Bin was lucky to have a number of guest chefs on the last Sunday of each month – Ludo from Bastide, Neal Fraser from Grace, Sang from My Father’s Office, Didier and Pilar from Pilar, Sal from Il Grano and Michel Richard from Citronelle. I decided to do the last guest chef.
I had a difficult time trying to write up this meal. As a diner, I didn’t and don’t have a clue. I tasted every dish, but what happened between plating the dish, how it was served and how it was received is an unknown.
I am going to sound and rightfully so, to actual working chefs, very naive and basically clueless. I think I am a good cook, but I am a home cook. I invite people for dinner, they show up on time and I adjust my menu to the number of people. But, I have never worked the line. I have never had reservations from 6:00 to 8:45. I have never had to worry that your 6:00 reservation is on dessert, your 8:00 is on meat and you are waiting for your 8:45.
The front of the house was extraordinary – every single server, even with those who had a night off, came. We were closing for 3 days, after my guest chef on Sunday so to work on Sunday was absolutely above and beyond the call of duty.
We are a small restaurant. In the back, is Mike our chef, Eric our sous, me (the clueless one) and a dishwasher. I had made the decision when I decided to do this that I would not be the ditzy housewife and say to Mike these are some of my favorite restaurant dishes, so you make them, I will watch for a while and then I will “work” the room. I stayed in the kitchen from 8 am until closing. But, I never imagined how it really works. Granted this is from a one-time experience and so for the real chefs who are reading this, I apologize for my ignorance
8 am – pack up everything- get it to the restaurant – I had done as much prep as possible ahead of time. Gougeres, Keller’s cones, Soup, soup accompaniments, cleaned, empty eggshells, potato gratin (made, but not cooked) and Persimmon pudding were all done ahead of time.
Without going through a step by step, hour by hour rundown of the day, we worked from 8:30 until 4 doing the meat, fish and sauces prep. (Edit to add: unlike at home where I go to my favorite Japanese fish monger and buy sashimi grade ready to use tuna and salmon, Mike did all the fish prep and the meat prep from scratch.) The hardest recipe to reproduce, during service was the Arpege/Manresa egg. I had perfected it at home using a thermometer and a heat diffuser. Everyone except my pool man (he doesn’t come into the house) ate eggs for a week and I was very pleased with the results. Unfortunately, our restaurant stove, on its lowest setting, only gives you a lighted flame in one corner. As soon as you turn it up to lowest flame surrounding the entire burner, the temp goes too high. Ahead of the story – I got to the point when I “knew” when the egg was done by sight.
4 pm to 5 pm – servers arrive – go over ingredients and have them taste some dishes. Wine pairings determined.
4 pm to 6 pm. – FOH sets up the restaurant and BOH organizes serving dishes, finishes all prep, organizes stations and has everything set to go for first customers.
John wasn’t very good at taking pictures and as I spent the entire time in the kitchen, I don’t have a lot of photos.
French Laundry Salmon Cornet ( I had the lucite holder specially made)
Arpege/Manresa Egg (no photos of the finished product, but one pics of a cleaned egg shell)
Cleaned egg shell
Thanks to David Kinch, I got it right.
Pumpkin/Apple Soup with Cinnamon Croutons and Diced Ham Hocks
I have no pictures for the next courses.
Michael Bryant’s Sweetbreads with A-1 Sauce
Michel Richard’s Rack of Lamb
Persimmon Pudding with Hard Sauce –
Chocolate Mousse Cake (made especially for someone celebrating their 55th birthday)
1. A restaurant is not a home kitchen
2. You start to learn to anticipate. When you hear fire first course, you get ready to set up for second course.
3. You are told to fire 4 eggs and someone decides to go the bathroom just when the eggs are ready to be served. You lose those 4 eggs.
4. A prix fixe menu is subject to change – one table doesn’t want lamb, can we do duck instead?
5. Your last customer deserves the same attention and dedication as your first customer
6. No matter how backed up you are, you stay focused and execute to the best of your ability
I can only say, I hope people were happy and that for every single chef, cook, server, back waiter, dishwasher, my heart and respect goes out to you.