Being the chef in a steak house doesn't allow for much in the way of creative flexing. People want their steak, and they want it just the way they want it. Most of the time, being successful at my job follows the rules of video poker: You take the guaranteed pay-out from the deal. You don't hedge your bets and go for luck on the draw. If you take the gamble, more often than not you'll get burned.
Fortunately for me and my creative impulses, here at Delmonico Steakhouse we have a chef's table, situated in its own windowed room, just off the kitchen. It's for everything that goes onto that table that I get to be inventive with products already on the menu, and to experiment with new and distinctive items.
I'm not one to overprepare for a tasting. I'll go in with a general idea of what I'll be cooking, but sometimes, after greeting the guests and getting a feel for what they like and what they're expecting, I will have completely changed my mind about what's for dinner. After determining the guests' parameters (Are there any allergies? Strong dislikes? Preferences?) and conducting a little recon mission in the walk-in fridges, I form a general game plan and then talk it all over with Kevin Vogt and his colleagues in the wine department.
From there it can go one of two ways: Either I'll lay out the flow of food, starting with light and fresh elements and progressing into rich, dry-aged steak, with the sommelier picking wines to match; or, he'll suggest a series of wines, and I'll cook to pair with his selections. Usually, after giving him the basic flavors and build of the dish, he's already got the perfect match in mind—which makes it that much more satisfying for me to work in this way.
What kinds of experiences have you had with chefs' tables or spontaneous tasting menus with paired wines?
Bill Robinson — Calgary — October 1, 2007 6:07pm ET
Donald Moffett — San Francisco, CA — October 1, 2007 7:11pm ET
William Landreth — Irving, TX — October 2, 2007 10:59am ET
Jeremy Matouk — Port of Spain, Trinidad — October 2, 2007 9:52pm ET
Doug Eaton — Phoenix, AZ — October 2, 2007 11:32pm ET
Jeff Daniher — Cinci, OH — October 3, 2007 8:31pm ET
Steve Ritchie — Atlanta, GA — October 4, 2007 11:29am ET
Eric Swanson — Westlake — October 4, 2007 12:02pm ET
Chris Lavin — Long Beach, CA — October 5, 2007 7:18pm ET
D J Fontana — October 7, 2007 6:12pm ET
John Wilen — Texas — October 8, 2007 4:22pm ET
Dana D'anzi — October 9, 2007 6:56pm ET
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