Hector Asado, Latin Bar and Grill – A project

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    • Hector Asado, Latin Bar and Grill – A project

      This is an attempt to record my journey from an enthusiastic amateur cook, barbecuer and wino to realise a long held dream to be a hospitality professional.

      The background.
      I’ve loved cooking since I made a boiled fruitcake to astounded applause as an 8 year old. The giddy intoxication of compliments is a powerful motivator to this boy (and don’t get me started on what it was like as a feckless teenager. I can not remember ever having a home barbeque as a youngster but very much enjoyed lighting cooking fires as a boy scout.

      Fast forward to 1991, I dropped out of catering school because I was more interested in making money than following my calling. That’s always been an issue, doing things that do not stir my soul because they pay so well. Unfortunately it took me a long time to realise I was trying to shoe-horn my work into who I was rather than the other way around.

      I was looking to build a built-in wood fired oven and barbeque into the backyard of my small terrace house. Having to take care of the smoke and buy something that wasn’t ridiculously overpriced and/or under-qualitied was doing my head in. I’d looked everywhere and until I stumbled onto aromatic-embers.com/ I didn’t think I could get what I wanted.

      Was so taken with the ovens I knew this was right. Sorry file too large aromatic-embers.com/ovens/oven…/basil/#lightbox[2632]/2/






      I wanted one of these to complement a parrilla I was going to buy elsewhere.





      So this one seemed to be the basis of what I wanted. As it was custom-made I could get anything I wanted as long as I was willing to pay the cost. This pic has appeared on my intro thread so sorry for the double up



      After a few conversations with Craig I realised that I wanted the kit badly but the cost was still very much in the domestic dis-harmony zone. So I thought, put it on a trailer, go around the festival circuit, make a frame with wheels so I can transfer it from backyard to trailer and I can have my cake and eat it too. As a business the price was less important and as a sideline I could work as hard or take time off as I liked. My plan was a Tapas wine bar popup. Paid the 50% deposit and we’re good to go.

      Next, the best laid plans.......
    • After a few conversations with Craig I realised that I wanted the kit badly but the cost was still very much in the domestic dis-harmony zone. So I thought, put it on a trailer, go around the festival circuit, make a frame with wheels so I can transfer it from backyard to trailer and I can have my cake and eat it too. As a business the price was less important and as a sideline I could work as hard or take time off as I liked. My plan was a Tapas wine bar popup. Paid the 50% deposit and we’re good to go.

      At this stage I was employed creating social enterprises and change-management projects for a large NFP organisation. I really was enjoying the job and described it as the best job I’d ever had. Little did I know what was around the corner.
      So, there I was, in Peru on a shamanic retreat with my son who’d had a really tough time in 2016 and really needed to be there. I had just finished an ayahuasca medicine ceremony (a story for another day) and received an email that said the organisation was looking for voluntary redundancies due to a budget black hole. I made a throwaway comment that I might lose my job. The next week my prophecy proved correct. Strategic middle management is an easy target.

      So out of a job by the end of the year but during my time in Peru I had some insight that I behave in certain ways and if I didn’t do something now, I may not get another chance. Besides, it wasn’t that much outlay at $17,000 so I could go full throttle for six months and if it wasn’t working out, just pull the plug. Easy in theory.

      That’s the route I’m taking. Pushing for it to be finished before Xmas but not really confident. Planning on starting in March.
      So, I’m thinking that I’d better rattle my dags and get the approvals for ACT where I’m based as well as looking at what other approvals I’ll need to NSW and Victoria. Despite advice to the contrary from a friend of a friend who does vegan food commercially, there’s no way I can make my kitchen compliant with the requirements. Okay, so I have to get a kitchen hire contract to do the prep as well out of hours as getting the trailer approved. Not a deal breaker as I know a couple of people who might be willing.

      A cool room is necessary if I’m doing overnight. Seeing that’s the point I’ll have to get one. We’re looking at using a domestic AC unit controlled by a Coolbot which seems sensible to me. But $5,300 extra? Holy crap, I wasn’t planning on paying that. After seeking the collective wisdom of the hive mind here I decided that I might be able to notwithstanding that I’d never done it or even seen it done. I confess I’m little trepidatious that it might go falling apart when I’m driving down the road. The jury is still out on that.
    • Could the trailer be part caravan type thing and make a kitchen in there. Gas hot water system at the sink, some fridges inside and a servery window. Mobile approved kitchen. Plus very salable if you don't want to continue.

      I'd love to be able to build up something like that. I'd have the smokers outside the kitchen but raised so they are very visible, then you have your indoor kitchen area.


