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Meet the New Management!

Alyssa

Hello there!

Following up from Max's introduction, my name is Alyssa, and I have been working with the wonderful Lemon Grass team for just about two months now. After studying hotel, restaurant and tourism management at SUNY Plattsburgh, I must say I honestly never saw myself choosing a career path in the restaurant industry. I just didn't think it was for me. However, to my surprise, I have been enjoying (almost) every minute of my time here, and I am eager to continue to work under Max & Pook and further my knowledge in restaurant management.

Along with my background in hospitality management, I also majored in journalism and minored in business. I spent most of my spare time at SUNY Plattsburgh managing the school's collegiate newspaper and writing for the local daily. I therefore gained a great deal of experience in writing and communications and a passion for interacting with and meeting new people. This position has been a great match for me, as it has given me the opportunity to put my different skill sets to work.

And, of course, there's always fun to be had when you're working under someone who has quite the reputation in wine management and selection. I must say, and Max will surely get a kick out of this admission, I'm enjoying my wine education the most thus far (like mother, like daughter, I suppose!). A piece of me has always wanted to own and operate a winery of my own. Maybe one day, but until then I have found a home working with some of the best and continuing to further my knowledge of fine dining management. I invite you to join me on this journey, as any feedback our guests provide will allow us to better our overall goal of meeting your utmost expectations!

Alyssa or, as Max prefers, Liss

Ploy

"Ploy, like emPLOYee," that's the way i oftentimes introduce myself to people. It's quite a unique name, but a very common one for Thai girls. Three years ago I came to the States for my master's degree in International Relations at Maxwell School. My original plan was 16 months with a goal of becoming a mediator in a war zone (Yes, I'm serious! All I have ever wanted is to help better this world). I got an offer in DC after I graduated, but I turned it down (Idealistic? Young? Too confident? ... maybe). For personal reasons, I stayed in Syracuse. It was probably the toughest time I have ever had in my entire life because I used to get what I want when I want (I always can earn it somehow), but a career goal in Syracuse was a different story, no matter how hard I tried. One professor even said I should write a book about my life here and sell it instead!

Two months ago, through a friend of my husband, I got to meet Max. We had quite a long talk/ interview. I never worked in a restaurant. i can cook and clean ... my mom had a homemade bakery at one point, I told Max. I think he was unsure of me since he talked to me about my decision with this place quite a lot on the beginning. Maybe he still is ... oh well. I call him and his wife "R" (in Thai this means uncle/aunt), not because he told me so but simply because I feel so. As Mom often complains, no one can tell me to do anything!) And I think that's why I now feel like this is my family restaurant that i want to cherish. I love being active, and I don't mind hard work. I'm now, but I believe I can be a good Operations Manager. I'd love to learn more, hear your advice and listen to people's opinions. I want to be better (the best in a little while - hah!), that's my goal as of right now. Looking forward to spending time with you!

With hope,

Ploy

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July 16, 2012

Hi Everybody,

I am on high gear know, after a total of 27 hours from home, I am in Japan just to eat with my kids. This time thanks to Pew's family and Tim as my house guest while I am on this trip. My best friend Toro will not be too lonely with all of them around the house!

While we're still waiting for both of my kids, Nattha from Boston who is still in KL Malaysia for her friend's wedding, and Danielle from Chicago, I took time to checkout some sushi places. There's a serious one in the hotel, as the guide book said the best are always in the tourist areas and at fine hotels - I did not believe this at first, but it's the truth!

This place has seating for 10, with four old sushi chefs working to just serve the 10 guests. Of course, I asked the chef to feed me, and this may be the second time in my life I've had such high quality sushi. He started me with O Toro, with a scream over me to not add any soy sauce. And this carried over the whole meal, which was about 12-14 bites. All sushi served with different sauces, glazes, salts and zests of fresh citrus.

