2014 has begun for us here at the Chestnut Street Inn with a myriad of projects, about 3 pages single space to be exact. As we have been plugging away at these projects it dawned on me that to say that you are an “innkeeper” by trade is perhaps an over simplification. The actual job description of an innkeeper is so much more than entertaining guests. By definition an innkeeper is the owner or manager of an inn and a host. The reality is that an innkeeper has to wear many hats, and often those hats represent jobs that we may or may not have any training in. We just have to figure it out on the fly.
The day to day tasks of an innkeeoer involve cooking, cleaning and entertaining. The easiest part of this is the entertaining. Those moments we spend chatting with guests over breakfast or getting them the things they need to be comfortable are often the most enjoyable parts of innkeeping. That’s not to say we don’t sometimes come across unusual requests that may throw a curve ball our way, but my motto is, always say yes. Then figure out how to make it happen. This has served us well thus far.
As far as cooking goes, we probably do a lot more of this than the average innkeeper, as we are open for dinner in addition to breakfast. I of course consider this to be a joy since cooking is both my hobby and my passion. In this category as well there are many hats to be worn. Let’s take into consideration that the average restaurant has a chef, a sous chef, and numerous other chefs de cuisines below them doing a myriad of tasks from prep to pastry to saute. In my kitchen, I don’t have the luxury of a full staff to assist me in the preparation of food. It’s me, myself, and I, so it is imperative that I have a very well rounded knowledge of every aspect of food preparation. In a lot of ways that puts me in a unique category in terms of may abilities as a chef that many culinary school trained chefs cannot put themselves into. It’s something I am quite proud of and that I think really helps me be adaptable in the kitchen.
Let’s talk about the cleaning category. This sounds simple enough. We all do some house cleaning from time to time. An innkeeper just does it more frequently than most. Sure it involves cleaning kitchens, bathrooms, vacuuming, dusting, etc. But sometimes it can involve way more. We deal with things on a grander scale and often have to deal with things like stains on sheets, towels and carpets as well as things like broken glass, leftover food and more that for the sake of not making this too gruesome a post I won’t cover here. Suffice it to say, if you can imagine it, we have dealt with it in the 9 years we have been here. The cleaning category for an innkeeper can also be expanded into a ton of laundry and ironing on a scale that most people cannot imagine. For the 60+ hours that I spend in the kitchen cooking, Jeff spends almost that much time doing laundry and ironing everything from pillow cases to napkins to table cloths to place mats. It’s a LOT of ironing and a LOT of laundry, averaging over 20 loads a week. The only thing that I can say about this is that it is important to have good equipment and good cleaning products to help make things a little easier and quicker. If you look in our closet, the number of different types of cleaning solutions to tackle every type of mess is staggering. In fact, one of the projects we did this week was to organize them all by hanging plastic shoe rack over the closet door that we could put them in for easy viewing. (Thank you Pinterest for the idea)
Above and beyond these tasks are a number of other ones that an innkeeper has to get done that you can outsource but that we choose not to. For Jeff this involves a lot of handy man type repairs as well as some of the outdoor projects. Although truth be told, this is the one area we get a significant amount of help in that we hire someone to mow for us in the summer as well as to assist with weeding and planting the vegetable garden. We both have black thumbs so we have no idea what we are doing. He is also the primary snow shoveler in the winter, which this year has become quite a task. He also sets all the tables and is in charge of what we in the restaurant industry call the front of the house, meaning the part guests see, including making sure all the guests are taken care of during the meal service. We both tag team on grocery shopping and farm runs, although he has of late gotten more of the brunt of this task since I’m so busy in the kitchen that I don’t have time. I am a very particular shopper so learning what I like/dislike has been quite a task for him to learn. In my department is all the accounting, emails/guest correspondence, paying bills and all our marketing/social networking, which is almost a full time job in and of itself. I will be honest with you, I’ve learned all of this along the way. None of this really existed when we opened so it’s a constant learning curve. I also do all the menu planning and website updates in addition to blogging, writing articles for the local paper and working on new cookbooks/cooking class menus. Suffice it to say that I am extremely organized and I type super fast.
Then there are the things that we don’t do very often but during slower times, like right now, we tend to tackle. Painting, drywall, insulation, sound proofing, woodworking, organizing, picture hanging, replacing/programming electronics and sometimes dealing with computers that are uncooperative like mine has been of late. Fortunately there is a lot of information online you can research to help tackle these projects and other innkeepers are a fountain of knowledge. You can always rely on someone to help you out if you need it among our circle of innkeeper friends. We are quite an amicable group that enjoy each others company and are more than happy to share with one another.
So to say that innkeeping is a full time job would be a gross understatement. Being an innkeeper is a lifestyle choice and one that you have to love to want to do it because it will not only involve a lot of time but a lot of energy, brain power, physical labor and sometimes blood, sweat and tears. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.