The ‘Glamorous’ Life of the Restaurant Owner

Last year, just after we opened Momo, one evening I sat down with a glass wine and got some food. A stranger came up and said: “It must be so great to own a restaurant. You can drink as much wine as you want and eat what you want and when you want.” The reality couldn’t be farther from this belief.

 

But where am I going with it?

We are open just over a year. The craziest year you can possibly imagine. I have never worked so hard in my life, but I still love it. Time with my family is very limited. Being a working mom that owns her own business is much harder than I could ever imagine. The last months have been a real life lesson teaching me to put my priorities first; family and time with the kids.

We are so lucky with our little ones. They are the most amazing little helpers you can imagine. We try to get them involved as much as we can. Lucas is only 7, and little Momo is 6. He cannot wait to work @Momo and she wants to be a chef and repaint the front of the restaurant pink (of course!). They make us proud. Their teacher told us that Lucas not only knows seasons and months but was talking about seasonal eating and why we change the menu at Momo with seasons. They listen, they learn.

I’m learning how to spend time properly with them. I’m asking my son to remind me to put my phone away and not allow me to answer phone calls. I’m planning days off more carefully to make the most of it; little day trips, adventures….

  Appreciate the time together. Being and living the moment. Appreciate the sunshine.

It’s all about juggling the time between family, business, friends…. But how to do it all? There are not enough hours in a day. Priorities for us? Always our children. Because of them I get up and I keep going.

Being a business owner is not as glamorous as I thought it was going to be. I remember, few years ago, when I was mopping the floor as a waitress in a restaraunt, I said to myself  “when I have my own restaurant I won’t have to mop the floor ever again.”

And I was sooooo wrong! Yes, I’m mopping floors and cleaning. I do it all. I’m a strong believer in ‘do it yourself’ and then ask others. I used to believe that it was the only way to check if it was done right. Now, I have to learn to delegate. To trust others. To “let it go.” I’m a control freak. I keep forgetting that the team I have and the husband I have can do it all as well as I can, probably much better, but I’m not ready to admit it 😔.

And there is so much more to learn. There is so much I don’t know. There is so much to remember. There are so many phone calls, emails, letters, bills, and things to do. If I had only known… but I would do it anyway. I think so.

A few days ago, I had a chat with a very successful business woman. She started her new adventure last year and she is doing amazingly well. During the chat, she said “it takes sooo much time… I’m not yet where I need to be.” I looked at her and reminded her what she achieved in a very short period of time. I asked “Did you expect to achieve as much as you did? Can you see how fantastically you are doing and how successful you are?”

And that’s a problem we have. The more you achieve, the more you want. And that is fantastic. Always trying to do better. But we all should remember to stop and realise how much we have already done. We are still doing what we love.

I’m mopping floors less often.

Lots love,

Kamila

 

Rewards, Awards and Reviews

I wanted to write about my side and my view on rewards, awards and reviews for a long time. All so important for a restaurant owner. So close to my heart.

Reviews; the heart stopping moment of the unknown. Every time, every single time, when I can see that we have a new review, I have that second of heart-banging worry in me. And then, a big, deep breath of relief… or a horrible feeling of stabbing straight in my chest. Don’t get me wrong. We need reviews and we want to get reviews. We want to know what customers think about us as a restaurant. We need feedback to improve, to learn and to avoid mistakes.

We are humans. We are not perfect. We make mistakes (hopefully not too many). Our job is to make our customers happy and look  after them as well as we can every single time. I really want to know what our customers think about us. Momo is my life and my passion. I’m learning and developing as I go. I don’t know everything. I always want to do better.

I am probably the toughest critic. I am never really happy with myself and I always want to do better. I’m not alone. I believe that most restaurant owners are doing the best they can every single day. We are all different. Each place is different but we all want the same; happy, returning customers.

It is in human nature to judge, to have expectations. I do judge, even if I want to or not. The decor, atmosphere, staff, food, and every thing else. Why? Because I have to choose the meal, order it, eat it (or not) and pay for it!  And I want to be happy to do so. And if I do it, you do it too. A special occasion, quick lunch or meal with friends can be ruined by customer service, food, atmosphere etc. Please, wherever you go, please give feedback. Tell us what you think – the good, the bad and the ugly😁.