I got Uni or sea urchin from Hokkaido, which is one of the best. I tried uncountable times to get them in the states, but no luck. Chu toro, marinated toro, which I would die to have seconds, but the chef did not seem too happy to grant my wish; fresh grilled white eel served two ways - one with light glaze and the other one with just sea salt and yuzu rind; albalone steamed with high and low heat then marinated; fluke skirt, and his knife was sharp enough to split the fins, hah!; charred toro for smoky purposes; live shrimps you can even feel the movement of their mussels in your mouth; clam soup - the clams were cooked just perfectly tender; fresh eggplant only with sea salt - this too far beyond Oya in Boston and all great new sushi places in New York City or even Chicago.

My journey has just begun! More, more and more to let all of you know.

Your lively chef,

Max

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July 14, 2012

Hi Everybody,

These past months have been the hardest of my life, starting with my right hand girl Ali leaving us after 5 years of hard work. We hired two new girls with a new title: Operations Manager. For the past 4 to 6 weeks they have worked so hard, meeting with us all day - even skipping a few lunches. Alyssa and Ploy will be our hand to hand combat with all of our customers, our wine list, legalities, social media, management, restaurant policies, etc. We never realized how much of a work load it would be when we want everything to run properly.

After 21 years with the company, Bill will take the podium as our Front of the House Manager. This has been discussed for years, with all approval from our regular customers, staff and my family. We finally have put a "Tiger in the Tank," so this vehicle will run a lot smoother!

Also, I lost quite a few more personnel up front -- twice this year we had maternity leaves, and one of our wait staff members had his appendix removed, followed by cracking his foot bone. Those took him off the floor from late January until early this month.

Thep, my Thai chef who stayed with us for more than 10 years, left for vacation in Thailand and was involved in a huge accident. All of his family passed away, as many of you may have seen in the newspaper. He is schedule to be back by year end if all of his health is back in place.

In the meantime, we hired two new chefs! Vinnie was an Executive Sous Chef from a star michelin in Chicago, and Arthur was on TV for Restaurant Impossible! They took the titles of Sous Executive and Chef de Cuisine, respectively. We will continue to improve our kitchen throughout the summer.

On top of that, about five more employees have left or will be leaving us. Sounds like cleaning the house? No, this all happened naturally, most of the positions needed to be restructured for quality purposes. Some of them enjoyed the changes, some not.

As we always say in business as we flip the sign -- the show must go on!

A little more, Alyssa and Ploy will now join me on the blog. They will let you know more about my creations, what's new on our menu, even giving my recipes away sometimes. There will be more fun at the Grass!

Your chef,

Max

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April 12, 2012

Menu Update*** Last week we replaced our Pear Salad with our new Baby Romaine & Maytag Blue Salad with Berkshire Bacon. This week Neal also made Roasted Red Pepper Soup for our seasonal soup special. I will add fava bean and young leeks to the menu where I can to celebrate the arrival of spring.

We will offer a new product such as sliced boneless short rib from Boston Butcher's House, fresh baby squid a la plancha with your choice of sauce, and also Florida Shrimp will be back in a week or two. Still waiting on soft shell crab, rams and fiddle head ferns. And the new season of Halibut just has begun. Spring has officially started!

Still in the works is our lunch menu. We will try to blend the seasonal changes in to lunch with an inexpensive, but chic menu. A few ideas we are working on are Pappardelle with briefly chopped beef in Madras curry over a fresh spring salad and sambal vinaigrette, and also a Thai crab cake with Kobe pork, cilantro and siracha sauce. The Pappardelle is almost there but the crab cake still needs more work.

The last few months have been very busy but from now until the end of May is the busiest time of year for me.

Thanks for supporting all of us.

Your Chef,

Ma

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January 20, 2012

Happy New Year!

It looks like I am fading out from blogging, actually not. The Grass has been very busy. We broke all kinds of records for the past four months. Normally a well established restaurant like the Grass and our Elephant should average out about a 5% increase yearly. Since 2003 we have averaged an 8% increase per year. We would like to thank all of our customers with out each and everyone of you we would not be this good!

Let's talk about the restaurant trend. From 2009 -2011 blending between East - West was very big. Asian chef's blended classic French in to Asian, French-American blended Asian into their cuisine. The success of a business is measured by how well change is received by their patrons. Most likely they tried to play around in the Pacific-Rim area, such as Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese and Indonesian. A very small portion went to the Middle East, only a few tapped into India.

