all. He could have become overwhelmed when his workers didn’t show up, but instead he found a way to make it work, he jumped in and just got the job done. Seeing this I was motivated to do everything I could do to help out.

For Sabi you can bet that Dan, Shaan and I will all know it all and be ready to do whatever it takes day in and day out to make things run smoothly. This unstoppable attitude, developed during our training sessions with Phillip, will be the foundation of our success.

Day 6

Posted: June 14, 2010 in Trev in LA Boot Camp

Day off!

I slept in, walked to the beach and ate Subway. What could be better? Had a conference call with Dan and Shaan back home and things are really starting to pick up on the business side of things. We have some great potential locations to look at in Chicago and around the Denver/Boulder/Ft. Collins area. I think either option will be perfect for our first location and I can’t wait to get the ball rolling. That is all for today. Lakers in 7. 93-87.

Day 5

Posted: June 13, 2010 in Hall of Fame Posts, Trev in LA Boot Camp

The weekends are huge for Sushi Central because people all over LA hire them to come cater private parties and events. Today we had to events to do. To prepare for the madness we were up and in the restaurant by 8am. I scrapped tuna for a few hours and made 8 batches of sushi rice. When everything was in place and ready to go Phillip informed me that it was just be me and him catering the private party out in New Port beach. “Are you ready for this I just need you to make rolls and I’ll handle the rest,” he reached under the shelf and pulled out sushi knife and handed it to me. “Tonight you are a sushi chef,” he said as he handed the knife to me.

New Port beach was about a 45 min drive from our restaurant, which was just the perfect amount of time for me to get nervous as hell. Going in I had no idea what to expect, the only thing that I knew for sure was that 40 people would be depending on me to make their sushi rolls and at that point my lifetime roll count was about 11.5  (if you count the spaghetti and meat ball roll Shaan and I tried to make earlier this year). We arrived at this huge beach mansion and began setting up. Once we had everything out I began rolling, roll after roll I could see my technique getting better. 20 rolls in I felt like a pro and would look around to see if people were watching this sushi making mastery in action, they weren’t. This was by far the perfect opportunity for me to practice and it would have never happened unless Phillip had trusted/allowed me to be in this position. About an hour into the party the host brought us over a couple of bottles of saki that Phillip and I had no problem polishing off.

Catering was too fun. I felt important behind that sushi bar acting like I knew what I was doing. Once the ladies there had a little alcohol in them things got a little nuts. Let’s set the scene. Beach house mansion part. 35 40-50 year old women who act like they should be from Couger Town or Desperate Housewives. Next thing I know Phillip and I are being dragged to the dance floor by a whole herd of these women. We were the hit of the party they would push each other out of the way to dance with us, they couldn’t get enough of the “sushi guys.”. After awhile we were starting to get dirty looks from their husbands who were watching from the side so we decided to pack up and leave before we got jumped. As we were driving home we laughed and joked about our theories about women, life and how to play blackjack. What a blast. It was the perfect way to let loose after a week of grinding away in the kitchen.

Lesson time. As entrepreneurs we have a tendency to get so wrapped up in what we are doing and planning how things will work down the road that we forget  to enjoy the here and the now. Yes you have to set your visions on the future, but don’t forget to take a step back and take sometime to enjoy the present. You are doing what everyone says that they want to do. Realize how lucky you are and have fun chasing your dreams.