The Brunch Father
On a gray Sunday morning recently, the smell of bacon and coffee wafted through the entryway of the Lucerne Inn, signaling one thing—brunch was in the works.
At 8:30 a.m., aside from the faintest sound of music playing overhead, all was still quiet at the inn, which sits in a stately fashion over Phillips Lake on Route 1A heading east from Bangor.
But with only a half hour until guests would begin arriving, kitchen and wait staff were busy putting the final touches on the immense spread of brunch classics being held in chafing dishes in the dining room.
“This is nothing,” head chef Arturo Montes chuckles, who for the last two years has been leading the Lucerne team in hosting a range of guests for the weekly brunch.
Arturo, who has been a chef for the last 15 years in locations including Bar Harbor and Bangor, said the brunch service is practically second nature. The key to keeping everything stocked and fresh is all in the preparation and timing of the four-hour long brunch, which runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. year round.
Summer is typically the busier brunch season, with about 150 guests coming from weddings hosted at the inn or nearby camp owners making the drive to save themselves from having to cook.
Winter sees fewer guests making the trip, according to David Silverman, the inn’s owner, but with about 75 guests still frequenting the window-lined dining room every Sunday, there needs to be plenty of brunch to go around.
The amount and variety of scrumptious food served up for brunch at the Lucerne is nothing to bat an eye at. The feast includes eggs in various forms: scrambled, benedict, made-to-order omelets; traditional breakfast sides like sausage links, bacon and hashbrowns; pastries, muffins, bagels and toast; pasta salads, vegetable salads, fruit spreads; chicken and beef dishes, and a rotating list of other side items.
Oh, and let’s not forget the waffle station or the dessert table.
So how does a small kitchen staff of three pull this all off? Plenty of prep-work, teamwork and timing.
That all starts the week before, when Montes places the food supply order. The inn recommends that people place reservations if they are attending the brunch, so Montes has a general idea of how many people he must prepare to cook for, assuming that about 20 or 30 walk-ins will also attend the brunch.
For the basics, as a rule of thumb, Montes orders 30 pounds of bacon, 30 dozen eggs and 50 pounds of potatoes.
The inn also holds a dinner service nightly from 5 to 9 p.m., and prep work for the Sunday brunch doesn’t have a chance to begin until after Saturday’s dinner service is winding down. Montes said the staff can be in the kitchen until as late as 11 p.m. or midnight on Saturday, prepping the food and putting it in pans to be cooked the next morning.
As the kitchen and dining room staff walks around inspecting the brunch spread just before brunch is set to start, there’s no doubt that attentiveness to detail is top on their list. Montes said it’s this dedication to pride that bonds the staff together.
“We know what we’re doing,” Montes said.
Montes relies on the staff in the dining room to stay on top of which food items need to be replenished. In between refilling cups of coffee and clearing plates, the staff will keep an eye on how much of each item remains in the individual chafing dishes. Once Montes is alerted that the stock of the item is running low, he’ll uses the pre-prepped ingredients to replenish the dish in about 15 minutes.
Silverman, who purchased the Lucerne Inn in June, attributes much of the brunch’s success to Montes’ leadership and organization.
“As kitchens and kitchen managers go, [Montes] is wonderful… He is as levelheaded and runs as seamless a kitchen you will see anywhere,” Silverman said. “In regards to organization and temperament, he is a real professional.”
After the brunch service has come to a close, the staff, which had spent the last four hours attentively waiting on others, gathers their own plates from what’s left of the lavish spread.
There is a dinner service Sunday night, but Arturo will have his second-in-command run that meal. After brunch, Arturo says he “disappears.”
He’ll return Monday for another week of meal services, and it won’t be long until he’s planning the following Sunday’s brunch.