It is very difficult to look at yourself from the outside, to see it from a customer’s perspective. If something goes wrong, we might be able to fix it, but bad reviews can really affect business. Just please, before you sit down to write a negative review on TripAdvisor or on social media, talk to us first. We don’t want to upset anyone. We want happy, satisfied customers. For me, the reviews are really personal. It is my business, my today, my future and my dream. The best moments for me, as a restaurant owner, are seeing happy customers. A lovely, little message from a customer, an email, a smile or even a “thank you” really makes our day. So, thank you❤️!

From customers reviews to food critic reviews…. McKenna Guide, Georgina Campbell, Tom Doorley ….

 

It was my secret dream to be one day mentioned in a Food and Wine Magazine, and then it happened so quickly. The same week we got listed in 100 Best Restaurants in Ireland in ‘The Sunday Times/The McKennas’ Guide.’ I was in the shower that morning when Harry ran in with the biggest smile saying that we made it on to the list. We were extremely happy…. And scared – yes- SCARED!!!! Why?  Because of the extra pressure from the bigger expectations from our customers. Do we deserve it? Are we good enough? These are the questions I’m asking myself every day.

 


And, of course, our pride and joy – our little Momo with a beautiful McKennas’ plague!

Is it important? Oh, yes. It’s so difficult to survive and get established as a restaurant. Any recognition from the best in the industry is extremely rewarding. It’s hard to give yourself a pat on the back and say ‘I’m doing good. We might be able to survive.’ As I said, I’m a tough self-critic.

Over a year ago we received a letter from The Restaurant Association Awards with a nomination, and soon afterward came our first huge win; “Best Kids Size Me” in Munster. It was an absolutely amazing mark of recognition for us especially because we were only open with 4 months at the time.

This year wasn’t any different. I know how tough our competition is and how many amazing restaurants are around. How can we compete with these fantastic restaurants that are so well established and so successful? We can only do our best, stay honest with ourselves, work hard, stick to our guns, and be consistent.

I was so nervous yesterday. I don’t know why. I really wanted to win an award again. My expectations are growing really fast and I don’t like it. I’m trying to stop myself all the time and appreciate  what I have. I have the most beautiful, healthy family. I have amazing and the most supportive friends, and I have my dream business – my Momo.  Do I need anything else to prove to myself that I’m doing a good job? Sadly, yes. I don’t think that there will be a day in my life where I stop trying to do things better. Nothing is ever perfect to me, I always want to do better. Winning an award doesn’t define you, or your business. It helps. It gives you belief that you are doing good.

 And we did it again!!! We won “Best Kids Size Me” In Munster, 2016!!! There was an incredible feeling of accomplishment. I was proud, happy and deeply humble.

The moment you realise that you won but someone else didn’t. Next time it could be you. The disappointment – is it fair? Who is better? How can you judge? Who works harder? Who is more successful? How can it be measured? These are difficult questions.

We all work very hard. We are passionate about what we do. We always want to improve. The awards and reviews are very important, but returning customers are the key to a successful restaurant. It helps to put on the map a restaurant you like, the service you appreciate, the menu that inspires…. So next time please vote for your favourite restaurant, leave a constructive comment, recommend it to others, and spread the love.

 

Lots Love,

Kamila

Post-Christmas Blues


Christmas season is over. The New Year has just started. Time for reflection, planning, getting ready for what this year is going to bring.

Christmas, when you are working in the restaurant industry is different. Most people don’t really like it…. But I absolutely love it! One of my favourite days is Christmas Eve at “work.” You are probably thinking now that I must be crazy or I’m lying, but no. I do love ‘The Christmas Madness.’ Families, kids, friends, last minute shopping, and the best Christmas Spirit in the air. It’s the perfect excuse to give a hug or two, exchange the “Merry Christmas” wishes, and have a glass or two.

It’s great to know that after all the hard work, we are ready to celebrate it and appreciate it maybe a little bit more.

