"HEY SUZ- Walk in MY Shoes"
March 6, 2013
Have you ever wanted to walk in the shoes of another person for the day? “Hey Suz, Walk in My Shoes” is a blog series that I 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 walked in the shoes of Owner, Chef and Author, Jim Weaver of "Tre Piani's" located in the Forrestal Village in Princeton, NJ.
A little side note about my experience with Jim: I LOVE to cook, but I am a klutz, so I was a little nervous when he handed me a VERY big knife, as well as when we had 3 pans cooking at the same time with some pretty high flames of fire. My goal today was to NOT cut off my finger or set his restaurant up in flames!
My Day Begins
Jim put me right to work. We went around the kitchen, as well as went to his lower level storage area to gather all of the ingredients for what we were going to prepare. He advised me that we were going to cook four new menu items:
1- Tuscan Seasoned Grilled Ribeye Steak (Gorgonzola-dill cream sauce, fingerling potatoes, sauteed kale
2- Filet of Barnegat Flounder (brown butter, sherry vinegar, capers, arugula and crispy sweet potato
3- Southern Fried Steak Salad (tomato, cucumber, red onion, lemon and olive oil)
4- Gnocchi (kale, walnuts, pancetta and straciatelle mozzarella)
To look the part of a "chef" Jim presented me with a white chef's jacket as well as an apron.
I began by preparing the salad part of the Southern Fried Steak Salad. Jim handed me a fresh cucumber and asked me to peel, de-seed it and dice it. It's a simple task, but intimdating doing this next to an amazing chef. I don't think I have ever used such a big knife (and he took the bigger knife)!
I continued with peeling and slicing items such as: tomatoes and sweet potatoes.
Jim then sprung into action. He worked bowls and pans...and had several different dishes going at once. Meanwhile, I was slicing the sweet potatoes on a slicing machine (praying that I would still have 10 fingers left at the end!).
There was positive, high energy in the kitchen. Many chefs working on different tasks, including both Jim and I. Jim was great at explaining things as we were preparing them.
The Southern Fried Steak he dipped in eggs and flour two times, then he began to pan fry them. He explained how people like "comfort food." He also spoke about the fact that he always listens to his customers. He create's meals based on his customers mostly, not neccessarily based on his own likes.
I asked Jim what his favorite meal was. He laughed and said, pizza is his "dessert island" food. But mostly he said he doesn't have a favorite, if he's at the beach he loves seafood, in the summer he loves to cook with fresh produce, and when he's in the mountains he loves steak.
While we worked, I learned that Jim's first job was a dishwasher at Friendly's. He went to college at Southern New Hampshire University to study Hotel and Restaurant Management. After college he worked at several restaurants and was soon "discovered." Painico's in New Brunswick hired him to be their Head Chef. In 1998 Jim opened Tre Piani's. Fifteen year's later he has created a wonderful dining experience that offer's consumers a fresh Italian & Mediterranean Cuisine.
CONSUMER TIP! - Here's something that I learned that I thought would be helpful to share. When dining out if you see something called "Fillet of Sole," that is the same thing as "Flounder."
Events & Marketing:
Tre Piani's hosts many events at their restaurant. They have three floors of dining which can accommodate up to 300 people. The also offer outdoor seating in Spring/Summer. Their Tre Bar can hold private parties up to 65 people. Upstairs can accommodate 90 people. They host many types of events including: Reunions, Weddings, Showers, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Communions, Corporate Events, Cocktail Parties, Farmers Market Events and more. They can host a breakfast, lunch or dinner. They also offer catering off site.
Social Media is a big part of Jim's success. He spends more of his day behind a computer working on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest than he does in the kitchen. He has a full staff of chefs, servers and wait staff. Jim has also written a book and I was lucky enough to receive a personally signed copy. The book is called "Locavore Adventures- One Chef's Slow Food Journey" If you click on the link you can purchase your copy. Or you can purchase it at Tre Piani's (Just ask your waiter!)
Does the Shoe Fit?
In the end Jim and I sat down to taste what we had created. We had quite a feast. I enjoyed everything!!! I especially enjoyed the flounder as I'm always looking to try a new fish and that was one I had not had before.
I learned today that being the owner of a restaurant doesn't mean that you are cooking all day. Jim has many other duties. I absolutely loved this walk!! Who wouldn't want to learn some new cooking tips from an fantastic chef?
Jim's "shoe type" was hip and fashion forward. His creativity in cooking is a true art.
Thank you Jim for letting me “walk in your shoes” today. Here's hoping that neither of us end up with a tummy ache due to anything I did wrong in preparing our meal! So far, all I feel is full and super happy!