Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Return to the Life and Times

Don't be duped.




It seems that we often are waiting for the dust to settle—I'm starting to think that it is wiser to live as if you are the settling dust. Besides, isn't that the sparkly shit that is always suspended in some living room dissecting sunbeam? That's stuff's alright, so why not?

I'm out of the grocery biz and back in the Life. Only this go round I'm on the other side of the window, putting up the food instead of taking it away. Fruition. I'm having a good time back there, learning a lot, and generally taking it all in. Making a career switch near thirty seems risky, but if there was ever a time to do so, it is now.

After nearly five years of hard work from an entire community, we have opened the world's first cooperatively-owned and worker self-managed brew pub. I am on the kitchen team, and work with an awesome group of people with ranging experience and a common dedication to making Black Star successful. Our food is pretty damned good, and our beers are coming soon.

We are currently in our soft opening phase, as we are waiting for our house beers to be available before having a grand opening. I don't think it is technically possible to have a brew pub grand opening without the brew pub's beer. This phase been prolonged due to some minor construction issues, yet this extra time has been a good period of refinement for our kitchen team as we work out a few kinks on the menu.

Since we are a worker self-managed organization, we are completely lateral. There are no positions and the only titles are that of Brewer, and leads for each of our four teams: kitchen (back of the house), pub (front of the house), business (administration), and beer (beer production and selection). It's safe to say that no one has been in this type of work environment (partly because the combo didn't exist, and because working for the Man is the far more dominant paradigm), so we have been working with our established protocols as a base for making it up as we go along. It seems to be working fairly well thus far, and will continue as long as we make communication one of our primary focuses.

So far the hours have been long and the business good. We've done no advertising, yet still have a packed house on the weekends and steady service on the weeknights. We've been working towards presenting our first Irrational Menu (locally sourced, seasonal fare - specials from around here) and have a few special tasting/pairing meals in the works for Austin's First Annual Beer Week (this week).

Local, seasonal produce and proteins aren't only on Irrational Menu, they have a dominating presence on our Rational Menu as well. Other than stock items (potatoes, onions, celery, etc.), all of our produce is local and is rotating. We're right on the cusp of seasons, so we still have some summer hold outs like zucchini and yellow squash and cucumbers around, but are also seeing the slow creep of fall crops like yams, butternut squash, radishes and greens.

The only meat proteins (I say this because we have tofu) on the menu that aren't sourced from Texas are the Niman Ranch beef and bacon, which are of superior quality, and therefore exceptions were made. All of our uncured pork comes from Richardson Family Farms in Rockdale, and it is amazing. We source sustainable farm-raised redfish from Lone Star Aquafarms in Palacios and our shrimp are from the gulf. The chickens and the eggs are from Gonzales. We also occasionally mix in beef from Windy Bar Ranch for our burger blend and chili (broke down a chuck roll yesterday). Also featured are the delectable cured meats from Ben Runkle at Salt and Time. Yum.

Using products of this quality and sourcing is crucial to both our mission and my own peace of mind.

The ship has finally left the port and is on a course straight into the heart of the uncharted waters of cooperation. I'm feeling pretty good about it all. People are excited, and this is, after all, for the people. I've been delinquent in my blogging, yet wasn't inspired nor had the time to put any serious efforts into this. I still don't have the time, but the inspiration is there and I'll have to make the time. Thank you for your patience, as I hope I can produce something that will bring you, at best, moderate levels of entertainment.

Stay tuned.

Folks who Follow this Blog