Mother's Day is only a couple of days away, and the Rusty Pelican is in the midst of preparing for its busiest brunch of the year.
With 1,800 reservations already in the books for brunch and 500 for dinner, the restaurant will be operating at peak capacity this Sunday. Pallava Goenka, regional managing director for the Pelican's parent company, Specialty Restaurants Corporation, says that although New Year's Eve has a higher ticket item, Mother's Day is the most popular — and lucrative — meal of the year for the Key Biscayne icon. Goenka wouldn't share the restaurant's estimated revenue for the day, but because brunch is priced at $89 per adult and $35 per child, a simple math equation shows the Rusty Pelican stands to make a hefty six figures in one meal service.
Jim Pastor, eastern regional chef of Specialty Restaurants Corporation, oversees the kitchen and the massive planning that begins six months in advance. To help store supplies for the big day, a 26-foot refrigerated truck is wheeled in to hold anything that can be purchased in advance, including seven to ten kilos of caviar and eight cases each of butter and heavy cream. Twenty-five cases of champagne and 15 cases of orange juice are needed to ensure mimosas flow freely, and about 4,000 stone crabs will be offered.
Though most items will be displayed at massive buffet stations, the stone crabs will be served tableside to discourage wastage and ensure everyone gets their share of claws. Says Pastor: "People see food at a buffet and take stuff they don't eat. To make sure we have enough stone crabs, we'll bring however many you want and crack the claws for you."
Sunday's kitchen prep begins today, with a dedicated staff working nearly round-the-clock to prep everything needed to feed an army of families.
The work really begins around midnight Saturday, when the first team members roll in to begin slow-cooking the meats and bake the croissants, pastries, and cakes to be served in a massive dessert display that takes over an entire room at the restaurant. "We start cooking at 1 a.m. Sunday morning, and we don't finish until midnight the next day, after dinner service is through," Pastor says. Though Monday would seem to be a day for rest, it's actually dedicated to cleaning and discussing feedback from customers.
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On Mother's Day, the restaurant's buffet spread of seafood, meats, and breakfast items will be available in identical displays on both levels of the restaurant.
Handling the number of cars that will transport the restaurant's guests is also a challenge. Two off-duty police officers have been hired to help traffic flow, and 25 valets will park cars. A van and a golf cart will shuttle guests to and from the Miami Marine Stadium parking lot.
The payoff, Pastor says, is in the reactions of the families who make the Pelican's Mother's Day brunch an annual celebration. "It's all about the moms. You come out and celebrate, so we make this brunch over-the-top. You won't see this big a spread on a typical Sunday."
Rusty Pelican. 3201 Rickenbacker Cswy., Key Biscayne; 305-361-3818; therustypelican.com. Mother's Day brunch 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Cost is $89 for adults and $35 for children 11 or younger.