“I Run My Kitchen Like a Restaurant”
Susan Wilson, 55Scottsdale, Arizona
Mother of Mark Robinson, 13 (shown); Riley Robinson, 11
Breakfast used to be a battleground in Susan Wilson’s house, which guaranteed a challenging morning for this divorced mother of two. Her sons, Mark and Riley, would ask for two totally different dishes or want something she couldn’t prepare in a reasonable amount of time. Or Susan would spend about 20 minutes urging them to eat something substantial. “Both of them exert a lot of energy playing football, so it’s important to me that they start their day with something in their stomachs besides a dry bagel on the way to the bus stop,” says Susan, a public-relations executive.
Last year, Bill Lynch, Susan’s boyfriend, made an observation about Susan’s self-described “morning calamity.” Gently pointing out that she was acting like a short-order cook, taking arbitrary breakfast orders as they came in from the boys, Bill made a suggestion. “He said that if I ran my kitchen like a restaurant with one daily special, it would take all the indecision out of our morning,” says Susan.
Shortly thereafter, “the Chicken Coop Café,” named after Susan’s beloved collection of chicken figurines, opened from 6:15 to 6:45 each weekday morning. Before every school quarter, the boys help Susan create a menu of daily specials, which she displays on the wall of the kitchen. She cooks one hot dish each day (such as waffles, scrambled eggs, or a turkey, bacon, and cheese sandwich), but miso soup “for international palates” is also available on request.
Like diners at any eating establishment, the boys must follow the house rules to get service. “No pajamas. They need to be dressed and have shoes on. And they can’t be grouchy,” says Susan. Once they’re finished eating, the boys bus the table, which includes pouring leftover water into the houseplants and scattering bread crusts for the quail in the yard.
Susan doesn’t mind waking up a little early to do kitchen prep before the restaurant opens, but she insists that it close promptly at 6:45. “Having a set time for the end of breakfast is key,” says Susan. “No last-minute rush for gathering schoolwork and permission slips. That makes the morning less stressful for them and makes it a breeze for me.”
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