On the home front, our son is two years old now. He's becoming such a wonderful and intelligent little boy. I couldn't be prouder. His vocabulary is still minimal but he at least has some useful words going for him: "go" seems to be his favorite go-to whenever he wants something. He gets behind me like I'm a train and says "go go go" to lead me wherever he wants to go. He also learned to say "no" a week after turning two. It's amazing how quickly that word happens! I'm particularly grateful he learned the word "bye" on his birthday. Albeit, he said it to a fountain at the Westlake Promenade, but he said it. At least now when our friends leave, he says "bye" instead of "go! go! go!".
|Our son on the "go" during his two year photo shoot|
Watching him every day reminds me of how carefree life could be. Yet, at the same time, it reminds me that no matter what age you are, things are never easy, and you always think it was easier when you were younger. But that's not really true, is it? No matter how small the situations we used to face seem to us, in comparison to what we're going through now, it was probably just as stressful at the time. When our son throws himself down on the floor over not getting anymore raisins (or a third apple for the day!), I'm sure, in that moment, it's the end of the world for him. It's the most stressful thing he's ever experienced in his life. The difference is, as a two year old, he throws his fit, he cries, and screams, and ten minutes later, he's forgotten about it. He's moved on. It happens time and time again, whether he's refused something or he gets rambunctious and runs straight into a wall accidentally (which he didn't even cry about and I still don't know how!).
The most notable time was when we first moved into our new house. It's two stories and our son had never dealt with stairs before. Our first full day in the house, he decided to try walking down the stairs. And he fell. My heart leaped from my chest in that moment. I caught him halfway down the stairs. He had a bump on his head. He cried. And yet, fifteen minutes later he was running around the house playing as usual and a half hour later, he was crawling back up and down the stairs without fear. (He hasn't tried to walk down since and has become very proficient on them!). I, on the other hand, still hold my breath, two months later, every time I watch him go near the stairs.
So, here's the real question.
At what age did we stop learning to move on? At what age did we decide we needed to stress all day long, otherwise we'd never find a solution for our problems? It happens subconsciously...and I'm sure there are people out there who know how to deal with their stress that this doesn't apply to. However, for the rest of us, I feel like we spend our days floundering going over the many missteps we took and pondering over how to correct them.
As a restaurant owner, I know this is a problem both my husband and I deal with. We spend days, weeks, months...at this point, years, trying to figure out reasons for anything that's gone wrong. Some days, like last night, we're busy. Not just busy. We were packed. But other days, it seems like the entire world is staying home. That may be the most confusing part of all. What makes people decide one night or one week to all come out but then spend days or weeks never coming by? Are we forgotten about? Is our menu not diverse enough? Does our aesthetics lack? Is our service not up to par? Do we need more advertising? How do locals still not know we exist after three years?
Going around from table to table, we constantly get praised on our restaurant. On how perfect everything is. But it often feels like we're still missing something, because if we truly were perfect, we should be busy all the time. Right?
My husband and I took a trip to New York City at the end of September for our anniversary vacation. Actually, we drove from Nashville to Niagra Falls to New York City, but that's a whole other story! The point is, our experience in NYC was eyeopening. At every restaurant we went to (even a 3.5 star Yelp rated restaurant...which is not the same as 3.5 star in Los Angeles) we had tasty food, gorgeous aesthetics, and impeccable service. Their service standards at a 3.5 star restaurant where better than most 4+ star restaurants in Los Angeles. From there, we experienced two Michelin star restaurants: The Musket Room (which is the only other New Zealand fine dining restaurant in the USA) and Le Bernardin, the top restaurant in NYC and voted #2 in the world. At The Musket Room, we dined in a rustic fine dining space, similar in size to our own but full of personality. It was inviting, intimate, and instantly set off romantic vibes in your head. Brick walls gave off the old New York vibe, completed with soffit lighting and rustic wood paneling on the ceiling. When we arrived, the host stood at a music stand by the entrance. Once seated, we were handed our custom menus for our set menu, complete with a wax seal. Our server was constantly waiting on us, bringing our wine pairings and explaining them to us. He was knowledgable and friendly. The food was delicious, and Gwith truly felt like he was back in New Zealand by some of the flavors that Matt Lambert showcased.
