For my restaurant review, I chose a restaurant called South Park located on 9th and Salmon. I know a Sous chef by the name of Dan Johnson. He has been in the restaurant industry for over 15 years. He started out as a dishwasher for some small restaurant in the early 90’s and worked his way up to becoming a chef. Since then he has bounced from restaurant to restaurant. Some famous restaurants he worked at are Portland Steak and Chop House, the Brasserie, and Harbor Side.
During the interview I asked him the 19 questions and since he is back of the house, some of them he was clueless about. One piece of information that he explained to me is that with the WCI graduates, they flood the restaurant market in Portland. There is a lot of competition but he is always successful at finding a job with his experience. At some jobs he has applied for, there are “chef tests” where he has to make a certain item in order to get a job. He claims that he doesn’t get nervous while taking these tests with the executive chef over his shoulder. But who knows.
This restaurant he works at should be white table cloth. But due to their concept it isn’t. Instead, it’s wood tables. At every table is a bottle of wine for decoration. The server will remove the bottle after he or she greets the customer. The bar is awesome. It’s round and has a metal top. A curtain or drapery separates the restaurant from the bar. I notice some bottles of wine sitting around, but most of them must be in the back.
The food they serve is almost all seafood. Many different kinds of fish and shrimp are served. The fish includes salmon, halibut, snapper, and tuna. Every restaurant has an exception when it comes to their food concept. So they also serve pastas, New York steaks and sandwiches. There are also many desserts and salads to chose from. The price range per plate is $15-$30.
South Park has been around since May of 1998. There was already an existing restaurant in its place. They have and open kitchen which is unique. They also have a brick oven which is displayed to the customers. There is always a flame burning in the oven, but I have never seen anything baked in there.
One interesting question I asked him is “Who is your clientele,” He replied that “We get everybody”
I had to ask him to be more specific because “everybody” could mean transients off the streets. Then he said that there are many business people dining during the week. They hold special events or known as banquets. He also said for race that there are many Asian customers who come in with there families. I also had asked him if there any “regulars.” He said there are people who are there weekly, and then there are customers there nightly who drink at the bar for social activity.
I asked him about marketing and if South Park does any advertising. He was unsure but he did know that customers comment about the fish coming out of the corner of t he outside of the restaurant. He thought that might attract some customers interested in eating seafood. I asked him what were his three greatest problems and challenges. He said that it is easy to lose your temper in the back of the house. But since they are an open kitchen, he can’t use profanity or yell really loud. He has to keep a professional profile at all times while on the line. He also complained that he never gets a weekend off because he has a set schedule of Thursday through Monday.
I would say that South Park probably does not want to expand. It is a wonderful establishment that will be there for years to come. I am not sure why the previous restaurant went out of business or if it was bought out then changed by the owner of South Park. I enjoyed conducting the interview and learned new information about the place. For example, I thought the restaurant had been there for about 30 years. But it is newer than I had originally thought. I know in Portland there is plenty of competition among the seafood restaurants.
Without being nosy, I wanted to know the rate of pay for somebody like Dan who had been in the industry for more than 15 years. He only makes $11.15 an hour and won’t be getting another raise for about 6 months. He doesn’t receive any tips because he is in the back of the house. Talk about a dead-end job.