When you work in the restaurant industry, you are waiting for Christmas for most of the year. It is the busiest time of the year so you spend the rest of the year preparing for it. It’s lots of hard work, a little bit of stress, hundreds of phone calls, and there are never ending cases of wine and beer…. And food – lots of it. There is hard work, long hours, and fun too! I’m so lucky to have such an amazing team at Momo. The guys in the kitchen never complained and worked so hard, and enjoyed it, too. Strangely, the busier we were, the better the mood in the kitchen was. JB was so calm and organised. A great and pure pleasure to work with all of them. We just had to remember to deliver lots of coffee on time….

Firstly, we had to survive long, long hours together! In hunger and in thirst, for better and for busier – together! I can be quite difficult sometimes but the girls know how to deal with me. Hannah always makes me coffee. Jess sends me on a break and reminds me to eat, and Victoria keeps me calm. And happy days! We did survive. We looked after each other. We had lots of fun. We worked hard.

My family – Harry, who worked with me and for me to be sure that I would have extra time with the kids. I wouldn’t be able to do it without them. This year, for the first time I got to properly enjoy Winterval. And I loved it! This year, Christmas Day was fantastic; cooking, eating and drinking together. Board games, movies and far too much chocolate…

We had a wonderful Christmas at Momo. It was full of amazing people, regular customers, new customers, Christmas parties, friends, fun and laughter!

  
I’m so happy and grateful for the last year. The last month couldn’t go any better for us. Our hard work paid off.

Thank you all for the incredible support. For all kind words. For coming back and bringing your family and friends. For enjoying yourself, for filling up the room with laughter and chats, and the few sing songs full of Christmas spirit. Nothing makes me happier than seeing our customers having fun, enjoying the evening. Thank you.


And before you know it- it’s all over. January kicks in and the calm season begins. Time for planning and reflection. Time for a little relaxation and appreciation. But not for long. Lots of great ideas  are already beginning to blossom….


And this is my plan for 2016!

Lots Love,

Kamila

My Superheroes 2 – Local Producers in Waterford (Fruit & Veg)

Superheros.

Here at Momo we have 4 fruit and vegetable suppliers. You are probably wondering ‘why 4? Is one not good enough?’ The answer is no.

For us, seasonal and local produce is a must. Our suppliers are small, independent and local. They are all full of passion. They all work extremely hard. They have to deal with the rain, the cold, the wind, the sunshine (or rather the lack of it :)) and the seasons. They all offer something different. They don’t produce big quantities of crops but sometimes even they cannot keep up with the demand.

The Ballybeg Greens – Sean, Billy, Johnny and the rest of the team. 

I met these guys during the Summer a couple of years ago in the New Street Garden. Sean has the biggest hands and heart. They always put a smile on my face. They have beautiful and fresh produce; the best herbs I’ve ever seen or tasted. Chocolate mint.  Basil mint. Pineapple mint. Peppermint. Spearmint. Apple mint. Did you know that there is so many different types of mint?! Truly inspiring!

And the salad leaves, edible flowers and, of course, the vegetables! Watermelons – the best ones are from Ballybeg! Find them on Facebook.

  

The GIY guys – Michael Kelly, and the Main Grower Dermot Carey

I will always remember my first conversation with Dermot; at least 30 minutes on the phone explaining our ethos. Why do we want to have GIY vegetables? What are we going to do with them? Will we respect the produce? Are we serious about local produce? I adore Dermot. Every single conversation with him is inspiring and his knowledge is incredible. You can talk with him about vegetables for weeks! And, surprisingly, it is very interesting! I really don’t know how he does it. I know that he started to “grow his own” at the very early age of nine.  So, if you would like to Grow It Yourself – do it! The GIY group is the way to go offering super support and knowledge. And they are fun, too!  We had the pleasure to host a dinner during the Harvest Festival using GIY produce. It was a 100% vegetarian meal (4 courses) showcasing the fantastic vegetables that are so full of love and hard work. Baby turnips. Beetroot ice cream – so sweet and vibrant. Baby carrots. Leeks. Cauliflower. Spinach. Pumpkin. The list is long and changes in accordance with the seasons 😃.

 

Tom Cleary – Wexford.