When we went to Le Bernardin, it was at a different level than we've ever experience in our entire life. Upon arrival, Gwith had to get a suit jacket because jackets are required inside the restaurant. We sat in the cocktail lounge, waiting for our table, and took a look at the cocktail list. Gwith quietly mentioned to me, "I don't have my glasses," as it's hard for him to read a menu without them. Low and behold, the host walks up next to him with a box of temporary reading glasses in three different prescriptions. Wow. Mind blown. After we ordered our cocktails, we were escorted to our table where I was provided a stool to set my purse on. The aesthetics were nice, with wood paneling and lighting accents throughout. I definitely preferred The Musket Room's rustic feel. Although the check was ironically higher at The Musket Room (albeit it's family owned so it makes complete sense!), it felt like anyone could dine there for a romantic evening out. Le Bernardin you could tell was meant for only the wealthiest of New York City. To clarify that statement though, the service was not snobbish in any way. It just felt like Chuck Bass's father could be at a nearby table having a billion dollar business meeting. (That's a Gossip Girl reference! My latest Netflix guilty pleasure after my son is asleep each night!) The service was exceptional. Our servers and bussers were friendly and the kitchen staff made certain to attend to all of my allergies. There was not a single misstep the entire meal and I am still dreaming about the tasting menu we experienced. I would dine here again in a heartbeat.
|Dining at Le Bernardin in NYC|
We left our trip with a new vision. What we want to achieve is not out of our reach. Our restaurant definitely needs some refurbishing...our outdoor patio has already been fixed up with an array of beautiful plants. We look at it now and think, "Wow. This was incredibly bare before. How did we not notice it?" We are in talks with a designer to redo our restaurant's interior. Change the lighting, bring a more rustic fine dining vibe, and all around give personality to our interior, so our aesthetics match our food. Our plates have all been upgraded to stoneware, leaving behind the outdated white plates. We have blankets arriving for cool winter nights on the patio and reading glasses for those who forgot their own, because it's the little things that wow us. And we want to wow you. We are also proud to announce we have an amazing new front of house manager, Jillian, coming on board to bring a level of service that we so far have only seen in NYC.
|Aroha's new on site herb garden at our outdoor patio|
But we're going to change that. If we continue down the path that we're aiming towards, you should be getting a taste of the NYC treatment right here in Westlake Village, California.
Change is coming.
This whole experience has been a rollercoaster for us. It's exciting and it's terrifying all at once. I feel like we're constantly taking leaps of faith to achieve our dreams and constantly letting our fears hold us back. Some changes we made early on were for the wrong reasons. Out of fear. Changes like trying to offer prices that competed with a local chain restaurant. Prices that did not cover our food (imported, fresh, and organic!) and labor costs. Prices that made it impossible for us to ever reach a profit. Or trying to offer mainstream food items like a burger on our fine dining menu (what were we thinking?). It didn't bring any customers our way by riding on the coattails of our fears. However, the second we started trying to make the food we wanted to make, our restaurant already began to improve. And that food isn't even showcasing my husband's incredible talents. His stress and fear holds him back from trying creative and exciting new items, and yet, every time he does, we improve. The problem with being a restaurant owner is that you spend almost 90% of your time focused on fear. It keeps you from leaping for your goals and showing the world what you can do. Sometimes, it feels impossible. Most times, fear has the complete opposite effect and instead of propelling you to make improvements, it makes you lose focus and fall behind.
New dessert collaboration by Gwithyen Thomas and Custom Cupcakes By Sarah:
Sarah's Chocolate Implosion Cupcake
Maybe some people find it ludicrous to try over and over again. I'm sure some people would've thrown in the towel by now. I won't lie: there have been plenty of moments where it just feels easiest to give up. Most times though, instead of giving up, you just need to reach a little (or a lot) further. You need to put aside your fears and go all in. You need to get up from the floor, wipe your tears, and head back up the stairs because maybe next time, you won't fall down. Maybe next time, you'll get to exactly where you want to be, completely unscathed.
Don't stop dreaming. Don't stop believing. Don't stop reaching for your goals. Not until you know you've done everything in your power to try. Then, no matter what happens, you know you gave it your all and at the end of the day, isn't that what's most important? Leaving behind the what ifs and the I should'ves, and instead (using our son's favorite word to get what he wants),
GO for it.