7/17/2013 10:10:00 AM

A Day in the Life: Umami Mia Pizzeria Chef George Thomas

Chef George Thomas of Umami Mia Pizzeria started cooking at age 13 in a little sandwich shop in Baltimore, MD, making $4 an hour. He's now been cooking for over 20 years, serving up delicious foods in New York, Miami and Jacksonville, FL. Following the success of his first restaurant at age 23 (Japanese tapas served Caribbean-style in a boutique hotel), he closed the place, sold his possessions and drove west until he found an interesting town called Austin. After working at Soleil by the Oasis, he's now executive chef at Umami Mia Pizzeria, which opened at the end of May and serves Italian food based on the concept of umami, the “fifth taste” - savory and flavorful.

7-8 AM Arrive at the restaurant after a good night's sleep. When we first opened, there were some days when we got here before 6 AM. Fortunately, nowadays we can come in a little later.

8-11 AM Make sure that everything is ready for a busy day ahead. I check on produce, start some butchering and curing meat, collect herbs from our on-site garden, write prep lists, etc. We also make sure everything is set up for service: we set up the wood grill, make sure the fires are burning, clean up the line, check to see which of the 40-50 staff members are working today…

11 AM-2:30 PM Open the doors just in time for lunch. We have a multifaceted kitchen that is constantly bustling, along with a front and back oven. I don't have one specific job; the flow of customers dictates how I run my shift, whether it's continuing to butcher meat or running back into the kitchen to track what items need to be replenished.

2:30-5 PM During the afternoon lull, the staff cleans, restocks and freshens up the line in preparation for dinner. I find time to butcher pigs and make lists of things we need to accomplish. All of our desserts are also created in-house, so we squeeze that in between busy sessions.

5-9:30 PM Dinner is definitely busier than lunch. I oversee 16-17 people in the kitchen and may also interact with another 20 who are working front-of-house. From helping to expedite the line, to butchering, to accepting orders… I'm practically doing 15 things at once.

9:30-10 PM Since I'm not closing as much now, I try to get out right after the dinner rush (although 17-hour days are not uncommon). I try not to do restaurant-related work while at home, but sometimes that's inevitable - as a chef, food is always front of mind!

11:30 PM Try to get some shut-eye. No chef really sleeps well, but here's to the end of a busy day.


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