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Finding Breakfast Scary...

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innovermyhead

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To the many experienced folks out there - did you have any restaurant experience prior to opening your inn? The more I think about having to turn out a stunning breakfast every morning the more daunting it seems. Did you practice this on the family and friends ahead of time? I'm thinking of Father's Days past when it is sometimes stressful to produce the beautiful breakfast and mostly those people are just happy to eat! If you did something to prepare yourself I'd love to hear about it.
Thanks!
 

greyswan

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I've cooked since I was a young girl... entertained for about that long too. No formal chef training, but we love food, love to cook, and love to make people go "ahhhhh" :) I was a waitress for a summer while in college and was a food service supervisor at a nursing home for several years in a previous lifetime (before DH). Going to culinary school would be a fun thing to do - I'm sure there's lots of things I could do better.
 

Innkeep

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I must tell you that I was not a cook before I started this adventure 2 1/2 years ago. I was even nervous scrambling eggs. Remember that you can start out with just a few recipes because most of your guests will be staying only a couple of days. I find that most of my guests are not accustomed to having a formal sit-down breakfast at home, and they don't expect gourmet cooking. My website simply says that they will be served a "home cooked" breakfast. I have benefitted greatly from some of the recipes posted by the Innmates here, but the amazing thing from my perspective is that I get as many complements from french toast (made with cinnamon bread and served with real maple syrup) as I do from the dishes that are much more difficult to prepare. For me one of the things that helps is to serve in "courses". The fruit, which may just be fresh fruit cut up and presented in a pretty dish, and quick bread are ready when they arrive for breakfast, then after they are in the middle of the fruit I start serving the hot food.
I did have a dry run before opening. I invited 4 couples to spend the night and served them cornmeal pancakes from a recipe in Joy of Cooking, and fortunately the pancakes were a big hit. When my guests ask me how long the B&B has been open, I tell them "2 years, and I'm still getting the hang of it"
In my particular case, I am not in a "touristy" area, and so I do not think that changing my cooking style to gourmet would necessarily attract more guests. I have had many first time B&B goers, and the men especially are happy with food they can identify. When things were slow this winter I tried out several crepes recipes and found the one that worked best for me, but haven't felt the need to put it in my breakfast rotation yet.
 

seashanty

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speaking just for me i had no training ... just the usual cooking for friends and family.
you will start simply ... with what you KNOW, with what you ENJOY cooking. and it will become more 'fancy' and more 'wow' as you go along.
as jb can tell you, fruit on the side cut just so can make all the difference.
it's the presentation that usually gets the wow along with your good cooking.
i did practice on family, but only one weekend. pretend guests i told them. sit and let me serve you.
new recipes, i would announce to the guests ... this is a new recipe, tell me what you think. they ate it up (literally).
when i first started, i was a wreck having to cook breakfast for four people. FOUR! after a few months, i could cook and serve 21. tiring, but i did it. it was fun.
you will be great. you just need confidence.
 

Innkeeper To Go

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I'm a former caterer and many many years ago had a catering business that specialized in serving breakfast in bed. My specialty at the time was stuffed French toast and lended itself to advance preparation and quick and easy set up on location. It was a great hit and gave me much practice.
I began the catering business because I was always doing dinner parties and brunches for groups of 24 to 36 and folks started asking me to cater their stuff. The number of guests at my dinner parties and brunches was dictated back in those days by the size of my dinner service. If I had service for 24, that was it. When I had 36, more guests. Seriously. Thankfully I was never inspired to buy more than 36 of the same plates.
So I had lots of practice, always on friends who were happy with whatever was presented. But that practice taught me to plan, budget, present, and deliver it all with a smile.
It's not that difficult to find folks who are happy to come to brunch. Practice practice practice. Soon breakfast will seem really easy and fun. And your guests will feel that.
 

Country Girl

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No formal training here either, just a love of cooking and entertaining. I still get a little nervous cooking alone for a crowd sometimes, but that's o.k. because it means I haven't gotten complacent. Like Innkeep I serve in courses so while they are enjoying their fruit and bread I can get their main course ready. I used to be afraid to try new things out on guests but now I do it all the time. It helps me from getting bored with the same old recipes. Most guests are so appreciative and thrilled not to be doing the cooking.
 

MTLLodge

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What I have learned is that if you know the basics then you will be fine. Just stick with what you are comfortable makeing, and you'll do fine. Good luck!
 

scrambled_eggs

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I had no formal training either and had never worked in food service before....never though I would either! I just learned by doing it. The thought of cooking for up to 10 people scared me. Deep down I did enjoy baking so I think this interest has helped me out. Presentation like everyone else talks about will also help. Taking something simple like a bowl of sliced fruit and slicing it in a way that is eye appealing and maybe adding a garnish of some sort like mint is very simple but the guests get surprised by it. Also serving in courses helps me out a lot. I have scones and muffins out before the guests sit down so when they come down they can start right in. I then get the baked fruit out of the oven and serve that. In the meantime while they are eating the first course the second which might be a baked french toast is ready to come out of the oven and that is plated and garnished. Then finally the sliced fruit course. Once you get a routine down it will become a science. You will have your recipes memorized and can do it blindfolded. Now I get bored with the breakfasts so I am always trying new recipes and I then incorporate them into my breakfast routine if they work out. Trying new recipes is what keeps me interseted because they are just about endless but it is also good to know that you can come back to the old tried and true standby recipes you know the guests will like. There is a lot of joy in making and serving breakfast. It is my favorite part of the business. One thing that I won't do is try a new recipe out that I have never made before on guests. It could turn out to be a disaster with disappointed guests. I always test the recipe first on people other than guests and also myself to make sure it will be serveable and if it is a success then I will serve it to paying guests.
 