      Traeger - Weber Family Q - Ziggy Twin Burner - Charcoal Grill - Akorn Kamado - Hark Tri Fire - (reserved for future wood fired pizza oven)
    • However, seeing what the requirements are for the trailer I realise that the minimalist route I was following is unlikely to get me over the line without a lot of hassle that I don’t need. Indeed, all the extras make the use so much easier and less likely to kill somebody with salmonella.
      Okay, back to Craig Aromatic-Embers, and a guestimate is that we’re looking at double the $25k I thought I could get away with ($40k with the towing vehicle). Bloody hell, this puts it into a whole new ballgame. No longer a cheapish, low-cost, low risk way of testing the waters, I needed to come up with grand a month to pay for the cost of the trailer and vehicle to tow it. Not so easy now is it monkey boy?

      Instead of the planned festivals I’m thinking I need something steadier. There’s a food truck village in our hipster part of Canberra, which is moving to bigger premises so I’ve reached out to the developer to see if I can go in there. I’m feeling that I’d like to see what they’re doing in the States so going for a couple of weeks in Texas in February to eat food truck food and see what the trends are.

      So here we are, waiting for the quote, waiting to speak to the restaurant consultants (a couple of friends who own a couple of very successful restaurants and volunteered), waiting to buy a vehicle, waiting to buy the tickets to the US, waiting to hear back from the developer and waiting to finish work.



      Wazza wrote:

      Could the trailer be part caravan type thing and make a kitchen in there. Gas hot water system at the sink, some fridges inside and a servery window. Mobile approved kitchen. Plus very salable if you don't want to continue.

      I'd love to be able to build up something like that. I'd have the smokers outside the kitchen but raised so they are very visible, then you have your indoor kitchen area.
      Yes, that's where we're going to now. I just have to find something suitable
    • I see a lot of food trucks emerging these days and I'm quite exited about it. I think it's a trend that's gaining a lot of momentum and It's my understanding that most of the time they ask privately owned business premises to park up for lunch/ dinner etc and this way avoid council (scum) fee's. And private catering as well. weddings etc. They keep active with social media and gather fan base.

      Latin Bar & Grill.... With My Bells On..
      Jumbuck 7 burner with hood. Baby Weber kettle. 52" Kettle. Weber Go Anywhere. 5' SS Spit rotisserie. Offset smoker and a Akorn Kamado. :)
    • Mate thanks so much for sharing your journey with us. I'm really enjoying it and can very much relate to it. I've had a thought or two about doing a similar thing as I am in a very similar situation as you. I'm still at the stage where I have to decide if I have the passion to make it a daily thing though.

      On my visit to Canberra I went to a few of the places you recommended and found myself inspecting their business model and clientele as much as the food :)
      Akiba was the highlight. All the food was original and delicious, nothing was run of the mill as far as I could tell. The place was packed with young trendy people so not exactly my "family" demographic, but we still all enjoyed it lots.
      The Mandalay bus (no fish tacos that night I'm afraid) had the most interesting business model of all! I mean here's this "Harris cafe de wheels" type of place and it is pumping business through, even though everything on the menu (at least when I went) is from the Costco freezer aisle and every sauce out the front is from the Costco sauce aisle (which is hard to beat unless you go home made). They're really making it work and I find that amazing. As far as I could tell these guys are deep frying and assembling, rather than cooking.
      We also went to a place that you didn't recommend (but we were there and hungry) which was Brodburger. When we got there the place was packed, so much so that our (not exactly cheap) burgers were going to be a 50 minute wait! I thought that would be a sign of quality, so we went ahead and ordered. To my amazement they had an online order tracking system, so they sent me an SMS with a link to my order and I could see our place in the queue (started at 35 from memory). We went for a walk along the foreshore and to my surprise many of the restaurants there seemed to be doing it quite tough. On a Saturday night there was one Chinese restaurant in particular that had 0 customers in it. I counted 8 staff trying to look busy and felt really sorry for them.
      Eventually our Brod-burgers were ready and... Yuk! Everything was "never again". Crap bun, crap meat, crap sauce, greasy chips. Despite their fairly high prices and their average quality they were thriving!
      I also paid a visit to that little area that has all the food trucks in it, but it was during the day and definitely not "kicking". The thought that came to mind was how to differentiate from the range already there. I also wondered if there was ever enough "traffic" to keep them all going, especially as they were pretty crammed in (so the fact that they are moving should be a good thing I'd say).
      Cheers,
      Narm Naleg
      Maximus Wood Fired Oven | GMG Daniel Boone | Cyprus Grill | Big Steel Keg | Weber Genesis E320 | Weber Go Anywhere |
    • Thanks for the feedback Narmy (I always thing of Cliff Clavin starting to explain something when I type this, makes me laugh out loud). It’s an interesting exercise that’s for sure, I’m glad I have a supportive wife. I may get to test the limits of her patience.

