Developing a Restaurant, David Debacco at WVRC on Feb. 22nd
February birthdays were noted, and first up was LEO TSENG, on the 3rd, in Hong Kong. DORIS GREATHEAD liked the 7th, in Chariton, Iowa, and next was LENNY FRIEDMAN, on the 8th in Chicago. ART HENRY became available on the 11th in Cambridge, MASS, and KEVIN KOMATSU followed two days later, on the 13th, in nearby Fullerton. PDG BILL GOODWYN jumped ten days, to the 23rd in Louisville, and DONN CONNER closed February out on the 25th, in Tulsa. We sang, and they all autographed the birthday books we supply to the Westwood Library. RAY ZICKFELD reminded us that there’s another birthday coming up, for a former long-time member, BRUCE HARRIS. March 5th is his day it’s only his 90th! and cards would be appreciated but no phone calls, please. As you may have heard before, none of us does as many nice things as we could here’s your chance to catch up, please.
GEORGE COX led the Pledge, followed by that excellent duo of LENNY and PP JIM and JIM brought his keyboard along. The song was You’re A Grand Old Flag. PDG ANDY ANDERSON gave the Invocation, preceding it by some time comparisons with how things ‘used to be’. There was a time, believe it or not, when such things as panty hose, credit cards, dishwashers and electric blankets were still unknown. Cigarette smoking was mentionable, and aides were students who helped at the office in high school. We even didn’t sleep together until we were married but we still got along. “May it be your will, our God, to lead us on the road to Peace…enable us to reach our destinations, keep us from harm and mishap on the road, and grant us compassion. May you hear our voice in prayer” and the audience supplied the AMEN! Nicely done, ANDY.
ED GAULD came forward to speak about our house building in Tijuana on Saturday, March 24th. As noted by ED last week, this will be a one-day affair, driving back and forth to Tijuana and building the house while there. It’s limited to twenty, both Rotarians and Rotarctors, and they will probably just take three vehicles. You may recall that the concrete pad will have been poured, and the building starts upon arrival. It’s an excellent hands-on program, and ED has all details. Please call him right away.
SHERRY DEWANE had a guest, Mike Pomerantz. His son, Howie, is the contact person we are routing things through in Iraq, and Mike provided some excellent background. Howie is 39, has been in the Army since he became an adult, and Mike read us excerpts from some recent emails. There are about 50 to 60 men and women in his unit, and as he puts it, compared to Somalia, “Iraq is a lot more dangerous, since they keep shooting at you.” They may have enough peanut butter to start wrestling matches, even though the crunchy bits can “hurt in the wrong places”. Howie is a staff sergeant, and they do maintenance and repair on large vehicles. The other day one of their recent adaptions was hit by an IED and no one inside was hurt! That kind of result is a source of great pride to his unit. They are most appreciative of what WVRC is doing. Many of you have provided materials, and for those who need a list, SHERRY has them just ask. And a rare confession from YOE I haven’t sent anything yet, but I will and I really can’t imagine anything more important right now.
PP DON NELSON introduced his Special Guest, Tom Barron. As DON pointed out, Tom does good work since DON trained him! Welcome, Tom and we won’t hold against you whoever that guy was who introduced you. SEEMA PATEL brought Katia Vaisberg along, and they announced the following. On March 3rd, Saturday, UCLA Rotaract will be volunteering at the LA Food bank where they assemble food packages for homeless people. On March 11th, Sunday, they will prepare and deliver chicken soup and other food to people suffering with HIV/AIDS. The hours start at 0730 until 11:30 for preparation, followed by delivery. If you wish to help, SEEMA is at email@example.com
ANN SAMSON and SHANE WAARBROEK were invited forward. MIKE explained that SHANE would present ANN with our annual support check for $1,000, and then thanked ANN for all her help with the PLLUS program. She received a nice round of applause. ANN then updated us on some recent Westside Family YMCA activities. Since the LAUSD no longer provides PE Instruction, the Y has stepped in with a program designed for these kids. There are eight classrooms at the Brentwood Science Magnet and another three classes at Nora Sterry Elementary, most of them from low-income families, and all of whom are bussed in daily. These kids, believe it or not, have never had the opportunity to participate in organized games. The cost is estimated to be $100,000 for this year alone!
WE of course all know that Prexy MIKE can be sneaky and he pulled off a good one today. He invited FLORENCE SAMPSON to join him at the podium, and then proceeded to ask her a bunch of questions: “Tell everybody here your name, please” She did so, and he asked what she did for a living. Business Management. For how long twenty years. And your office is where at Sepulveda and Ohio. He asked about her parents, who are now deceased. Did you grow up in LA? No, in NY and she came to LA in 1976. What do you do in your spare time? Read novels, watch TV. Are you married? Yes, for 25 years to Bert Tigerman AND NOW, this has been FLORENCE’S Craft Talk! MIKE then asked if there were questions. Do you have children? Yes, one biological, and two stepchildren. Who sponsored you. ELLIOTT TURNER and CHRIS BRADFORD. Where did you go to School? Long Island and NY City. PP MIKE NEWMAN asked if she had ever tried to manage ELLIOTT TURNER, and she of course said no, he was impossible. This caused ELLIOTT to ask, what did you do in New York? She ran a dog training school. SO there is more than one way to skin a cat, and this sneaky approach worked! You are now official, FLORENCE SAMPSON.
