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The meat comes in fresh, on the bone, with the fat on it
The Roast Room consists of The Roast Bar, the brasserie-style restaurant on the ground floor and the Rotisserie, the fine-dining restaurant on the first floor. Everything has been thought out with the finest details. The setting is picture perfect. So is the menu. And that’s what the customers come for, of course. The Roast Room has already won the award for the best meat restaurant in the Netherlands multiple times.
As operations manager of The Roast Room, Neal Valentijn is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the business. “I have been working in the hospitality industry for more than 15 years and have also had several companies,” he says proudly. “I knew Michiel, the owner of The Roast Room, for a long time from the catering industry and at some point we got together. The Roast Room had been open for a while, and his other restaurant Vis aan de Schelde, across the street, also existed for 20 years. ” That fish restaurant is a relatively small restaurant of a very high level where they do not run on the masses. Every day they have about the same number of place settings. At The Roast Room, on the other hand, 1000 place settings per day are not unusual. “That is quite a challenge. At the Vis, as we call it internally, there are 20 people working there. At The Roast it’s almost 70. So all in all, with office workers, we have about 100 employees. My predecessor had grown from Vis aan de Schelde to manager for both places. At some point, that went wrong.” he continues.
“Then I started at The Roast to guarantee daily operation at a high level. The meat comes in fresh, on the bone and with the fat on it. By hanging the meat, the so-called dry age process, the mass of the meat shrinks by 30%. So then you also clean it off the bone. There is a purchase price and sales price, and the profit margin must be calculated between them. So that was quite a challenge. ”
The Roast Room is not just a place where you can eat. The butcher shop flaunts behind perfectly shiny glass with a lot of cold cuts that you can just buy without eating there. “But often people who have eaten here take a look at the butcher shop. At the store sign they can see what is for sale. And they will come back. ”
During the past season, he saw an increase in demand for barbecue products. And he cleverly responds to that. “We sell everything that goes with the preparation of the meat: salt flakes, herbs and sauce, without being a caterer. The products are sold in a package, just like a gift, with matching Roast butcher paper. ” he says proudly. “We also give advice on preparation, because the large pieces of meat prove to be a challenge for most. With this we also offer the customers a bit of experience with their purchase. ”
The butcher shop is part of the kitchen and they are also directly connected to each other. It is not a separate butchery and there is no separate permit for the butchery. “The butcher shop concept pays tribute to the craftsmanship. Restaurants are changing. The classic restaurant like at Vis aan de Schelde is very unique and has a specialization in fish, and it also runs very well. It is known far beyond Amsterdam. But you cannot deny that the restaurant world is changing. People are looking for experience, people want to see more. You see it in design, you see it in the open kitchens, ripening cabinets, you want to show what you do. Involving your customers has become important. ”, Says Neal firmly. Bringing out the craft, excelling in the purity of a real butcher who is proud of his product. “And finding good butchers is also very special. We have one, and it’s a very good one. Because succeeding as we do, from head to tail, is no longer taught at school nowadays. You get a loin, or a hind leg, a technical part of the cow. But dissecting a cow completely with the knife in hand is no longer done. The animal is divided up in the slaughterhouse, so to speak. As a result, we no longer work with very large pieces. ”.
At such a large meat restaurant with open kitchens and numerous ovens and grills, you expect to leave smelling of the food. The opposite is true. “We have done our very best for this. We have invested heavily in a large extraction system because with those charcoal ovens we just have to. This was not initially budgeted: the kitchens were already drawn without taking into account the capacity of the extraction systems. Ultimately, it was the suppliers of the ovens and the kitchen that emerged with a different plan. It could not be accommodated with an engine, because it mainly had to do with the capacity of the exhaust duct. That turned out to be twice as big. ” Those exhaust ducts are in the kitchen, but I also see a lot of pipes on the ceiling of the restaurant. Neal clarified: “We have chosen to make the air ventilation channels in the restaurant area visible, which gives an industrial touch to the interior. It was quite challenging because with a classic system ceiling you can hide everything, but here there had to be a certain pattern on the ceiling so that it is aesthetically correct. And in the end everything is painted in the same color for a calm look. ”
A lot of fat and cooking gravy are also released when preparing so much meat. “Of course we don’t do this in the sink and it doesn’t go with the regular waste. Each kitchen is also equipped with a barrel especially for the roasting gravy. And we also have two large grease traps to catch the grease to the maximum. ”. These grease traps are installed underground in the parking lot. “During my earlier career, I had experience with a blocked sewer. And it is no laughing matter. You cannot serve customers and the hours that go into clearomg the drain are much more expensive than a regular maintenance of a grease trap. So I am well aware of the need for a well-maintained grease trap. ”
“It’s not so bad,” he says when I ask him what he thinks about the business climate here in Amsterdam. “Although I think that the municipality leaves a lot of room not to participate in a sustainable story. Although checks are being carried out, I think the system is somewhat crooked. ” he continues. The property is now four years old. It is a new building bordering on the RAI. So the sewerage, air and energy facilities are completely new. “We are definitely future proof in that area.”
They have applied for an extension of their permit for Vis aan de Schelde. That wasn’t a problem, but the restaurant is actually a victim of its own success. “De Vis is open 7/7 and is literally running at full speed. This brings us above a certain standard for the reduction of electricity flow. This is how we get on the radar and we get checks. Everything has been renewed at Vis aan de Schelde, cooling systems and other kitchen appliances have an A label with regard to energy efficiency. All lighting has been switched to LED and then we will again look at what else you can do to get the decrease down. Nevertheless, we always exceed the standard of 7500 kW. ” according to the manager: “Hospitality businesses that fall under this standard because they are opened less often or have fewer operational hours are not shown, despite the fact that they do not participate in the sustainable story. So, in proportion, these things are not sustainable and they don’t get checks. ”
The Roast also jumps on the sustainable wagon on the menu: “We work with local suppliers who are certified, or in any case have a quality mark. We also have our own purchasing combination, the CAN (Central Purchase Netherlands). That is a club of 30 restaurants with a certain turnover. For example, we purchase centrally and we choose our suppliers. In this way we can make the best choice in terms of price, quality and sustainability.
The Roast Room is a meat restaurant in heart and soul. I can imagine that there are also large groups, some of which do not eat animal products. “But this restaurant is called The Roast Room, and we don’t only sell meat. From the link with Vis aan de Schelde we also have a number of fish dishes on the menu. But also purely vegetarian dishes have a place on the menu. We have beautiful ovens where vegetables are roasted slowly. The ovens are used intensively during the day and remain warm at night. We then add products with which we can do slow cooking. Roasting and barbecuing vegetables is therefore perfect with these ovens. ”
People also come here just to eat meat: “By that I mean real pure meat. The meat is of good origin. Nowadays you hear stories of people who do not eat meat or buy meat from the supermarket during the week and yet consume meat in a different, sustainable way. When they do that, it must be a good product that they enjoy and not because they just want to satisfy their hunger. Then they come here, for example.”
“Do you eat a lot of meat yourself?” I asked him. “It is not too bad. Every day actually, but not pounds a day. A nice piece of meat always tastes good.” (laughs)
“For me, that means satisfied guests.” he says determinedly. “When people have eaten well, and when people have worked well. And that the restaurant has been full. ”
Now it is noticeably quieter during the holidays, the RAI is also closed during this period of the year. “The restaurant upstairs mainly attracts business customers. In a normal restaurant, it gradually gets busier during the week, with top days on Friday and Saturday, ”he continues. “With us, the busiest days are Monday to Friday because of the business customers and tourists. We try to fill the weekends with locals.”