After a few days off around the holidays to reflect and evaluate where we are here at the restaurant I thought it would be fun to share about where the thought process went and is continuing to go. It all started with records.
When creating the concept for the place music was an important part of it. What we played, how it was played, and how we make the ambiance match with the concept. At home I love the warmth and style of vinyl and I wanted it in the bar. Old tunes right next to the new stuff that artists are going the extra mile to demand pressings of was what I wanted to show. Upon opening there was no phono and no time to train the team
to do it properly. We had bigger problems in our service that dwarfed the need for a subtle touch like vinyl. Everything was wrong with the service and it needed quick fixing. So just like the rest of the world I plugged in an iPod, made a couple of playlists, and away we went. The tunes and vibe I wanted was there but the detail had been passed over. Cutting corners.
When you come up in great kitchens one of many things you take from it is details. Why is the food in these places so special? Expensive ingredients? Silver and China? Soft linens? Servers who cater to your needs? A chef that is a craftsman of the highest order? No. Details. How the groceries are selected and only accepting the best. Preparing these items with full and complete respect for what they are and wasting nothing. Cutting each herb/scallop/liver/parsnip with purpose, thought and precision. Having a fucking sharp knife. I mean come on! How many jokers calling themselves chefs work with dull knives or even worse knives they don't sharpen themselves?! Details, DETAILS, DETAILS! Cutting corners instead doing things the proper way is the slippery slope of any craft. Those habits of proper technique are what I wanted to get more then anything from my work experiences and why I sought out the best in my field wherever I was. Tasting everything with Rick Robinson at Mondo Bistro. Making every plate shine at the Siena. Only using the best ingredients at Paley's Place. Precision in prep and execution at Radius. Developing simplicity and systems at Hamersley's. Refining all of those at Lumiere and finally learning to sharpen my knife properly. How to make a kitchen (and everything in it) work within cost at Coda. Details that drown most in this industry.
To me the details of cooking technique are the most important thing and they can be found anywhere. I've experienced it:
in the soft pastas made by an old women in Torino with fresh porcini,
Price's chicken coop's fried chicken is perfect and harbors a detail I can not discover and don't want to,
Gordon Hamersley's roast chicken (when the grill cook is paying attention and Gordon is looking over their shoulder),
Michael Leviton's scallops, pupusas at roticerria cancun in Maverick,
my Mom's angel food cake with peppermint icing,
my wife's dalbat where I can taste Nepal and the glory of the Himalayas,
at El Bulli from the reservation process, the clams Oaxaca, the box, to the parting handshake from the whole team there, including the most famous chef in the world who still took the time to get up from an interview and check and see how I liked everything,
Dinner at Celler de L'Aspic in Priorat after El Bulli that was just as good. Why? DETAILS! We don't have the time here to cover it, come in, we'll share a glass (or bottle) of wine and go over it.
my first Michelin meal in Paris at Carre De Feuillant that reset the bar of what a special dining experience could be.
Fresh baguettes and roast lamb at a road side earthen oven in central Mali
The street food of Mombasa with my friend Alex and the mash of Africa, Arabia, India and all that trade cultures can do together.
Lexington BBQ with Mitch; Gastonia Que with Swift; butter beans with Lynn; Rogers BBQ while skipping school with E-Rock; Beans and braise in Wyoming with Emily; Fish tacos with Max and Jill; my first Pho with Leather on Powell; Mission burrito, cherry pie and jazzfest with Chris; my first IPA with Shawn; the best Chianti I've ever had with short ribs at Stone House with Wally, Maya, and friends; Kreb's, it will always go back to Kreb's in Skaneatles. Thanks to all.
11MP with CDB (OMG! PIMP!)
So as I listen to Cat Power warm my soul like only vinyl can in my dining room between brunch and dinner I feel a strong sense of pride that one of the many details is done right. Now if I can only get a sound system that can handle the White Stripes turned up to 11 we will really be heading in the right direction.