The lights flicker as the elevator lurches to a halt. Shit. I look down at the artistically plated dishes of dying food in my hands. Shit. “What floor am I stuck on? 13! You have got to be kidding me?” I curse again as I realize my phone is upstairs, where I should be. Shit. They are waiting on two more dishes, the two dishes stuck with me. I balance the bowl on my forearm, resting it gently against my hip for leverage. The other hand frantically starts entering my elevator code into the pad. “Maybe if I enter it 13 times the elevator will move.” Finally, the elevator lurches and I arrive to the 23rd floor.
“Smile, Ali. It’s for the press after all.”
The ten guests gathered in our apartment’s recreation room have the ability to catapult our restaurant or keep it a silent opening. 23 floors below, the construction crew has left for the night. We still don’t have an official opening date more like a hope and a prayer. Yet here we are, surrounded by media.
Typically press events involve cooking a meal that reflect your menu in your restaurant giving the press an opportunity to see the concept before anybody else. This was not a typical press event. Then again our glass top four burner stove in our 600 square foot apartment isn’t exactly a chef’s favorite toy.
Two cooks and our pastry chef sat down in the apartment prepping. Like a playbook at a football game, the crew upstairs was sending text messages alerting the team of the next move. Our cat locked in the bedroom and the dog in her crate, both completely confused why they weren’t welcome at the party. With the restaurant far from open, our living room is moonlighting as a storage shed. The team navigates boxes to get to any free counter space they can find. Our door is propped open allowing easy access to the elevator and confusing neighbors. The fucking elevator! Brittany is holding it open, ignoring the high pitch tone begging her to let the doors close. Let’s face it, this is one of the times you don’t want people to see behind the curtain.
Calmly I enter the “dining room”. Bloggers, writers, photographers all attentively watching the chef in front of them not even twitching at the sound of the door opening. He is chatting about heritage grains, of the importance of fresh milling, and why we chose this path. Soon he will begin the demonstration.
Immediately I am greeted by our general manager, a slight smile as he gently takes the dishes from my hands. Swiftly the plates hit the table and the remaining diners’ phones immediately hover over the dish. Snap. Snap.
I shrink into the sidelines and glance around. Water glasses full? Check. Wine looks like it arrived. I still can’t believe her car broke down on the way over. Finally, wine glasses are full. Over my shoulder our Chef de Cuisine cooly plates the next course and calmly sends a text to the group below. Time for the pastry chef to join us upstairs to plate the cheesecake. Hopefully the elevator works for him. The reps from our PR firm lean against the pool table observing. There is a sense of calm in the room and a current of electricity. Like a debutant ball, this is our coming out party.
My eyes glance to the front of the room. There he is, my chef. His eyes meet mine. In mid- sentence, the corner of his month raises ever so slightly into a smile. My shoulders soften, yeah baby, here we go.