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Meet the Eater Young Guns Semi-Finalists: Alex Pemoulie

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Alex Pemoulie runs the front of house operations of a small Jersey City restaurant called Thirty Acres, which she opened with her husband Kevin one year ago. It's an impressive feat for a 28 year-old, especially considering how ambitious the restaurant is and its early critical success. Now consider that Alex has another, very demanding full time restaurant job—running the financial operations for the entire Momofuku empire. It's not only impressive, it's a little insane.

Says her boss David Chang, "I don't know anyone who does as much as she does in the culinary world. She's doing every angle with the exception of cooking and if she wanted to be a cook she'd be a fantastic cook." To help readers wrap their minds around what a day in the life of Alex Pemoulie looks like, Eater presents a chronicle of a typical day.

7 a.m.: Alarm, snooze, alarm, snooze, etc.

7:45 a.m.: Wake up and go for a run. My husband Kevin and I started running back in September because we felt like assholes for never exercising. It just seemed like something fun and relaxing to do. We also never run together, so it's really the only hour of my day that I actually get to spend by myself without anyone else talking to me.

9 a.m.: Shower, then breakfast with Kevin, get ready for work. We generally just eat cereal or something and continue whatever conversation we were having the night before regarding a new dish or a service issue from the night before or one of our cooks or servers. Now that we FINALLY have our liquor license, we're in the process of developing a beverage program that we hope to debut in early June. So we talk about that a lot. Sometimes we just daydream about things that we're going to do on Sunday, our day off.

9:27 a.m.: I leave for the PATH train. Our apartment is only a few blocks from the Grove Street stop, and the trains come at set times (every five minutes I think), so I have my walk timed perfectly to catch the 9:34 train.

9:45 a.m.: Walk from 14th street and 6th ave to the Momofuku offices in Union Square. Now that it's warm I always get a huge iced coffee with hazelnut Coffeemate from the guy on the corner. It's disgusting, but I love it. My day doesn't feel right without it. While I walk I start going through the emails that I got while I was underground, both Momofuku and Thirty Acres. My husband and I still manage all of our customers' emails by ourselves, so it can be a lot.

10 a.m.: Get to work. Drink another coffee. Get down to business reading all of my emails. I get so many emails. We're always trying to figure out a way to cut down on email fatigue at Momofuku, but with all of the NYC, Toronto, and Sydney restaurants' nightly logs and all of the communication between restaurants both here and abroad, it can still get overwhelming sometimes.

10:30 a.m.: I double check that the to-do list I made the day before still makes sense, make whatever edits I need to, and print it out. I live and die by this to do list. Even though I'm at Momofuku, I still have a section of my list that's dedicated to Thirty Acres admin stuff that can't wait until that night after service.

11 a.m. - 6 p.m.: Work! The Momofuku office has exploded recently and there are now 15 of us I believe (when I started there was only three of us: Drew Salmon, EunJean Song, and myself!). My finance team is made up of myself and three other people. We perform two basic functions for the company: we do all of the "money stuff" like bookkeeping, bill paying, inventory management etc., and then we also calculate, monitor, and evaluate each of the restaurants' financial performances and work with the guys at the restaurants to set financial goals and the means to achieve those goals. Our company is unique in the sense that the happiness of our customers and our employees comes first, followed by the bottom line.

I also work very closely with Drew and Dave (Drew is Dave's partner and the other owner of Momofuku). Drew and Dave are in charge of all future plans and the company's development, so I work with them to figure out what is and isn't a good idea. So one of them will often pull me into Drew's office and we'll just talk and yell and talk and run numbers and talk some more until someone has convinced someone else that they're right.

I'm also pretty much in constant communication with Kevin throughout the day. It's the only way that I can stay involved with what's going on at the restaurant while I'm at Momofuku. So throughout the day we'll discuss any schedule requests, reservation requests, broken equipment, new dishes, menu changes, a skipped invoice, anything. That way when I get to the restaurant I don't feel like I've missed a beat.

5:30 p.m.: I make tomorrow's to do list. I also post that night's menu to our website and facebook/twitter if there are any new dishes or changes.

6:30 p.m.: I try my hardest to leave the office by 6 p.m. (when Thirty Acres opens for service) so that I can be there by the time the first turn's entrees are going out, but sometimes Dave or someone will stop by the office and I'll get pulled into another meeting and I'll be late. This is the most stressful time of my day, because I always feel guilty about leaving Momofuku so early with so much left to do but I also feel guilty for being late for service.

I pretty much always call my mom in Seattle on the walk from my office back to the train. It's a perfect little five minute conversation and if I didn't do it, we'd never talk.

6:50 p.m.: I get to Jersey City and walk to the restaurant, which is a few blocks away in the opposite direction of my apartment. Sometimes I stop by a bodega for Red Bulls, but we're trying to cut back (things got a little crazy there for a while), so I haven't been doing that recently.

7 p.m.: I arrive at the restaurant, check in with the hostess that everything has been going smoothly and that there haven't been any issues, run in the kitchen, give Kevin a kiss, head into the basement, change my shoes and my shirt, put my hair back, put on an apron, wash my hands, and run back upstairs. My main role during dinner service is the expediter for the kitchen. Kevin does it until I get there. Once I'm there, he jumps out and I jump in. He gives me a quick idea of what's being cooked for which tables, who's dragging, who's not, any issues etc. then he either heads into the kitchen or into the dining room, whichever needs his attention first. When we first opened Kevin stuck almost exclusively to the kitchen and I was almost always in the dining room. After a few months we realized that our customers like to see Kevin, and in order to do that he can't be stuck in the kitchen expediting. Also, not to sound like a bragging asshole, but I think I'm pretty good at it. Having said that, I'm far from perfect and fuck up all the time. Sometimes I can fix it, sometimes I can't. I'm always learning.

In addition to expediting, Kevin and I both oversee service in the dining room. We don't have a service or FOH manager, so it's all us. If there's an issue at a table, the server lets us know, and one of us takes care of it. We also take turns going into the dining room to greet guests, running food, and managing the FOH staff. The door can get a little hairy on busy nights, so we are constantly managing that situation and making sure our hostess isn't in the weeds. In general though, our whole staff is incredible and really accountable for everything that goes down. They help each other out and they help us out, and they are invaluable to our restaurant's success. I know everyone says that, but it's really true. They are our family.

10:30 - 11 p.m.: The last entrees go out (later on weekends). Depending on the night, sometimes Kevin and I are able to head home after everyone wraps up. If it's Nathan's nights off (one of our sous chefs) or if I wasn't able to get the shit on my to do list done during the day, or if it's Tuesday and I need to do payroll, I head downstairs, split out the cash tips for the FOH, and then get to work on all of the bookkeeping, payroll, reservation, emails, and press stuff that I can get done (like doing this!). I also will often take some time to respond to the Momofuku emails I wasn't able to get to during service. This is especially helpful since this is right when the Australia folk get to work.

12pm-1:30 a.m.: We lock up and head home. It's only a 5-10 minute walk, so it's nice. When we first opened we would stay late and drink and hang out with the staff or at a bar, but that took its toll quickly, so now we only really hang out on Saturday nights when we know we can sleep in the next day. Once we're home, we usually watch an hour or so of TV to unwind, which gives us a chance to discuss that night's service and anything we need to remember to do the next day, and then we pass out.

[Photo: Cathy Miller]

· All Young Guns 2013 Coverage [~E~]
· All Coverage of Thirty Acres [~E~]

Thirty Acres

500 Jersey Ave., Jersey City, NJ

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