Every Friday, after lunch, Tom arrives in his white van. He parks cross the road, goes straight to the kitchen, takes the order and then delivers his beautiful vegetables. His wife is always with him. His hands are not afraid of hard work. He is funny. Every single time when we pay him, Tom gives back a €2 coin for good luck. His vegetables are stunning!  Rainbow beetroots. Black curly kale. Leeks. Carrots. Super potatoes!


Dunphy’s of Annestown – Eoghen.

Look at these stunning rainbow carrots! Ok, you might think that I’m the weird one – getting excited about the carrots – but I really am.  I love and adore the fresh produce; the colour and the smell. Eoghen has the biggest selection of fruit and vegetables. He provides us with exotic, top quality stuff  from lemons to pomegranate and avocados to broccoli. He started to grow his own produce recently and as you can see – he knows how to do it!

So please buy local. Support these guys. They have families. They work hard. They really do care. It is personal. I have had the pleasure to get to know them all. I love having our little chats, the serious conversations and exchanging the funny stories. I prefer to buy from them – I know where the money will go.

Please go to the market. Try to Grow It Yourself. You won’t be disappointed. The taste of locally grown vegetables is different – very different. They taste soooo good! Our job is to do justice to their produce and respect the hard work of these amazing people.

 

 

My Superheroes – Local Producers in Waterford City (Seagull Bakery)

I want to share the stories about our suppliers and producers – the real people behind the beautiful produce. These people are full of passion, extremely hard working, dedicated, and wonderful.

We are so incredibly lucky to have such wonderful superheroes on our doorstep in the Sunny South East.

Seagull Bakery

I start with Sarah, owner of Seagull Bakery. She was our first supplier before we even had a head chef, and weeks before we open.


I met Sarah years ago. Sarah the artist and the painter. She is extremely talented.

Two years ago, I bumped into Sarah again in Dungarvan during the food festival. I didn’t know that she had become a full time baker. I bought her bread. It was the best decision ever. It tasted like the Polish bread that I had missed for so long, only it had just got a thousand times better and had landed straight into my hands. With a wonderful texture, flavour, crunchy crust and made with love.

I found and bought Sarah’s bread again a few months later in Larder (shop on the Waterford Quay) and oh! Fantastic! I made the decision that when we opened Momo – Sarah’s bread would be a must! I met her a few weeks later and the rest is history.

Now, I find out few weeks ago that she bakes a certain shape and size of sourdough bread only for us!  Momo’s Signature Bread! What a fantastic feeling to know that this one is just for us!


Sarah is a superhero. She inspires me. I love having chats with her. Her knowledge about bread – real bread – is incredible.

Sarah is a mother of 3, self employed, super funny, very helpful, extremely hard working…. and she never has enough time to sleep.  Remember, it takes two days to make and bake a real sourdough. She stays up until crazy late times and gets up at 5am to bake! She has a super supportive husband Conor, who helps her as much as he can. You can find her bread (and Conor 😃) in Tramore every Saturday morning. Get there early – otherwise the breads and other pastries are all gone!


And this is me. It is probably 2am, after work. I’m hungry but I have Sarah’s amazing bread and the best hummus ever – happy me!

Find Sarah on Facebook.

My Favourite Momo Moments

Getting a little sentimental this morning. Tomorrow is our first anniversary since we officially opened the front door of Momo.

This is how it all started. I dreamed about having our own family run restaurant for years. The idea was always changing and evolving for years.

On one Wednesday evening, one phone call was made and that was it. It was very real, very scary, amazing, fantastic and unknown.

Scary – very scary – lots of worries- could I do it? But at the time I knew I just had to. Harry, my husband, partner and friend is on that journey with me from the very first time I vocalised the idea. I’m surprised that he is still here and didn’t run off… I can be very difficult sometimes 😜.


Today is about my favourite moments. The people. Our fantastic customers, suppliers, small producers and all who helped.


Our first Christmas and Enda helping put the Christmas tree in my Micra. Locally bought in Ballybricken so at least it was a short journey.


My girls – people I spend more time with than my own children; my Momo Family.


