Have you ever wanted to walk in the shoes of another person for the day? “Hey Suz, Walk in My Shoes” a blog series Suzanne O'Rourke owner of LocalChatBox.com has started to follow different business owners and people of interest around for the day to learn what it’s REALLY like behind the scenes.
Today, I put on comfortable shoes as it was snowing outside, and I walked in the shoe's of restaurant owner Mario Mangone. Mario has been in the food industry since 1980, when he went to the Culinary Institute of America. That is also where he met his wife, and restaurant business partner, Laura. Before opening Chamber's Walk Mario worked in a French Restaurant in Philadelphia and Laura worked in New York City at the famous Rainbow Room.
Chamber's Walk opened in 1986 and moved to its current location in Lawrenceville "village" in 2001. The restaurant is described by Mario as "A Bistro. We offer consumers comfortable food as well as good quality food." They don't have one style of food rather they focus their ingredients on what's in season. They offer things such as home-made pasta, panini-sandwiches, grilled vegetable wrap, and today's special lunch entree was "Pumpkin Ravioli served with butternut squash in a garlic butter sauce topped withpecorino Cheese for $12".
Today Mario started his day at 4:45 a.m., when he awoke. At 6 a.m. he was at his restaurant preparing food for a breakfast delivery at 7:15am. He then tested out a recipe that he was using later in the evening for a "cooking class." After, he reviewed the daily menu's for accuracy. Then, he prepared the desserts for the next delivery. Mario has a full staff and only does some of the cooking.
A little side note: 9 out of 10 restaurants fail in the first year. 1/10 of the 1% that succeed past the first year last 5 years. It's a tough business, with long hours and there is demand from consumers to create something unique and memorable.
My Day Begins
My day began by joining Mario for several catering deliveries to local businesses in Trenton, as well as Princeton. The food both looked and smelled amazing. Though, lifting the big and heavy crates was no easy task and I'm still wondering how he does deliveries alone. Managing the crates and opening doors was difficult. Mario does have seasonal delivery help, but there are often times when he is delivering the food. All in the days work of a restaurant owner.
After the delivery's were complete we headed back to Chambers Walk where his staff was getting ready for the lunch crowd. There are many different area's in the restaurant including a small upper level seating area, a main seating area, offices for the staff (Catering Department as well as Laura who is busy with Social Media, Bookkeeping and Administrative work).
Next, Mario and I worked on making plain cake donut's for his cooking class later in the evening. On Monday Night's Chambers Walk hosts a cooking class, which typically sells out. Click Here to see their Cooking Class Schedule. During class time guests learn "knife skills" as well as enjoy a private cooking demonstration and "tasting." The space is available for 10 guests and promises to be a fun and exciting evening. The best part is you can be a beginner or seasoned cook.
Mario made donut making look so simple, though I'm self admittedly not a baker. First, we added some flour, sugar, salt and baking powder and then sifted it all in a very big sifter. Then we added cinnamon, nutmeg, melted butter, milk, and eggs. After cooling the dough in the refrigerator we shaped the donuts, cut out the center and then fried them. We then let them cool before "tasting them!"
The Regulars: (Larry and Susan)
After enjoying a donut we went out to the main restaurant to observe a very busy scene. Many customers knew Mario by name. He explained to me that many of his customers are "regulars." I walked over to a table and spoke with one couple as I had heard them greet Mario by name. Larry and Susan Goebel told me that they eat at the restaurant 2-3 times a week. They raved over the home made soups, claiming they are the best in all of Central NJ. They said the reason they eat at the restaurant so often is because Chambers Walk offer's a great variety of foods including daily specials, they cater to their customers, they love their waiter and love fresh quality food. They have been coming to the restaurant since the first day it opened!
CONSUMER TIP! - Here's something that I learned that I thought would be helpful to share. With Valentine's Day approaching, Chamber's Walk does not do a costly pre fix meal, rather they keep the regular dinner and add some exciting special dishes. Call 609-896-5995 to make reservations.
Does the Shoe Fit?
Mario's shoe type was cozy, like a pair of "worn in slippers". The atmosphere of the bistro was cozy, warm and friendly. I felt like one of the regular's by the end of the day and it was like I had known Mario for years. As I told him, he would be the perfect Bed and Breakfast Inn host! He was friendly, his food was comforting, his atmosphere was relaxing.
While I would fit more comfortably into Laura's "administrative" shoes, I truly enjoyed baking and walking in Mario's Shoes. I hope this evening's guests enjoy the donuts I helped prepare!