Tiffani Faison has been a finalist on Top Chef (the first season, in case you were wondering), delivers ribs daily to Fenway’s hungry masses, runs a killer Southeast Asian joint, and actually looks forward to walking her dog every night in a city with winters like Boston’s. Maybe the power to pull it all off comes from over a decade of culinary experience in Boston alone—or maybe it has to do with mastering the magic behind Sweet Cheeks Q’s smoked monster wings. You decide.
I’m up between 7 and 7:30. If I’m up past 7:30, I feel terrible and lazy no matter when I went to bed.
I’ll turn on the news and get some coffee started for me and my wife. I’ll also try and put together some food for us. When my wife and I first started dating, she told me she thought my kitchen would look something like Whole Foods. It was actually totally bereft––mostly moldy Chinese food and canned chicken. Things are better now, and that’s really only because she’s in my life.
On a good morning, my wife and I will head to the gym together, where I try to get some yoga in. I have some pretty significant back issues, so doing things like pilates and yoga help me strengthen those muscles and stretch.
My morning hours are for me to run errands. You know, the usual things like buying coffee, or taking my dog to the vet. These things all have to get done, but 1 PM is the latest I’m ever at the restaurants. I also try to sit down to bang out emails for an hour or two, while taking a good number of calls around this time. The calls usually come in from our bookkeeper, investors, partners, publicists, plus a whole bunch of other people.
At noon it is time to head to work to check on the prep crew. I usually start my day at Sweet Cheeks before they get their lunch orders in, and I’ll spend some of the morning putting out any fires (not literal) that may have come up. If I didn’t make it to the gym one morning, it’s most likely because there was some kind of a fire (again, not literal). I’ll also take a look at both restaurants’ terminals to see if there are any People of Note (our version of VIPs) coming in that night, plus read through the previous night’s log about kitchen maintenance, any food coming in, and general upkeep.
I try and be in the kitchen at Tiger Mama by 2 or 3 at the latest. I’ll spend some time with any prep project we’re working on, and I’ll pay attention to how efficiently things are running. I also like checking in with people, asking them about their lives and how their days are going. If there’s enough time, I’ll try to make family meal—it’s one of my favorite parts of what I do. Tiger Mama and Sweet Cheeks Q are in the same building, so I’m always shuttling between the two. I seriously feel like I live in the loading dock the restaurants share.
Family meal. If I don't like it at one restaurant, I’ll head over to the other. Kidding, really.
The front of the house (servers, staff, etc.) will come in to hear about menu notes, ingredient notes, and anything else that's special. Sweet Cheeks opens at 11:30 AM, but Tiger opens at 5. I’ll go to Sweet Cheeks from 5 to 5:30 to check in with managers since the first half hour of Tiger tends to be slow. Oh––it’s really important to mention that my wife, Kelly, also does all of this—minus the food, plus a lot more.
I’ll be on the line in the kitchen from 6:30 to 9 PM at Tiger and check in on what we’re making and pay attention to things that need to be adjusted, or things that are working really well that we should do more of in a dish. Then I head to Sweet Cheeks and talk to the sous chefs. Here’s the thing: Tiger Mama is about creativity, but Sweet Cheeks is all about consistency. It’s barbecue. People know what they want to taste before they even come in, which is its own challenge. Running a restaurant like Sweet Cheeks has taught me so much about consistency. That brisket needs to be the same every night when it goes out. That gets boring for many chefs, but for me, it’s been a great lesson about staying with something and really being married to it.
Toward the later part of the night, I’ll check tables and work the dining room a little. I try to head out on a weeknight around 10 or 10:30. Weekends tend to look a little more like 11:30 to midnight.
Wine. To mark the end of the work day, I’ll have maybe three glasses of wine. I’m really variable with the wines I go for, but my first glass will usually be a crisper white and then I’ll move into a medium-bodied red.
I love my dog (she is a labradoodle) more than life. Usually, my wife and I will spend twenty minutes playing with her when we get home for the night. My night really ends with taking my dog out for a walk so she can poop. You know, I’ll stand outside and pray for her to poop quickly so that I can get to bed.
––As told to and written by Oset Babur for The Thirty-One Percent