   
Hannah is missing. I have to take a photo of her, and you all remember Vicky. I still miss her. The girls have to survive with me. They are amazing. Victoria, tall Victoria, is with us from the very first day. Little Vicky was like the sunshine, missed but Hannah is like she was always there. And Jess, not only a fantastic waitress with a passion for, and huge knowledge of, food but also a great friend.

The Momo Team has changed a lot during the year. We change a lot. I miss them all – Ronan, Coilin, Dean, Cat, a few kitchen porters… But I know that they are happy and going to be very successful. Keep an eye on them.😉

I’m so happy and grateful to have such a talented team. JB and the guys are working always so hard, but always in great mood and always happy. Work can be good. I love the food. Every dish is prepared with such wonderful care. All the little details. Magic fingers in the kitchen. And to keep everyone happy – coffee for the chefs is a must every couple of hours!

This is what makes me smile. Our customers. Small and big. Little smiles, little chats. Getting to know people. Relationships. Friendships. Watching children grow. Couples on first dates. Families. Friends.


Remember, every kind word means so much to us. Seeing the same faces makes me so happy and proud. Hoping that maybe I really can do something right. The lady who comes in for lunch with her book and orders soup. A Little chat. The family with two little girls and hot chocolate, the lovely couple – so in love❤️. A big family reunion. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Graduations. I love it. I love it all!

Our suppliers and producers – without them we wouldn’t be Momo. I will tell you all about it next time.

Call over, have some food, a drink or two and celebrate our first birthday with us!

Love,

Kamila

Time to Start the Journey in Blogging..

I was thinking about writing this blog for months. I did blog before but in Polish, so get ready for my poor English, bad grammar and hopefully a little bit of fun. MY opinion on things… big and small, and the life of the restaurant owner 🙂

I have to be honest. I say it how it is. I’m scared to write in English.

I’m very passionate about the food, the restaurant and what comes with it.

photos phone 089

Stay tuned. I promise to do my best.

Lots love,

Kamila

New Vegetarian Dishes

We’ve just updated our menu to include lots of new vegetarian dishes. Most of these can be tailored for vegans too! The menu includes lots of the healthy options you’d expect, but also some hearty, filling dinners such as our risotto and black bean and quinoa burger 😊

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Momo in John & Sally McKenna’s Guides

John and sally mckennas guides logoWe were delighted to receive a glowing review in John & Sally McKenna’s Guides “10 Holiday Secrets” recently.

Harry O’Neill and Kamila Bystrzonowska had been working around the restaurant scene in Waterford for a few years before they ended up working together in Waterford’s seminal bar, Geoff’s, on Michael Street. The germ of Momo was probably sown there and then they met chef Ronan Joy, who has worked with Kevin Aherne in Sage, in Midleton. Together this team have applied a single minded focus on sourcing, seasonality and great cooking. Look out for monkfish roasted with a dehydrated black olive crust, served on a great tasting bacon and fennel risotto; homemade fish fingers with Duncannon Smokehouse salmon filled with cream cheese, dill and Doherty’s smoked cod; crispy shoulder of spring lamb with cumin spiced potatoes. This is an exciting and exacting approach and shows great confidence and surety of vision from this team.

Irish Restaurant Awards 2015 

Irish Restaurant Awards, Best Kids Size menu awarded to Momo!
Momo at the Irish Restaurant Awards 2015

Momo at the Irish Restaurant Awards 2015

We were over the moon to be awarded “Best Kids Size Me menu” in  the Irish Restaurant Awards 2015 Munster Regional Finals on Tuesday (14th April). We are now shortlisted for the All-Ireland final and have our fingers firmly crossed! Our very own Harry had this to say:

“Children’s nutrition is becoming an increasingly important topic in our society and all too often it is the young ones who are a side thought, with processed food being deep fried and served up with no colour or flavour.

“Momo want to break this trend with dishes of pea and sweet corn risotto, sate chicken skewers with veggie rice and fresh tempura of Dunmore East Fish, These are dishes the parents will want to eat! We owe it to the next generation to educate them about their food.”

Don’t forget to check out our award winning kids menu the next time you’re thinking of a family meal on the town.

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