Let's talk about Indian food. Most likely we are all familiar with the Americanized version. I believe the very next challenge for chefs from around the world is to find the right blend to enter India and the Middle East. Thousands of unknown spices, hundreds of very interesting herbs, and combinations of flavors that most of us have never tasted before will soon be unfolded.

I am looking forward to introducing you all to my spin on classic Indian flavors. We have dabbled with them before but this year is the year we take it to the next level.

We will tell you more on the next blog.

Your Chef,

Max

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December 20, 2011

Hello and happy holidays! Its been a while since my last blog -so this is a year in review blog.

I was so exhausted, as all of downtown was after the record breaking weather last winter. March was the worst ever since 1989, the first year we open our operation in Mattydale. Of course, the Grass faced a huge sales drop the first and third months of the year. February was good due to Valentine's day and dining weeks. After we survived the treacherous winter, we had a very busy spring and summer. We passed last year's sales in the beginning of December.

This year we changed quite a few things- the approach of our lunch menu, trimming the sushi menu down, and we will be adding more noodles this January. On our lunch menu we now have three different fried rice dishes, two of which are my new invention. From the Bistro kitchen we added beer battered fish and chips and rigatoni.

We began the year with 18 different kinds of sushi, now we have 2. Seven years ago we added sushi to our menu for marketing reasons. Now everybody is selling it- from all you can eat Chinese buffets, other Asian / Fusion, and even French restaurants.

We would like to keep sushi as part of our appetizers, not as an entire section by itself. This way we can offer new creations with more fun dishes. Please give us a chance to show all of you something that you can't find in this area. Sushi restaurants are on every corner of this town. You will come to Lemon Grass not to try something that you can get from others. If you're looking for adventure and excitement in your food, that's our specialty!

You also can surprise your guests with our menu. I really believe in a small and controllable menu. I am working on new recipes now and wish to be able to finish them and try them out very soon. For the past two months we've been very successful on a lot of new dishes, such as Steaky Bacon, Morning Roti, Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Salad and our Orange Ricotta Salat Salad. Thank you for your support and feedback.

On my drawing board are Panaeng Escargot, Chicken Curry Puffs, Thai Bolognes with Pappardelle, Grilled Thai Sausage  and a lot more.

There will be more fun waiting for all of you by early next year. Enjoy the holidays!

Your Chef,

Max

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October 11, 2011

It's been a while since my last blog - it has been very busy here at the Lemon Grass and the big Elephant. We have been through a lot of changes on the menu and the company structure.

Most of the time for the menu I always miss a lot of goodies from the season and I tend to put most of the stuff on late. I just got new help, his name is Mike, freshly graduated from Johnson & Wales. Mike will help organize my kitchen and is going to be my main man - which will allow me more room to put better food on the menu.

In the past we have had great staff behind all the lines, but what we lacked was finance for higher tech resources. We really need the new kid who can take our new ideas and carry the ideas over to our clientele. Lets see what Mike can do.

Ok lets talk about food! Fall is here and we are welcoming the season with some new goodies and the return of some old classics.

We put a fall spin on our popular goat cheese salad creating our new Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Salad with shredded granny smith apples, stewed white raisins, toasted hazel nuts, olive oil and a Greek yogurt and tarragon dressing.

A Thai classic will make its first appearance on our menu with Num Pla Wan, a Tamarind dipping sauce of dried fried shrimp, fresh and crispy shallots, garlic and palm sugar. Which will be served with fresh tart seasonal apples.

Morning Roti will also make its debut on the menu. I will use green curry with sliced filet mignon, cinnamon basil and sweet peppers served with our warm roti - flat bread.

And introducing Steaky Bacon - center cut pork belly from Niman Ranch - the best free range, no antibiotics. The pork belly is roasted at 700 degrees to melt the fat away then it is stewed in all-spice. It is served with fried sweet buns and a fresh garlic and chili vinaigrette. Trust me you will LOVE it!

As for our returning favorites the butternut squash soup and orange ricotta salata salad are back! Our butternut squash soup is topped with our famous coconut shrimp and its still be best soup in town. The orange ricotta salad is becoming a new classic. Take Ricotta Salate, add seasonal oranges, shaved fennel, mache and finish with balsamic vinaigrette and California extra virgin olive oil.

