DANVILLE — An omelette, a hamburger and one item off his carefully selected menu. It's not American Idol, but becoming a chef at Rodney Worth's The Peasant and the Pear isn't a snap either.
"People laugh when I tell them they need to cook an omelette and hamburger, but making perfect ones isn't as easy as you'd think," Worth said. "Everyone thinks they can do it, but very few get it right."
Worth likes his bun toasted, and nothing runny on the plate from the omelette. The 37-year-old executive and owner is picky. But that might be why he's successful.
For him, the littlest things could be the difference between success and failure.
"If I have to come in and scrape gum off the sidewalk to make us look better, that's what I will do," he said. "It's important to try and run everything perfectly."
While most restaurants struggle to survive five years, The Peasant and the Pear has made it 6 years, and shows no signs of slowing down.
Prior to the 2009 season, Worth expected a tough year because of the economy. He saw the toll taken on other restaurants and he expected the same.
"We thought we'd have layoffs and stop hiring, but it's scary to say it's been the exact opposite," he said. "We've been hiring and we've seen a serious 20 percent growth pattern year-over-year in 2009."
Admittedly, Worth got a late jump in the culinary world when he got his training at Diablo Valley College in Concord nine years ago.
The "Peasant" from the name represents the style of cooking. Worth took what he calls the "poor food" around the world — such as paella, pizza and baby back ribs — and did something great with them. The "Pear" comes from its first location in San Ramon that was next to Bishop Ranch Pear Orchard.
"You can be the best chef in the world, but if you don't make money, you won't stay in business," he said. "Our philosophy is to have a good high quality menu at a good price point."
One of the mistakes Rodney believes a lot of new restaurants face is they put together too big of a menu and they can't keep items fresh. In some ways, In-and-Out is the perfect model for a restaurant, he says. It has a limited menu that's easy to execute everything perfectly.
On his menu, there are only 10 dinner entrees. Because his menu has a strong emphasis on vegetables, he rotates the menu every five weeks to correlate with what's in season.
He was taught early on to only buy vegetables that are in season. Winter is a challenge, but even during those months, there are some fresh vegetables such as greens, parsnips, carrots and turnips. Spring is the best month to cook, Worth said.
At his restaurants, the smallest of details don't go unnoticed. "Everything has a purpose," he says.
For example, having paper over the tablecloth lets people know that they don't take themselves too seriously, and anyone is welcome to come.
A mathematical equation is used to figure out the price of food. It takes into account costs and builds in a small profit margin.
Entree prices on his menu typically range from $16 to $30. A filet mignon costs $11 to buy before anything else is added or done to the dish. Once it hits the table, it's $29.95
"I hate it when I go to a restaurant, look at the menu, and pasta is $23," he said. "It makes no sense, and gives the customer the sense that they're being suckered."
Worth likes to try other culinary establishments, and he loves fine dining. But he has his share of pet peeves.
"If I don't hear a thank you or smile from the host, or the cook has their hat on sideways, it really bothers me," he said. "People need to remember that we aren't just in the restaurant business, but the hospitality business as well."
More important then running the kitchen, Worth tries to have a connection with his customers. He loves their feedback, and if something is wrong he will try to correct it.
"If we can correct their issue before they leave, their is a very good chance we will get them back," he said. "So far, they're all coming back."
Contact David Morrill at 925-977-8534.