Kruse’s Korner – Fall Newsletter 2014
Familiar Faces Far From Home
My wife Kelly and I had the opportunity recently to take a 3 day getaway to Napa Valley in California to celebrate our 15 year wedding anniversary. The trip came together last minute but did not disappoint. After one call to our good friends from Great Lakes Wine & Spirits, our itinerary was set.
We were to visit 5 Wineries in 2 days and, of course, lunch and dinners at selected restaurants to seek out new food ideas. We were able to take some amazing tours of wineries and hear all about the maker’s philosophies on grape growing and wine making. One tour, however, turned out to be quite different.
When we arrived at the gate of the Celani Winery, myself, Kelly and friends Dave and Michele LaPrairie, were a little nervous as we pulled up to the entrance of what appeared to be a private residence. We hit the intercom button on the gate, wondering if we were in the right place? A friendly voice came on and said “Hello”. We announced our appointment and the voice replied “Come on in”! As we pulled up the long driveway it was clear that we were not at a commercial winery. We were immediately greeted with a huge smile by Wendy. Wendy told us that Vicki was still out on a sales call and that Tom was running an errand but that she would be happy to get us situated. We were escorted around the side of this beautiful home to the back patio. The view was breathtaking. As we were taking in the sight of the amazing vineyard we told our friends that we knew Tom Celani from him doing a wine dinner for us at The Rochester Chop House and that we carried several of their spectacular wines on our menus.
Then, in came Vicki Celani to join us. Wendy grabbed some wine glasses and a number of bottles of their wines and began to pour. Vicki told us that she had just been on a sales call with a local restaurant and that she was happy because she believed they were going to start carrying some Celani Wines. (Keep in mind there are upwards of 500 wineries in Napa Valley so this is no easy task.) Before Mrs. Celani had finished telling us her good news, Tom, her husband rolled in. After introductions, Tom sat down and poured himself a glass. Okay, this must be when our winery tour starts? Nope, we sat and talked as Michigan Natives (The Celani’s are from the area) and drank wine together. Tom told us stories of squabbling with his wine neighbors during late night harvests and how they had come to know/love and eventually own the beautiful dog from next door, who sat at Tom’s side the entire visit. We did talk a little wine, if we asked about it, but it became clear that we were just there to “hang out”. After doing just that for a couple hours, Tom and Vicki gave us a quick tour of their winery and home. Knowing we were headed to a neighbor friend of theirs for our next appointment, Tom and Vicki walked us out. They presented us with a bottle of not just any wine, but SIGLO RESERVE! from their personal Cellar and bid us good bye.
Kruse & Muer and the Rochester Chop House have always prided ourselves in treating our guests as if they were guests in our own homes. Tom and Vicki Celani treated us like friends in their home!
Preparing for Transition
When I see so many of you who I have come to know since our first restaurant opening at the Meadowbrook Mall in 1988, you say “Where have you been…we never see you anymore”. Well, I’m still working 50+ Hours a Week but not as much on the restaurant floor at lunch and dinner as the days of old. I’m working more now with my son Casey, addressing the “Ins & Outs” of Kruse & Muer multi-unit management. I still have full oversight of the Rochester Chop House and Kabin Kruser’s with my friend and partner of 40+ years, Vince Clark. My best days are still spent working in the restaurants with The Food……Our Employees and You, my Guests for over 26 years. My role going forward will be to work towards “Charting the Course” for our Food and Concept Evolutions along with the Maintenance of our Buildings. I do worry that my dedication to the Principles and Quality Standards of the Company may interfere with the transition to Casey, or are more than someone in his “mid-sixties” should be stressing about daily. Well… “The heck with It”…as long as I’m able, I’ll continue to participate. I do love our restaurants and the day-to-day challenges of trying to get them where they need to be to keep all of you coming back. I hope I’ll know when “it’s time” but I trust that those closest to me will “kick me out” when it actually “is time”. Until then…
“I’ll see you there”!
It Gets Harder and Harder…
I’m glad I started our businesses in 1988 because the costs of running a business today are just about out of control. With the availability and cost of fresh seafood it is almost impossible to offer menu items with appeal and at a cost compatible with family budgets. Do you notice the absence of Great Lakes Whitefish on our menus??? That’s because there isn’t any of the quality I want to buy and when there is we can hardly afford to buy it. We have to become more and more creative with new entrees and recipes to present affordable menu options. Thank goodness I have our Executive Chef Chris Hessler because he’s really good at it. Meats, Dairy and Specialty Items are on the same track. I guess you’ve seen it as well at the local grocery stores… very tough. To that add the cost of Government involvement in new taxes and health care and we have a full time job to stay competitive… lots more restaurants too, all competing for the same work force.
