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Dear Grant-

I wonder if you could comment on your philosophy with multi-course meals. It seems to be a rising trend at the top tables in North America. It is a great way for one to more fully appreciate the extent of a Chef’s creations and culinary talent. I am interested in the “impact” this approach has on running the kitchen, versus a la carte ordering, from an operational perspective.

- Is the kitchen more in control with multi-course meals, since you are delivering according to a well planned execution?

- How do you think about the relationship between the various items and the progression you choose? Specifically,-- diversifying nutritional structure versus maximizing palate experience?

- Finally, does this approach have any effect on food costs (%-wise)? For e.g., does it minimize food waste since the kitchen can “push” the current inventory until it is decided to change creations?

"I hate people who are not serious about their meals." Oscar Wilde

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Explorer:

I have been fortunate enough to have been "brought up" in restaurants that offer only multicourse meals, so it has become second nature for me to organize the kitchen accordingly. It does offer some challenges it terms of operation within the restaurant.

Your first subquestion is very true, and probably why most chefs choose the tasting menu format to exhibit their food. The kitchen has more control of the experience. If we can concepulize a 7, 11, or 22 course menu offering no choices to the diner it eliminates chances of the following: Repetition of ingredients, cooking techniques, flavor profiles, textures, concepts, plate ware, presentation, thought processes, aromas, and so on. Imagine having a multicourse meal with alot of repetition? It becomes boring. I fully believe the philosophy Thomas talks about in the TFL cookbook (Heston gives a good example of this on his website as well) called the law of diminishing returns. The multicourse experience allows chefs to create smaller courses that capture the guests attention for shorter periods of time to avoid the dulling effect to the palate.

To answer your second question we view the menus as a whole. This helps us create flow and progression within the meal. Most of the food in today's restaurants are protien driven. The longer the menu the more we try to break from that mold. Protiens become limiting to a certain degree, anything would if it were the cornerstone of creativity.The menus flow light to heavy, although there are some execptions to this. We may "break" the meal with a cleanser or "transitional course". Also wine becomes a huge part of the experience at Trio. We have dedicated ourselves to a tasting program that truely hightens the overall experience. Sometimes with the addition of wine into the mix it changes the perception of the course, allowing us more leadway.

Food cost means instead of costing a dish you cost an entire menu. The same guessing is applied to some degree wether the guest will order the 4, 8, or 20. Much in the same way in an alacarte restaurant you guess on chicken vs. fish vs beef. Mis en place rolls over on only very few items since most of the ingredients are prepared the day of the service. I feel its no better nor worse than ala carte situations.

Another effect of the multicouse experience is felt in the dinning room. An enormous amount of staff must be employed to handle the constant maintainance at the tables. Imagine running 10 tables at one time recieving 20 course of food and a wine to go with every course! The amount of plates, silver, and glassware is daunting. It is also a financial commitment to do these menus, as your turn times are extremely long if you turn tables at all.

Overall it is the only way I can see presenting the cuisine we do at Trio.

--

Grant Achatz

Chef/Owner

Alinea

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