Thursday, September 2, 2010

Robin Murphy of Baileys' Chocolate Bar, Rooster and Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar

Posted By on Thu, Sep 2, 2010 at 8:00 AM

Page 2 of 2

"We were entertaining the idea of a new space where we could do a bunch of stuff and send it over. Dessert translates so easily, because you don't bake a cake for a customer while they're waiting. That's how it started. Then we realized we could make some stuff for Rooster while we're here. We can take a lot of this, create less of a footprint, and create a smoother system."

They set up a cavernous commissary space in Webster Groves and Murphy developed the process of how best to make food, while maintaining quality, for what would grow to three restaurants.

"You have to deconstruct the whole process from start to finish," she says. "You want pretzel bites that are crispy and soft and chewy and all that stuff. But you can't make them there. So what do we do? How do we work that backwards? That's exactly how I work. You want this final product? What does it require for me to do to get it where the quality, the quantity, everything I can keep up with. Because once you start something, people always want it.

"What we try to do is anything and everything that can be prepped -- shredded cheeses, salad dressings, bacon is pre-cooked -- the only difference is we're in a different space," she says, noting that Rooster's crèpe batter itself is made on-site: "It's pretty temperamental."

Pizzas at the Chocolate Bar are another object lesson in combining the central commissary with the small restaurant kitchen: "We make the pizza dough in the little shell form here. We par-bake them, and then when pizzas are ordered [the staff at the restaurant] make them fresh. It's not like we send over pre-made pizzas. It's not like Totino's.

"Bridge's menu is designed to be something that can be carried over," she goes on. "Lots of comfort food. Again, no gas, no hood, so they're very limited. That's when the idea of pots came into play. Stews and pots in the winter, then lighter entrées but still something you can pre-make, like the chicken pie."

The three restaurants use an ordering system Murphy designed. An in-house delivery driver makes sure everything arrives at the right place at the right time.

This combined-kitchen approach works well with Murphy's style of cooking. "That's the key to my food: just very simple things, very approachable, but when you eat it there's something different. That's just attention to detail and using good-quality ingredients."

Back row: (from left) Mike Bach, Daniel Parker, Justin Haltmar, Dave Wilson, Kenny Wilson; Front row: (from left) Tabbie Titone, April Blastenbrei, Robin Murphy - ROBIN WHEELER
  • Robin Wheeler
  • Back row: (from left) Mike Bach, Daniel Parker, Justin Haltmar, Dave Wilson, Kenny Wilson; Front row: (from left) Tabbie Titone, April Blastenbrei, Robin Murphy

Her staff likes the setup as well. "I get line guys who are like, 'You mean there are no customers?'" she says. "You don't have to deal with servers yelling at you, ringing in late tickets. You don't have to deal with the bartender. You don't have to deal with any of that. You just have to focus on making the food the same way every time. Consistency is what I need."

The lower stress level helps everyone in the long run. "I know we're all here because we need money. And I know we need money because we have lives outside of this building, this job. That should be the priority. If you're not happy, it's going to show. You're going to feel it in the food. You're going to taste it in the food. It spreads like toxins."

Baileys' Chocolate Bar 1915 Park Avenue; 314-241-8100

Rooster 1104 Locust Street; 314-241-8118

Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar 1004 Locust Street; 314-241-8141

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