My Bistro chef Dave (the DDT) added pheasent sausage and cranberry cognac chutney to the big Elephant menu.  Along with wild mushroom risotto and a pulled pork poutine that is sure to fend off the cold weather!

This will be a fun season. I am excited to put the new food on and see what everybody thinks!

Your Chef,

Max

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August 29, 2011

Last week I went to see my little one Danielle in Chicago. She and Kevin bought all of us tickets to the restaurant "Next." Yes, you heard that right, tickets to get in! Every three months the Chef prepares a new menu and sells tickets for it. The current menu is "Present Thai." I believe the last one was "1906 French."

This perhaps may be the hottest restaurant in America right now. We got a kitchen table so we could see what was going on. I can't believe that the executive chef is from Syracuse, New York. Dave is his name, he is such a great chef, manager, and he's not afraid to try something new!

Considering he only had a month to study Thai food before debuting this menu I think he did a great job. He did Thai food "his way" which was smart. In a month no one would be able to conquer true authentic Thai flavors. I was so thankful that I got to pick his brain a little bit so I could understand his full vision. Congratulations brave Dave!

I am working on our new fall menu, I want to continue to do "My food, My way." As I have mentioned before, since we opened on July 20th 1994 we have not sold straight Thai food, it has always been Pacific Rim with a Thai accent and a Max twist! We will try to push further from the basic Thai concept, keeping it fresh and fun.

Your Chef,

Max

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August 8, 2011

As you guys know we order our oysters from JP Seafood. They are the only ones that are really serious about what they are selling. They care about the environment and the cleanliness of their product. But most of all their quality is always the best!

Our oyster sales are up almost 40% and so far we have been very happy with them. However, a few weeks ago we found our selves in a funny situation. Our standing order has been three small boxes (180 oysters). They sent us three large boxes (300 oysters) and shipped it twice... so there we where in an Oyster Crisis!

So how do you sell 600 oysters in the time you usually sell 180??? We knocked the price in half and started call people. The news spread all over Armory Square. Our good friends the Hanford family came in with a large group and ordered dozen after dozen. Mike from the Blue Tusk and Adam from Empire Brewery also came in with some friends. Our good friend and long time customer Mr. Jacobson ate four dozen himself on Thursday night! We ran the special from Thursday lunch through Friday lunch and sold 450 oysters, leaving us with 150 just in time for the weekend!

We would like to thank everyone who came in and helped us out. We had such a great time with everyone we have decided to make this a bi-annual event. We will have an "Oyster Crisis" in January and July every year. We will kick it off with 200 dozen oysters and see how it goes. We hope to see you all there!

Your Chef,

Max

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July 26, 2011

This heat is killing us! Its causing all kinds of problems with our equipment from refrigerators and freezers to our new AC units in the dining rooms. But the kitchen heat is the worst. It must have been over 100 degrees in there. We barely made it through the MOST Gala this year. Pook's balloons collapsed and we had to get a new tank of liquid nitrogen three hours before service to make a new batch. It was too hectic for me!

So after all this Pook and I decided to call Charles Heating to take a look at the kitchen to see how they can improve the working temperature. We need it at least 15-20 degrees cooler in there. We also need to fix the air circulation in the dish room. My poor dish jockeys are dying in there.

This is going to be an expensive year for Pook and I. We did some decor updates before my kid's wedding  and now we are looking at some back of the house maintenance and upgrades that need to be done. My sous chef Neal and I agreed we should expand our walk-in cooler and install a walk-in freezer. We have such limited space, I wish we had an extra 300-500 sq ft. We will start drawing up plans this week.

Okay enough about that. Lets get to some food.

We have a great supply of Florida shrimp and our supplier in Boston is sending us baby squid, Blue Fin tuna and a few different cuts of Kobe beef. We have been getting good stuff from this company but I wish we could get the same selection from our bigger suppliers.

We are gearing up for fall. All the staff is looking forward to the new school year, Lion King coming to town and the reopening of our Landmark Theater. We are all wishing for a busy fall.

Your Chef,

Max

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