I first started cooking at home, making small meals here and there as a college student. Some things have changed since then—namely, that I have my own restaurant. Work and travel can make home seem like a distant memory sometimes, but I do continue to cook at home as often as possible. There's nothing quite as nice as being able to enjoy great wine and great food in the comfort of your own place. With that idea in mind, I began to offer our customers the option to experience the same level of cuisine, wine and service that they would at Sona, only in their homes instead of in our dining room.
Our trial run was for a group of about 15 food and wine lovers in Malibu, and it went so well that it made us feel confident about taking our show on the road. I've made it a point to build a deep bench of talent at Sona, so when I do leave the restaurant with a small team to cook at someone else's house, I can feel confident that, back in the kitchen, things are running exactly as if I were there.
As a chef-owner, I've also been asked to cook in all kinds of venues, for anywhere from 10 to 1,000 guests. Most of these events are for the benefit of a charity organization, which makes the experience more worthwhile. Cooking in another city, state or country can present all kinds of challenges, beginning with the ingredients and the equipment. We end up shipping most of our fresh products in sous vide packaging, or on dry ice, and shopping locally for the rest. When we started traveling, we'd ship everything via FedEx—until the trip to Florida, when our boxes full of food never arrived. I had to rip up the menu and start fresh, begging and borrowing food from chefs I'd never met. One of the guests at the dinner happened to be a high-level FedEx executive, and once word leaked from the kitchen about our shipping troubles, it became the running joke of the evening.
Our very first out-of-town event was at the then-new concert hall in Lucerne, Switzerland, where we executed a menu of 18 very modern, extremely time-consuming canapés that may have been just a tad ambitious for our first endeavor abroad. The menu included seared rare tuna with oxtail and cardamom; salmon eggs with shaved raw bonito (a fish related to tuna) and uni (sea urchin); and lobster with a kaffir lime and pink peppercorn vinaigrette. Fortunately, the concert hall has two very modern, perfectly laid-out kitchens that made all of that work a little bit easier. Equally fortunately, my team and I found a little time for some Alpine hiking and a meal of fondue and Kirsch (a cherry liqueur) before heading back to LA.
Have you had good or bad experiences with eating a chef's food when it's being served somewhere other than his or her restaurant?
Paul M Hummel — Chicago, — February 2, 2007 4:33pm ET
Bryan So — CA — February 4, 2007 5:13pm ET
Dan Jaworek — Chicago — February 5, 2007 8:47am ET
David Myers — February 5, 2007 10:24am ET
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