ELLIOTT TURNER provided today’s joke, entitled Southern Charm. Two well-dressed ladies happened to start up a conversation during one of those endless waits at LAX. The first one was an arrogant Southern California woman, married to a very wealthy man. The other lady was a well-mannered woman from the South. The conversation came around to children. The first lady said, “When my first child was born, my husband built a beautiful mansion for me”. The lady from the south commented, “Well, isn’t that precious”. “When my second child was born, my husband bought me a beautiful Mercedes Benz.” Again, the woman from the south commented, “Well, isn’t that precious”. “When my third child was born, my husband bought me this exquisite diamond bracelet”. Yet again, the southern lady commented, “Well, isn’t that precious”.
The first lady then asked the southern lady, “What did your husband buy you when you had your first child?” “ My husband sent me to Charm School.” “Oh my God, what on earth for?” The southern lady responded, “Well, instead of saying who gives a crap, I learned to say, Well, isn’t that precious?” Prexy MIKE then lamented, “I think he got applause. But ELLIOTT, for standing us up last week, that costs you twenty bucks”.
Before I get to the Speaker, I just got the following request. Our former member, PP JIM EDWARDS, who lives in San Diego, would like to know if you will be going to the District Conference at the Bahia at the end of April. If you are going, please check in with JIM at (858) 487-9457.
SHANE WAARBROEK introduced our Speaker, David Debacco. David graduated from Carnegie Mellon University, then moved to Washington DC. In order to support his budding career as an artist, he embarked in the restaurant business. He was fortunate to begin work with a well-known Austrian Chef. When he moved to New York he started to work for the Sign of the Dove, which received its 3rd star from the NY Times that same day. Then he moved to the Peninsula, and was introduced to Asian cuisine. His next stop was Japan, writing for several newspapers, and then coming back to Japanese cuisine.
He has had a seven-year connection with Nobu Restaurants, and returned to the US after 9/11, opening several restaurants in the States. He created Geisha House in Hollywood, which has been a big success; and he now is the Director of Service for Social Hollywood, which used to be the Hollywood Athletic Club, located on Sunset Blvd.
David began by stating that he comes from the world of Hospitality, where your smile is the foundation for your business. He noted a big New York restaurant that always has a bushel of apples, or in-season pears, at the entry you can get a fragrant smell right away. He noted that in New York he was tasting the best food ever with the exception, of course, of his Mother’s! One of the advantages of being a writer is that it allows him to identify himself as an artist. If you are an artist, you simply can’t run away from being one. And yet he was feeling burnt out but at that moment he was hired by the most famous Japanese Chef in the world, Nogu Matsupisa.
He began traveling all over the world, opening Nogu Restaurants. He lived in London, Paris, Milan, and Tokyo. Ten years later, Nogu is still the hardest dinner reservation to get in New York City. Movie stars became his friends Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, and Nicole Kidman, to name a few. Prime Minister Tony Blair decides to bring his friend, Jacques Chirac to dinner at Nogu in London. Princess Diana, the King and Queen of Jordan, Elton John, Mick Jagger it’s an exciting time. David pointed out his right hand, which had shaken the hand of Mohammed Ali.
During this journey, he learned how to create a brand, how to produce it, and how to maintain it. Two years ago he moved to LA to open Geisha House, and the first thing he did was to visit other restaurants that might be his competitors. And wherever he went, nobody made him feel special. But as he trained his staff, they were to make every man think he was Brad Pitt and every woman was as beautiful as Angelina Jolie. He promised them that if they did this, they would make a lot of money the tips would grow. Look at the name on the Credit Card when you present it, you can then say, “Please sign here, Mr. Whatever” The media began noting the service that was always demonstrated David feels he has changed the level of service here in Los Angeles. The employees were happy, because, indeed, their tips did grow. The owners were happy, because their venue was packed every night.
So you combine that simple philosophy with great food consistent food plus location and you have a winning result. With the huge acceptance of Japanese cuisine, it makes financing easier to get. And it always helps if Robert DeNiro, or Leonardo DeCaprio. just happens to own some of the restaurant. Wolfgang Puck has just hired Richard Meyer to design his new restaurant design does matter. But of course if you can discover these key people before they are famous, your rates are a lot better. You need to hire and nurture people at an early stage in their careers.
Lets not forget the most important person the Chef, who will prepare the food. Keep your eyes open for the up and coming. Remember that Chefs are now of movie star quality and when you give a relative unknown a chance, you will get his personal best.
He feels that the Opera world and the Culinary world are similar they both have prima donnas, who need to be handled. The number of times he has had to work to get the chef to perform in time to open the restaurant is huge. Of course, you also design the menu, compute the costs and thus the profit margins. Advertising is important, and certainly necessary but the real determining factor is what the media reports about your venue. So you must get a buzz going, well before you open. You do this by hiring a really good PR company they are worth whatever it costs.
He gave an example of a party they held months before the Geisha House opened. There were 600 invited guests, plus 200 media people, and the sponsor was Victoria’s Secret. All the models had angel’s wings, and of course they were wearing Victoria’s Secret Lingerie! Geisha House paid for everything, of course and the payoff was they had 17 TV cameras reporting it. That’s how you create a buzz! And in addition to everything else, it made the staff proud, and excited. His final bit of advice concerned the next time we visit a restaurant. Be sure to smile, be polite, and friendly remember, the service people love to serve those who welcome them.