We’re committed to staying affordable and offering creative quality products as we have done for the last 25 years.
I just hope we’re not headed to the $10 Big Mac!
Kabin Kruser’s Spotlight
This little 70 seat Oyster Bar / Seafood Grille has become one of our most popular restaurants. It was originally conceived after a visit to Chicago’s Shaws Crabhouse, where a second more casual oyster bar called The Blue Crab Lounge is located. Once there I was sold on the concept for the front building portion of the Rochester Chop House that we were opening in 1991.
We never really got so formal with the operational guidelines of Kabin Krusers’ as with the Kruse & Muer Restaurants or the Chop House. We just kind of let it follow a more casual approach to our service standards, although I have continued to research food and recipes tailored specifically to the concept. What turned out to make the Kabin Krusers’ the success it has become was the people. Pam Pearse and Tim “Clutch” Kelly have been at the helm for a combined 21+ years now and anytime anyone talks to me about how much they love the Kabin Kruser it is always with the mention of Pam, Tim and our staff.
Vince Clark, Casey Kruse and I have talked about finding another location for a Kabin Kruser #2, but I’ve figured out one thing for sure… Unless I can “clone” Pam and Tim, we will never be able to produce their kind of success. If you haven’t been, come soon and check out our Happy Hour. It’s packed every day around 5:00pm.
Pat Jones – Kitchen Manager at Kruse’s Deer Lake Inn
Pat Jones, General Manager in Training, is the epitome of a hardworking, self-made man. Pat began his career with Kruse & Muer Restaurants in 2004, working as a dishwasher at Kruse & Muer in the Village. Finding a love for the restaurant business, he left the company to pursue a degree in Culinary and Business Management from Scottsdale Culinary School in Arizona. Upon his return, he was promoted to the Dining Room Manager at our Village location. Since then, he has excelled as a leader in both the Kitchen and the Dining Room at our Main Street location as well as Kruse’s Deer Lake Inn. As part of his development, Pat is currently the Kitchen Manager at Deer Lake. A valued team member, his employees look up to him both professionally and personally. Pat’s long term goal is to follow in Bill Kruse’s footsteps; to learn all that he can from his empire, and use it to create his own. When asked what the best piece of advice he has gotten during his time with us, Pat responded with “Hold on to your dream”. Pat is doing an excellent job of just that, and we’re pretty sure he will have his own Kruse and Muer Restaurant in 2015! Because he’s earned it!
Bianca Hill / Holly Weaver
With personal regret but warm wishes, we announce the retirement of Bianca Hill, Rochester Chop House’s Event Planner. We will miss Bianca’s dedication, her chipper demeanor, and the day to day relationship that we have held for the last 20+years. We would like to take this opportunity to not only show our appreciation for Bianca, but to welcome Holly Weaver, who has taken over the role of Banquet Coordinator for the Chop House. We look forward to what the future brings, and are excited to introduce Holly to our Guests.
Kristi Boswell– Kitchen Manager at The Rochester Chop House
Kristi began working with the Kruse & Muer Restaurant Family as an Assistant Kitchen Manager at the Rochester Chop House in October of 2011. Over the last three years, Kristi has climbed the ladder to become the Kitchen Manager at the Rochester Chop House as well as a being exposed to future muti-unit managerial responsibilities. When asked what she enjoys most about working alongside her team members, Kristi responded with “Managing the kitchen is like being a Mom in the best way. At the end of the day, I feel proud of them, which is what you feel when your kids do good things. Watching Managers-In-Training learn and grow, and seeing the aha moments brings instant gratification. It’s rewarding to see them run a successful kitchen where the problem areas become past tense. It’s seeing people succeed, period. This is why I love to do what I do.” Kristi has proven to be a very organized and skillful leader. She takes a look at the bigger picture and has the ability to teach not only Kitchen Methods and Techniques, but leadership. She credits her management style to her predecessor (now General Manager of Kruse & Muer on Wilshire / Troy) Travis Muir, stating that “He impacted my Managerial growth. I had never seen his style of management in a kitchen before; he is so calm, understanding and for the people. I was able to not only function as a kitchen manager but excel as a leader under his direction. I hope to pass the same attributes to the people I’m developing.” Describing her past work experiences, Kristi says “I feel like I’ve been dating and I’m ready to get married. I’ve found a home, after three years, I feel like I’ve gotten married to my job.”
Bill Kruse has assumed the responsibility for exposing Kristi to the multi-unit training and has complimented her fearless approach and openness to learning new things.