Photos by J. Alan Paul Photography
When it comes to dining, we often glance at a menu, patiently wait with a growling stomach and then devour what is soon placed in front of us. However, many of us don’t quite understand all that goes on behind the scenes and how these delicious dishes get from point A to point Belly. We talked with a variety of chefs throughout the area and let them give us a peek into a day in their lives. Their culinary delights don’t just appear out of thin air and should not be treated as such. Join us in exploring what it really takes to be able to don a chef’s apron.
1545 South University Dr., Fargo
Luna is a neighborhood kitchen and wine and beer lounge. Midwest tastes can be found at Luna with their ever-evolving menu of dishes that embrace local providers and the community. Beginning as a coffee shop, this Fargo staple has since transformed into a full eatery with a menu designed for sharing.
Ryan Nitschke is the executive chef at Luna. He found his way to Luna after being the executive chef at The HoDo for eight years and then being approached to take over and create a kitchen for Luna. What used to be a wine and cheese hot spot has turned to a full neighborhood restaurant thanks to Nitschke. This has allowed him to be able to have freedom with the menu, a cool and lucky thing, he notes.
Running the kitchen of a place like Luna has allowed him to have more freedom and be more experimental with his cooking. “The experimental part of it never stops. That’s kind of my identity, being an experimental cook and a farm-to-table cook,” said Nitschke. “I’m really passionate about working with the farmers that I’ve been working with the past 10 and half years. I cook a lot with seasonality, so the menu changes a lot with that. Whatever the farmer drops off, I cook with.”
Luna has a seasonally driven menu, ensuring that the food available from local farmers gets used at its freshest and most abundant. Being able to work with these area farmers is the backbone of a lot of what Luna does. Being able to keep a rotating menu allows guests to try a variety of different things with each recurring visit.
A Day In The Life
7:30 AM: Internal alarm clock goes off. Roll out of bed brush my teeth, get dressed, and what not. Feed the dog, let the dog out, and let the dog in.
8:00 AM: Actual alarm goes off. Grab phone and check emails and messages. Look over numbers from the previous day, look at the seafood fresh sheet for the day, and return messages to local farmers for orders.
8:15 AM: Review new ideas and concepts for the everyday menu and menus for special event.
8:30 AM: Call in seafood order, specialty food orders, and review other orders needed for the week.
8:50 AM: Head out the door. Maybe grab a granola bar and a swig of milk on my out, sometimes not. Either way that is usually how breakfast works for me. On my way to the garage, pick any flowers and herbs from the garden that might be available for use. Hop in the car and go.
9:00 AM: Arrive at Luna. Look over prep list and pulls from the night before. Add and adjust where needed. Turn the equipment on and begin to set up the line for lunch.
9:30 AM: Maybe grab a coffee and call in any orders that still remain. Get the pastries and breads baking. Get started on prep list in order of priorities. This can include gathering mis en place from dry storage for many prep items. Always trying to keep up with dishes as I go.
10:15 AM: If I am lucky, the seafood order has arrived, as well as, specialty orders, cheese orders and other truck orders have arrived. Put all the orders away. Usually inspect, clean and portion seafood immediately.
10:45 AM: While I am prepping, discuss lunch menu with Front Of House for print.
11:00 AM: Lunch starts. Almost always, orders start coming in right away. For the next hour, I juggle lunch orders, prep, dishes and sometimes late deliveries.
11:55 AM: Help arrives if on time. The other line cook and I continue through lunch rush with lunch orders, prep, dishes etc. Unless interrupted by phone calls or surprise arrivals from vendors, farmers, health inspector, etc., this lunch rhythm continues until 2:00pm.
1:55 PM: Second line cook shows up.
2:00 PM: LUNCH IS OVER! Clean up and put away lunch mis en place. Catch up on dishes and finish any prep items left on my list, while other line cooks continue on with their prep lists.
2:30 PM: Maybe eat something if the day permits. Some days are too busy to bothered by personal nourishment. Try to eat as I go, but that doesn’t always work out.
2:35 PM: Run any errands that might need to get done: Costco, grocery store, A&A, Tochi, farm stand, etc.
3:30 PM: If traffic isn’t too bad and didn’t have too many stops, arrive back at Luna. Put away items and review the minions’ prep lists. Help and/or answer any questions about new dishes and prep. Talk with other managers and FOH employees.
3:45 PM: Try to sit down in office. Review and return emails and other messages from the day.
4:00 PM: Type menu for dinner service, print and add to web page. Meanwhile, popovers are going into the oven.
4:15 PM: If time permits begin reviewing, costing and coding invoices from deliveries to be payed and filed by accountant.
4:45 PM: Team meeting. Talk with FOH and BOH about menu for the evening, answering any questions.
4:55 PM: Popovers come out of the oven.
5:00 PM: Dinner Service starts. Continue office work, dishes and then jump on the line when I am needed.
5:30 PM: Continue cooking on the line through dinner rush, prepping and dishwashing sprinkled in there.
8:00-8:30 PM: If rush has subsided, discuss and form prep list, new menu items and orders for the next day. Some farmers make their deliveries later so they can utilize the daylight.
9:00 PM: Dinner service is over. Grab a beer or head home for the night.
9:15 PM: Arrive at home. Clean myself up. Maybe eat something and have a few beverages. Unwind with the family.
10:00 PM: Menu plan for the next day and days to come, while trying to relax.
11:00 PM – 12:00 AM: Head to bed.
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