Monday 10 June 2013

Nomad Training

Since 80% of our time now is occupied with our new staff, I guess there is no better topic choice for this post than our staff training.

As in all businesses, the first weeks for new employees are spent learning about their new company and training how to perform the tasks required.  The great challenge in our case is to conduct this training without having a restaurant ready where we could meet all our staff at once and go through all the topics they need to know and master before we open. But as they say, a challenge always gives you an opportunity to be creative and that is what we are doing.

Training at home
The first two weeks with no other space the training had to be held at home so we decided to focus on a small group: our management team. We introduced them to Cuca, the concept, the philosophy, our values, etc. Next step was to start reviewing and developing the systems necessary for everyday operations. Our intention was for the key team to be involved in this step as they need to understand and agree with the structure of the restaurant to be able to genuinely embrace it and explain it to their teams as something they themselves believe in.

Exam at the beach
For the third week we managed to get a small meeting room so we divided all our staff in two groups (kitchen and service) and got our managers to train these two groups on the topics we had previously trained them on. Kitchen trained on Monday and Wednesday and Service on Tuesday and Thursday. They had a day off in between to be able to study what they had learned during the lesson days. Friday was a big day: exams for everyone to make sure they were assimilating the content given. Is it very obvious I have been a teacher before? :) You can’t believe how handy my experience comes in…

Since we did not have a space to put 45 people, we held the exam at the beach (oh Bali…. ) and once the examination was out of the way, we spent some time getting to know each other and teaching our staff techniques to work as a team through funny  games.  A well-deserved break after a week full of theoretical lessons.

The egg toss, one of the games we played to practice team-building
This week we face yet another challenge. Our contractor says we are still one week away from getting in the restaurant so how do we keep our staff motivated to continue learning without being able to practice? Remember that the type of persons working in hospitality are very active people, used to a quite physical job. To keep them sitting down in a room for very long while listening non-stop to someone’s speech will eventually stop being effective so we came out with a new plan for this week: we have rented a function room and set stations all around it. We will divide the class in groups that will rotate from station to station to meet a different leader who will explain one single topic for 30 minutes. When the gong goes off, the group rotates to a new station. In this way participants will be exposed to a new experience every 30 minutes: the space will change, the students will have to physically move, the teacher is different, the topic a new one. The idea is to keep the family awake!

Well, we have plenty of ideas for this week but we really hope we can finally have a restaurant for the next one as we are all eager to move in to our new home!

Monday 3 June 2013

Jakarta Sprint

I had meant to write about our 4 intensive days in Jakarta a couple of weeks ago but our return to Bali is being so hectic that until now I haven’t had the chance to fill you in with the details of our trip.

Some time ago we realized we should go to Jakarta to promote Cuca as many of the tourists coming to Bali are Jakartians taking a break from the big city. We could only leave Bali before we open as once we start operations we will have to be present at the restaurant for a while before our staff can handle service independently. The right opportunity presented itself when a friend of ours told us about a cute bazaar she organizes from time to time where vendors can showcase their very special products. We immediately thought of Cuca Salts and confirmed our attendance. Since the bazaar was going to last 2 days, we decided to combine it with a couple of sessions to meet with contacts we had in Jakarta or friends of friends that were waiting to hear more about Cuca. We had lots to prepare and not having any equipment or staff available gave us no choice but to squeeze our brains and come up with a very simple but very unique program. 

Cuca Salts at the bazaar.
Photo courtesy of our friend and great
blogger Hans
I must say the events went much better than we could have expected. At the bazaar Cuca Salts were an overwhelming success and we were truly touched by people’s reaction to them. They listened to us for a minute, held the container in their hands, look at our colorful salt, smell it and immediately bought it. I was really emotional to witness this response as we had spent many painstaking hours developing every aspect of the product: picked up the ingredients, source the salt, design the package and even attach the stickers…

"Discovering Taste" Session
Photo courtesy of our friend and great
blogger Hans
The second part of our trip consisted of a couple of sessions to introduce Cuca. One of them was for expats living in Jakarta (a great friend of mine helped us with the invites as she loves food and so do her contacts) and the other one was for food bloggers and journalists. I must say we had a wonderful time with both groups and got enthusiastic reactions from the participants. The event started with an introduction to the concept of Cuca, followed by a very special master class called “Discovering Taste” (where we teach how to cook without recipes… More details to come in my next post) and we finished with a cocktail (Cuca’s Sun-gria) and our very unique Pop-corn Betutu. Betutu is a traditional Balinese dish consisting of chicken and spices. It’s hot, rich and extremely tasty. Our pop-corn version was a hit!

Everyone was extremely interested and supportive and we feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet great, passionate people who believe that Cuca will be a success. We left Jakarta energized and encouraged more than ever to fight for this dream. Friends, new and old, we are going to do everything we can to proof you right!

Cuca's Pop-corn Betutu. A hit!

Monday 27 May 2013

Cuca Salts

After a couple of extremely busy weeks, I am finally back to the blog as I can’t let the one more day pass without writing about our Cuca salts. You may remember my post “A salty trip”, where I told you about the ancient technique of extracting salt in Amed, in the East of Bali. We went there back in November to understand how special and unique this salt is and came back home with tons to start developing one of Cuca stellar products: Cuca Salts. 

Our idea was simple: infuse these sea salt crystals with traditional Balinese flavors. The result could not go wrong as the base product is the most amazing salt you can imagine. Produced 100% naturally in incredibly small quantities and slowly extracted exclusively from solar evaporation, the crystals are 4 sided hollow pyramids for reasons unknown until now. Gourmet companies around the world have noticed this magical product and sell it at incredible high prices but for us is easily available so we can offer it at prices you can afford.

The second step in developing Cuca Salts was to identify the most traditional Balinese flavors, those always present in the popular “bumbu” (Indonesian word for spices mixture or seasoning). Kevin studied them, began understanding their traditional use and grouped them for specific purposes: one mixture for poultry, one for seafood, one for veggies, one for beef and one for pork. 

The challenge was then how to take advantage of these unique ingredients completely fresh, as capturing the aroma had to be a key feature of Cuca Salts. Applying a secret technique, Kevin managed to produce a very special end product: a magic salt infused with the essence of Balinese deeply rooted ingredients. 

We offer 5 “touches” identifiable by their different colors and aromas, to be sprinkled over food either before cooking (a 5 minute marination is enough) or after cooking, just before serving. You use them as normal salt for any type of cooking (steam, fry, grill, boil, barbeque, etc.) and they save you the time of manually preparing complex seasonings or marinades. If you are on holidays in Bali, this is the perfect souvenir to bring back home: a take away little box with the soul of Bali that will remind you of this very special island while you enjoy your lunch across the world. 

For pork: sea salt, young ginger, turmeric and lemon basil.
For poultry: sea salt, chili, kaffir lime leaf and ginger flower. 
For veggies: sea salt, galangal, lemon grass and salam leaf. 
For seafood: sea salt, white pepper, citrus, vanilla and pandan leaf. 
For beef: sea salt, Javanese black pepper, garlic and kencur.

We offer them in two sizes: 50 and 80 grams at 38.000 (USD 3.8) and 48.000Rupiah (USD 4.8) respectively. 

The first time we made them publicly available was last weekend in Jakarta and within minutes of opening our booth we had sold 20, within 2 days we run out of stock. The weekend promotion made us realized the great potential of this little first step by Cuca. One more reason to come to visit us!