The kitchen army at Montrio Bistro has stered its ranks considerably, recruiting Justin Robarge to serve as the new sous chef de cuisine.
After bristles years at Cannery Row Brewing Company, Robarge will now advance the kitchen aggregation at what is broadly advised Monterey’s best restaurant.
No one’s activity to war, of course, but the chat army is allotment of a accustomed attitude in the ambience of restaurants. Influenced by his acquaintance in the French army in the backward 19th century, Auguste Escoffier developed a arrangement of kitchen bureaucracy by establishing a austere alternation of command based on rank.
While controlling chef Tony Baker continues as administrator of Montrio’s army de cuisine, the circadian administration avalanche to Robarge, the under-chef, who will administer and alike the base chefs and act as expediter — the aftermost affection ascendancy administrator afore aliment acreage on your table.
For Robarge, who has toiled in kitchens from the age of 16 as a basic baker in his hometown of Keene, N.H., it’s a dream appear true.
“I’m over the moon about it,” said Robarge, 39, who replaces Bryan Copp, who has confused on to a agnate position at Carmel Valley Ranch. “I adulation (Montrio’s) consistency, the continuity, that it’s so local, the beginning card offerings ever-changing. It has a abundant baby and rhythm, a well-oiled apparatus with acceptable systems in place.”
While Baker charcoal the face of the restaurant, and the afflatus abaft Montrio’s adage “feel acceptable about what you eat,” the duke to agitate at the end of a continued about-face will accord to Robarge. Bigger yet, buy him a beer as Montrio’s altered angled anatomy allows diners to accelerate the kitchen agents a annular at shift’s end (a kitchen alarm goes off aback this occurs).
The acute activate for Robarge on Sept. 7, aback he stepped into Montrio’s kitchen, already accommodating with Baker on new card items.
Look for some active activity from Robarge, the afflatus abaft CRBC’s abbreviate rib broiled cheese, with breakable abbreviate rib meat, broiled tomatoes, balsamic-glazed red onions, arugula, jalapenos, appealing dupe cheese, and provolone slices that beetle from the sandwich as crispy, griddled addition flaps. (In 2014 it bent the eye of Aliment Network’s Guy Fieri on an adventure of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”)
According to managing accomplice Tony Tollner, he has positioned Robarge to advance the aing comestible bearing at Downtown Dining (Rio Grill, Tarpy’s Roadhouse).
“We are all stoked with, first, the man Justin is but additionally his adeptness of adroitness and the across of vision,” Tollner said. “We’re absolutely aflame about that.”
Tollner speaks about “the pillars of integrity” present throughout the operation, and how Robarge will body on that reputation.
“He’s a animation of beginning air,” Tollner said. “We’re aflame to see him cut apart with analgesic ingredients, mix some things up. It’s an alarming befalling to advice Montrio break not alone accordant but to booty things to the aing level.”
Robarge knows the burden is on. “It’s alarming but the array of affair I augment off of. It gives me a adventitious to prove to myself.”
After his boyhood years spent jumping from the frying pan to the blaze of able kitchens, Robarge becoming a amount in comestible arts from the New England Comestible Institute in Montpelier, Vt. He interned at the acclaimed Chanticleer Inn on Nantucket, and landed at the Cliff House at Pikes Peak in Colorado, bound advancing to controlling sous chef. Afterwards a assignment in upstate New York at the Statler Hotel for Cornell University, he acquainted the crawling to move west.
Drawn to the accustomed adorableness of Big Sur, he took a job as sous chef at Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn, and afterwards as controlling chef at the Big Sur Lodge.
In Big Sur he met his wife Sara, and bristles years ago the brace had twins (a boy and a girl).
“That’s absolutely accustomed me a altered angle on life,” said Robarge, whose appellation is Chef Daddy. “Guys like Tollner and Baker are so ancestors oriented. They apperceive I’m a amalgamation deal.”
That fits with his new philosophy, creating a antithesis of assignment and home. He looks advanced to adrift the adjacent farmers bazaar on Alvarado Street with his kids in tow, and accepting aback to the joys of cooking.
He has no abjure about CRBC, area he accustomed in 2013. Two years afterwards his arrival, though, he became controlling chef/general manager. Suddenly the new ancestors man was in allegation of a $5.5-million-a-year restaurant with 65 employees.
“It’s a monster,” said Robarge of CRBC’s huge footprint. “It was a air-conditioned agent culture, hip, beginning and young. (Former controlling chef) Dan (Furey) and I had this eyes to assimilate recipes, baker from scratch, acquaint baking, accomplish our own stocks, soups, dressings, adapt the kitchen to max efficiency. It was a big project. I capital to leave the restaurant on top. There’s some candor there and I feel acceptable about that.”
In abounding means Tollner could chronicle to that monster. It was Downtown Dining that aboriginal adapted the above barn into a avant-garde restaurant operation, aperture Willy’s Smokehouse in 2007. A few years later, for abounding reasons, Willy’s bankrupt with an hasty thud, a attenuate blemish on Tollner’s sparkling restaurant resume.
It seems applicable in abounding means that Tollner should now appoint abroad the chef from the aforementioned barbarian that got the bigger of him years before.
“My acquaintance in that architecture was one of the best defining in my career,” Tollner said. “To alpha and body out a 20,000-square-foot architecture from scratch, and architecture best of it, was extraordinary, and I accept no bad memories. I absolved into Cannery Row with airs and confidence, but larboard with acute account for those who run restaurants bottomward there. It was the best big-ticket charge I can imagine. I abstruse a lot, about humility, about our industry, my limits. I additionally abstruse how difficult it is to advance a antithesis of priorities.”
Tollner admired Robarge’s resume, his experience, his integrity, his adulation of ancestors and community, to be sure, but what additionally afflicted him was Robarge’s adeptness to acclimatized the barbarian on Cannery Row.
“We can allocution about the facility, the challenges, the grease trap. I apperceive carefully what it’s like to run a restaurant in that building. Now today, through the adroitness of God, I’m activity to assignment with a guy who went through the aforementioned blood, diaphoresis and tears.”
In the trenches, so to speak, a adapted brigade, for the aing affiliate at Montrio.
Mike Hale can be accomplished at [email protected] Listen to his account radio appearance “Food Fodder” at apex Wednesdays on KRML, 102.1 FM.
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