A Day with Alpana Singh


The owner/sommelier of The Boarding House takes us through a typically hectic day.

8AM Depending on how late I was at the restaurant the night before, I wake up sometime between eight and noon. If I’m lucky I wake up in my bed, but more and more frequently I’ve been waking up on the couch. When I get home I’m usually so exhausted I don’t even make it into the bedroom. Sometimes I don’t even make it into my pajamas! Luckily, my husband is nice enough to put a blanket on me. The first thing I do is reach for my iPhone to check email, texts and daily reports from the previous night. Then I go through Facebook, Twitter, the news cycle and food blogs like Eater and Grub Street. I skip food and head straight for the caffeine instead – usually coffee but if that doesn’t come fast enough I’ll opt for a Diet Coke. Caffeine in hand, I sit and meditate for about 30 minutes with my dogs. Mornings are slow; it takes awhile for me to get out of the house. Depending on whether or not I have to wash my hair, I spend anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes getting dressed in the morning. My makeup routine is driven by my lack of sleep. I rely on mascara to keep my eyes open, MAC products to hide the dark circles under my eyes and NARS blush to make me look lively.

11AM My husband drives me to and from work every day. My work day begins with a range of tasks that include everything from checking email to placing orders to blogging to making menu changes. During this time I’m trying to get everything organized for my day – it’s a full time job. This time is crucial because once staff enters the building it becomes extremely difficult to get things done.

1PM When I start to get hungry I’ll go into the kitchen and make myself something protein based, usually Greek yogurt or scrambled eggs. From time to time I’ll steal a cookie from the pastry chef, although I guess that option isn’t quite as high in protein. If there’s a menu tasting, that will serve as my lunch. When you work in a restaurant there’s a lot of eating throughout the day, so I try not to eat too heavy at mealtime.

3PM Staff begins to enter the building and we start to get ready for service. Our property is really unique in that it includes a late night lounge, sexy wine bar and dining room that caters to special occasions. In one night we can have a bachelorette party in one room and a 50th anniversary party in another.

4PM This is my favorite part of the day. Each night, the whole staff comes together to enjoy a family meal. For this short period of time we’re allowed to just relish in the camaraderie of working with one another. It’s the last moment before the doors open when we still belong to ourselves, rather than to the customer. If people work for you every day and are consistently putting in their own energy and time into what you’re doing, I like to return the favor by taking a personal interest in what they do. So I’ll take this opportunity to find out if their kid is feeling better, how the boyfriend is doing or if they enjoyed their vacation last weekend. My staff is a really amazing group of people; we’re like one big strong family.

4:30PM The 30 minutes before the doors open are the most hectic of the whole day. I’m running around trying to get everything done and tell everyone not to come see me.

5PM Dinner begins and lasts until anywhere from midnight to 3am. While the doors are open I do a little bit of everything – play hostess, sommelier – and I’m constantly on disaster management duty. Stuff just tends to go wrong in restaurants; either something is leaking, your elevator stopped working or the kitchen sink is backed up – there’s always something. One night I set one of the circuit breakers incorrectly and took out the power on the whole first floor bar. Those are the kind of moments where you just have to laugh. When you own a restaurant you have to think quickly on your feet. No matter how crazy things get behind the scenes, guests should never be aware anything is wrong. I joke all the time with the staff that we should have our own reality show because of how crazy things can get.

2AM At the end of the day you need to reclaim yourself. Some restaurant owners do this with a beer or a cocktail; I do it with a glass of wine. From the moment guests walk in you have to put yourself on the back burner. You spend eight or nine hours constantly asking, ‘What can I do for you?’ I usually prefer a high acid white at the end of the night, so something like a Riesling or a Sauvignon blanc.

3AM Lately I’ve been trying to pull back a little and leave by 1am, but that isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Once I get home, I just sit down on the couch and before I know it, I’m asleep. On the rare occasion I do get home at a reasonable hour, I like to watch a little Three’s Company – it’s my comfort television. Sometimes I’ll have a snack before bed, but we haven’t gone grocery shopping in about five months, so there really isn’t much to eat. That probably sounds really bad, especially coming from someone whose life revolves around food, but we just haven’t had the time.

Any free time I get I try to spend with my husband. Restaurant hours can be really tough on a relationship, so anything I can do to arrange for more time with him is ideal. We like to indulge in simple foods. For me, there’s something very nostalgically comforting about Asian restaurants. As a kid, my parents always took us to Chinese restaurants on special occasions; it was good food and what we could afford. On days off I don’t even want to leave my three-block radius, so we’ve eaten a lot of meals at Luxbar.

Each day is a race against the clock; as soon as I wake up I’m already behind.  I always say that I need 28 hours in the day. My life is stressful, unhealthy and an emotional roller coaster. But I wouldn’t have it any other way; the mayhem is addictive.


As told to Hannah Howcroft.


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