      Really interesting comments. The Mandalay must have changed their model because the last time I visited (admittedly last summer ) there was originality in what they were doing. But I can see how Costco can be a strong pull to the trade. I don’t mind buying ingredients but if there’s something I learnt from Rosemary Brissenden is that making everything from scratch is not only desirable, it is the potential for difference.

      My philosophy is that house-made from-scratch condiments and marinades are the difference between okay and wow. There's places where money can be saved but that's not it.

      I didn’t recommend Brodburger because I, like you, think they are a fraud. They started in a van and there was a long wait for food due to their popularity, understandable but frustrating. I thought that their burgers were ok, not as great as devotees claimed but pretty good. However, they moved into purpose made restaurant and decided that a long wait made them exclusive and a USP. I thought it was incompetence or saying f*** you! to their customers and haven’t been back since. But they have some people sucked in so good luck to them.

      There’s some interesting business models along the foreshore there. Some do boffo business, some less so. Morks (Thai), Betti Bravo (not sure why) and the Dock (pub) do great business.
      Interesting about the Hamlet. It gets damn hot during the day and there’s not a great deal of variety. The other proposed location will definitely fix the heat and provide more choice but is less central so perhaps more of an evening location.

      Akiba has won some awards and we’ve been there three times so definitely a destination.

      I’m conscious of trying to ride the wave and be just ahead of the curve which is why I’m doing the research atm. I first mooted a American barbecue restaurant in Canberra in 2010 but didn’t have the money or the guts at that time. Hopefully the Latin theme, which has a lot of similarities to Asian food and so will be suited to Australian palates (I hope ), will be that wave.
    • Just a useless thought: Is there a possibility for a food truck location somewhere in, near or next to the big foreshore carpark? You could eat Brodburger's lunch! By that I mean steal their customers and ride their tails until the inevitable overtake! (Or takeover).
      I love the idea of the latin theme.
      Cheers,
      Narm Naleg
      Maximus Wood Fired Oven | GMG Daniel Boone | Cyprus Grill | Big Steel Keg | Weber Genesis E320 | Weber Go Anywhere |
    • Narm Naleg wrote:

      Just a useless thought: Is there a possibility for a food truck location somewhere in, near or next to the big foreshore carpark? You could eat Brodburger's lunch! By that I mean steal their customers and ride their tails until the inevitable overtake! (Or takeover).
      I love the idea of the latin theme.
      great question. The markets are a huge draw on Saturdays and directly compete with BB and I wonder whether they have exclusive access to that carpark. I'll ask my ACT govt colleagues.

      Setting up in the markets is also a possibility
    • HectorAsado wrote:

      I always thing of Cliff Clavin starting to explain something when I type this, makes me laugh out loud
      I almost missed this bit! :D

      I've been thinking of changing my username to Narmy for that very reason. Obviously it was Norm, but cliff always turned it into Narm or Narmy :D

      With the Mandalay bus, I actually got to see the packs come out of the freezer and they were the Costco ones (waffle cut fries, jalapeno poppers, mozzarella sticks, chicken wings, etc.) so it wasn't exactly hard to put 2 and 2 together for a Costco nut like me.
      They seem to differentiate through location and atmosphere. They had some musos playing and a pretty good vibe going around the bus.
      Cheers,
      Narm Naleg
      Maximus Wood Fired Oven | GMG Daniel Boone | Cyprus Grill | Big Steel Keg | Weber Genesis E320 | Weber Go Anywhere |
    • Narm Naleg wrote:

      HectorAsado wrote:

      I always thing of Cliff Clavin starting to explain something when I type this, makes me laugh out loud
      I almost missed this bit! :D
      I've been thinking of changing my username to Narmy for that very reason. Obviously it was Norm, but cliff always turned it into Narm or Narmy :D

      With the Mandalay bus, I actually got to see the packs come out of the freezer and they were the Costco ones (waffle cut fries, jalapeno poppers, mozzarella sticks, chicken wings, etc.) so it wasn't exactly hard to put 2 and 2 together for a Costco nut like me.
      They seem to differentiate through location and atmosphere. They had some musos playing and a pretty good vibe going around the bus.
      LOL, frozen shop bought stuff, that's just slack arse. I have a soft spot for some of their stuff, the hot wings, jalapeno poppers and spanakopita have both seen service at mine but people deserve more than that when they're paying
    • So you are going to be serving alcohol at this "Bar & Grill" how do you go about getting a license for that? I know over here in the Nanny state it would be a major PITA to get anything like that licensed...

      Are the Jalapeno Poppers from Costco decent? Do they have to be deep fried?
      Smite The Shepherd And The Sheep Will Be Scattered!