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Amuse Bouche: You know, it’s hard out there for a chef

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By Scott Mechura EBS Food Columnist

While we have all had our frustrations in both the giving and receiving end of service and business interactions this last 18 months, we have also had a pretty darn good reason. The handling of COVID has turned every method of combating a virus we knew upside down.

We have also swept many of these challenges under the kitchen mats, so to speak, choosing to chalk them up to things beyond our control. Much of the last year-and-a-half has absolutely been uncontrollable.

From a restaurant perspective, acquiring product has never been harder. Maintaining supplies we once took for granted—such as chicken, which we have had unlimited access to ever since John W. Tyson first began mass farming them in 1935—suddenly are unavailable for days on end.

Teams of employees have never been harder to assemble and business volume in this valley has never been larger. Some of that volume is tourism, but it is also due to what appears to be a mass exodus from costal cities, which naturally presents certain growing pains. 

It is difficult for many business owners to keep the doors of their restaurants open, even when everything is as it should be. Now, lets increase costs of goods and services, dramatically in some cases, limit the people pursuing employment, and increase your patrons to an all-time high. 

Talk about writing a recipe for a challenge few can execute. 

But here’s the thing. Now is the time to shine.

We must all drive forward and give it our all because we can’t let the cards 2020 dealt us cause us to fold too soon.

Being someone who tries to seek positives out of negative situations, I can tell you that in recent months I have found some of the best food I have ever found in my almost 22 years as a resident of Gallatin Valley. And I’ll give you an example. 

Due to the challenges we all face, Follow Yer’ Nose Barbeque in Emigrant, MT is only open four days a week, as are most businesses as we know. Because they are so short staffed, when they ARE open, the owner and grandson of a multi award winning pit master, is more hands on than ever. He is closer to his brisket, ribs, sausage and pork than probably since he first opened. And as a former resident and critic of Austin, Texas brisket, Follow Yer’ Nose Barbeque could plop down roots anywhere in the barbeque belt of south-central Texas and instantly gain respect.

I would bet this wouldn’t be the case if he weren’t as hands on as he is now, quite literally doing everything himself.

There are so many hard-working, driven and talented chefs, restauranteurs and leaders in this valley and we need to push through and focus on the joy our teams bring to our guests when we are doing what we love so much.

As one of the hardest people to work for I’ve ever known once told me: “tough times don’t build character, they reveal it.”

Scott Mechura has spent a life in the hospitality industry. He is an executive chef,  former certified beer judge and currently the multi-concept culinary director for a Bozeman based restaurant group.

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