Francisco J. Migoya‘s The Modern Café (Wiley 2009) is a serious book for professionals who want guidance in opening and running a café. Francisco is a professor at the CIA who teaches Café Operations and runs the bakery.
He is also a former executive pastry chef of Thomas Keller‘s French Laundry, Bouchon Bakery and Bouchon Bistro. Short of taking his course, this book is the best way to insure success with his insight into what makes for a great café.
In order to operate a successful café, one must be a master of many trades and have a profound understanding of quality, refinement and business sense. (p. vii)
The book is comprehensive, yet it is not for the novice home-baker who dreams of opening a successful café. Francisco assumes that his readers already have a basic education and familiarity with history, equipment and ingredients.
The chapters are clear and concise, including from The Bakery, The Pastry Shop, The Savory Kitchen, Beverages, and The Retail Shelf. The Bakery starts with an overview of ingredients, including a box on choosing the right butter (p. 7) and another on possible defects of yeast-raised products (p. 9). Francisco’s Brioche “Mother” Recipe (pp. 10-11) is followed by five classic and inspired recipes that use the dough, like Foi Gras, Rainer Cherry, and Sicilian Pistachio Brioche (pp. 19-20) as well as Brioche Loaves and variations (pp. 28-31). Handsome, spare photographs by Ben Fink, in which not a crumb or ribbon is out of place, match the recipes. That’s one of Francisco’s main points: “I have always thought that the right packaging makes a world of difference.”(p. viii).
For more lessons on presentation, The Savory Kitchen includes a photograph of five soups served in rectangular dishes, so that they resemble green and red cakes. Or look at the photograph of Pan-Fried Baby Artichokes with Lemon Aioli (pp. 350-51) that beckon anyone who has eaten them in Italy. These are recipes that are simple, with an emphasis on excellent ingredients and proper presentation as in the Serrano Ham with Fried Egg and Butter on Baguette (p. 370). The recipes need no head notes, but they do have both metric and U.S. measures and where applicable, percent of each ingredient in the total.
Who would not wish to find The Modern Café down the street at breakfast or lunch? Armed with this book, a confident, and well-financed restaurateur would be close to a winner.