Copperhead

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No formal training here, but did work in a couple of restaurants (wait staff) before taking on an adult desk job.
If you like to cook, that is half the battle right there! Just find a couple of recipes that you feel comfortable with and give them a go with some friends and/or family. Ask that they be completely honest, no sugar coating. If these do not work, have another breakfast party....
I started by making things that I could prep the night before. It helps keep the stress level down especially in the beginning as you are getting the feeling for cooking for a group.
Don't sweat it, you will do fine.
 

gillumhouse

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I grew up on a farm and have been cooking since I was 10. My Mom taught me how to make breads. Then I married 5 kids and brought one with. Cooking for 2 is hard!
My "knock their socks off" breakfast is a simple sour cream and chives with 3 cheese egg bake and English muffin bread fresh from the oven. It is soooo easy to do. My biggest problem is putting the bread in the pans too soon and they raise to over-flowing. A sprig of mint from the herb garden in the fruit compote sets off a pretty bowl of cut up fruits. A sprig of fresh parsley or tomato slice with bits of parsley framing it in the center of the egg bake makes it look great. I set an elegant table because no one expects to get that in Podunk. With simple food, it is not overwhelming.
Tomorrow is baked pineapple toast. I had a loaf of French bread left over from Monday night dinner and muffin bread from breakfast. This morning it was peach bread pudding with vanilla yogurt. The pineapple toast uses most of the remaining bread - after baking, it will be flipped onto a plate like unside down pineapple cake. Luschious and simple.
 

Morticia

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No experience whatsoever in restaurants. Woke up from a sound sleep the night before our first guests realizing I had never poured coffee before!
It IS daunting, at first. We only made really easy casseroles at the start. Now we cook when the guests sit down. Hectic when there are 10 at once, but it all gets done.
What you need to practice is being organized rather than the cooking (unless you're a really bad cook, then practice that, too).
 

Don Draper

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No training whatsoever. Just do what YOU feel comfortable with, people these days are not used to any type of hot breakfast at all (grab a banana and out the door to work) so they are typically just pleased as punch to be sitting down and having someone serve them!
It doesn't need to be fancy or gourmet at all, unless you want to make that your niche. We advertise simple, hearty country food and that's what guests expect. We started with casseroles, then this past off season started some cook to order things, but we've found that because we have a communal dining table where guests eat together, they actually enjoyed the casseroles more. It's the "staying at grandma's house" thing, you don't have to cook it or clean it up, you get to be like a kid again.
Experiment with your friends/neighborhs/families and ask for their honest feedback.
And if you go with casseroles, my best advice no matter what kind of dish it may be is to work an extra egg or two in there beyond what the recipe calls for...everything comes out richer and moister that way.
 

EmptyNest

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You don't have to be a gourmet chef. You can present scrambled eggs and bacon beautifully!!! It is your hospitality and service that makes it. Don't fret about outdoing anyone. Do what you do best.
 

JBloggs

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I believe it is important to love food and/or cooking or have a food background. Sure you can get by and do what has to be done, but it will show in your presentation and flavor.
Having said that, if you are determined to make a go of innkeeping, then there are plenty of ways to get up to speed.
  1. If you have no experience in the restaurant business, I believe you should take a Food Handlers course. This is rqd by many health departments, and there is a valid reason for requiring it. You can learn more than holding temps at one of these classes. Contact your local health dept and they can point you to the nearest one.
  2. Get out and experience B&B breakfasts. This s/b a requirement for anyone opening a B&B.
  3. Intern. Maybe you can contact a nice B&B in your area and volunteer to intern for a couple weeks? You will have to do some work in return to make it worth the hassle of having an extra body in their kitchen.
 

JBloggs

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If you want to share your location perhaps there is an innkeeper on the forum not too far away who can lend a hand with some training.
 

egoodell

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Look at food magazines for presentation ideas. And get the best and freshest ingredients which will make the breakfast stunning. We use local farm pork and bacon and get rave reviews.
RIki
 

Morticia

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look into foodnetwork on line.
One Day said:
look into foodnetwork on line
I get the magazine...absolutely fantastic! We have pulled so many options from there it amazes me. 50 breakfasts from around the country was the latest one. BOUND to be something in there we can steal!
 

Samster

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For me, breakfast was the easiest part of the business and probably what I enjoyed the most. I should just have people over all the time now and cook for them......

I'm not a trained chef but our guests thought that I had been somewhere to learn about presentation, but the truth is that I just read lots of cooking magazines and look at how things are presented. For me that is the fun part, but that might just be me. I think how a table is set and how the food is presented can make a HUGE impact. But you don't have to be a "fancy" place, just go with what works for your place and location! I agree....most people are running out the door and grab something on the go, so they are delighted to be served breakfast....even something very simple.
But I hear your apprehension! Just do what you know and what you're comfortable with. Come up with a half dozen or so breakfast menus that you can eventually do with your eyes closed. Eat at other B&Bs, if you can, and take away ideas and what you like. Look at breakfast photos on other B&B websites. Practice cooking breakfast for some friends or family members that will be honest with you, if you need to. Try to have some help in the morning so that you don't have to worry about refreshing coffee or busing the table.
You will do fine, once you're confidant that you can handle your breakfast service. Let us know how it goes!!!
 
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