Our story so far: While the Red Bean is drawing more customers, the new restaurant is still losing money. And Frank Connell isn't sure when that will change. To catch up on earlier episodes, go to www.washingtpost.com/adventures.
"Excuse me," Frank Connell says to a security guard at the National Museum of American History. "I'm looking for Julia Child's Kitchen."
The guard points Frank to the end of the hallway. Moments later Frank presses himself against a glass panel, staring at more than a thousand kitchen items that belonged to the late chef and have been on display at the museum for more than two years. He admires Child's pegboards, her mismatched pans and especially her knives. "I'm a knife freak, too," Frank says.
He's all too happy to escape from his own kitchen at the Red Bean, which he spent all morning cleaning. The restaurant has been a source of stress ever since Frank and his cousin Mike Clements opened it more than a month ago.
Last week they thought they weren't going to be able pay their two employees. They ended up paying them everything they were owed, but that meant bouncing an $800 check to a vendor. This month's $3,500 rent still hasn't been totally paid, and late fees are mounting. "We're just not making very much money," Frank says with a sigh.
He and Mike are trying to obtain a liquor license to pump up revenue. But the application is in limbo.
Frank calls his midday visit to the museum a "field trip" and says it feels good to temporarily forget about the problems plaguing the Red Bean. Often Frank talks of much grander escape plans. Recently he declared his intent to hike for two weeks on the Appalachian Trail. Now he says that he will be flying to Dublin in November to attend a soccer match. But like an earlier aborted trip to Paris and a canceled tour of Arizona, these travel plans seem likely to be derailed by the immediate needs of his restaurant.
For the moment, Frank settles for watching a tape of Julia Child cracking jokes while preparing a roast chicken. He says he once met the famous chef. He was working for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, setting up a stage at the White House, when Child arrived in a limousine. Frank says he ran over and shook her hand.
Growing up in the '60s and '70s, Frank used to watch Child's cooking show "The French Chef" with his grandmother He says that Child's "real life" attitude and humor helped spark his interest in cooking.
"I hold her entirely responsible for my dedicating my life to food . . . If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't even know how to make a french fry."
Later Frank reluctantly returns to the Red Bean, where Mike is standing behind the bar, looking haggard and annoyed. Frank says something about Julia Child's Kitchen, but Mike doesn't seem interested.
"I just cleaned up your mess," Mike says. He holds up the dull tool that he used to scrape wax where Frank accidentally had knocked over a lit candle. Frank mutters an excuse and walks back to the kitchen to brew a batch of iced tea.
-- Tyler Currie