Cooks in the Kitchen
Have you ever noticed that during a party people tend to congregate in the kitchen? It’s like there’s a magnet that pulls us there, into the space where everything happens. Usually you don’t get the chance to do that in a restaurant but somehow Jeff always seems to find a way into the kitchen. Years ago we went to Mexico for a wedding, during the rehearsal dinner he absolutely fell in love with the refried beans, he went on and on about them, trying to figure out what was in them. One minute later I looked back and he was gone. He wandered into the kitchen of the resort, beer in one hand and a bowl of beans in the other attempting to compliment the cooks and learn their secret when neither of them spoke the others language. Jeff pointed to the beans, rubbed his belly, went on and on in English while the kitchen crew laughed and showed him around pointing at the tub of lard that clearly made the best beans.
When we arrived in Venice, upon hearing that Jeff was a chef the concierge placed us in a suite on the top floor of the JW Marriott and took us up through the kitchen elevator. We met the chef and despite our very late arrival and the fact that the restaurant was about to close, he offered to have us come back to his kitchen for a meal.
On a trip last October to New York City we went to a fundraising dinner at Del Posto. The food was amazing including sampling’s from all of the B&B restaurants. Jeff was first spotted next the largest paella I had ever seen being prepared talking up the cook and then we met Adam, a Sous Chef and Pizzarelli, a manager from Babbo who said we should have dinner there while we were in town. This trip was a whim, booked hours before we left and I believe our total time in New York was under 36 hours, we had gone to Chelsea Market before this dinner that included pasta, paella, bruschetta, gelato and even a cake walk but Jeff somehow managed to get us into Babbo so we had to go. I will confess I had insisted on high heeled booties despite my husbands pleas and in true NYC style we’d walked miles already an so I marched across the street, walked into the first shoe store I spotted and asked for the flattest...cheapest shoe they had (insert $50 gold sneakers). I will tell you it was worth every step! Both Adam and Pizzarelli stopped to say hello, now dressed in a chef coat and suit for dinner service. The wine was beautiful, the chef sent a plate of salmon and capers that just kissed the olive oil drizzled on top. We ordered grilled octopus, beef cheek ravioli, a giant chop with brussel sprouts and a Spritz Aperol to round out a meal which was purely indulgent. We left to find Mario Batali sitting on the steps across the street watching his restaurant and on his recommendation proceeded to Eataly where Jeff managed a tour of the brewery as well.
I was not surprised when we went to visit the Detroit Shipping Company and I lost Jeff again. He had found Chef Petro, one of the founders and the chef of Brujo Tacos. Jeff asked to snap a picture of his space and talked to him about Nipote’s and container architecture and before you knew it, he lifted the counter and gave Jeff a tour of his kitchen.
I had a similar privilege when I went down to visit Charcoal-one of the first full service container based bar and grills in the US. Ken Lyon, chef and owner, gave me a tour of his very unique space.
Touring a kitchen with a chef is such an intimate thing, to get a peek into the chaotic rhythm that exists behind the curtain. To see the dance on the line as cooks, chefs, servers, bussers move around one another, anticipating one another’s moves, finishing one another’s plates and just missing one another in what appears to be a symphony of movement. The energy, the heartbeat is palpable and translates to each plate that walks out of the door. It isn’t something everyone gets the chance to or even cares to see but for us, we know it’s an honor to be invited into the heart of the house, and somehow, no matter the restaurant or the country, that’s where I know Jeff will be.