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Five Things Diners Do That Drive Restaurant Workers Crazy #hackdining

Chefs Preapring Food TogetherMost seasoned diners know that a refined restaurant experience is much more than just the act of serving you good food on a plate. It’s a hospitality business in every sense. The passionate restaurateur yearns for their customers to have a wonderful experience — not just so you’ll come back and tell your friends about it — but because, quite frankly, it’s part of their DNA. Chefs, in particular, crave approval and desperately want to make you happy. It’s a big part of why they went into this trying business. (It certainly wasn’t for the money.) Running a restaurant is about as hard a job as it gets.

So is the customer always right? Does anything go? Well, yes and…no. While a top-notch restaurant should bend over backwards to accommodate its guests, the reality is that the relationship ought to, in fact, be a bit of two-way street — so everybody can win.

With a bit of background into the creative and operational process of running a restaurant based on personal experience and recent interviews with several chefs who wish to remain anonymous, here are five things diners do that drive restaurant workers crazy.

Incomplete parties: Restaurants essentially make their money much the same way airlines do: they sell time in their seats. This is perishable inventory, only with fine dining and expensive ingredients in the fridge, even more so. The equation is simple: available tables x minutes the restaurant is open x cost of the items you order. There are precious few minutes each day when a restaurant must earn all its money, so every minute a table or individual seat sits idle, that is revenue that’s gone forever. So, when your party is incomplete and the server sometimes doesn’t seat you, understand there is a method to the madness.
Advice: Try to arrive together and on time, be a bit patient if you’re not, and ALWAYS let the restaurant know if you need to cancel as soon as possible so they don’t lose an opportunity to fill the table. And, please never no-show for your reservation.

Table breaks: The process of preparing and serving a variety of menu items for a large table can be a choreographic miracle. In sophisticated kitchens, there literally can be dozens of cooks working on one meal to simultaneously ensure that the poached egg atop of your crisp frisée salad is deliciously runny at the same time that your date’s fettuccine is perfectly al dente. The chef acts as the kitchen’s conductor, making sure everything is in synch and just right. When a server cues that you are, say, getting close to finishing your appetizer, this culinary orchestra jumps into motion in order to send out all the various plates at the same time and at the exact right preparation and temperature. Keep that in mind when you wander out to take a 20 minute phone call mid-meal. It can throw the kitchen into a tizzy as they try and keep your various dishes at the right temperature while trying to guess when you might return.
Advice: If you must leave the table mid-meal, let the server or host know — or wait to slip out until the food has come, if possible.

Modifications: A great dish — even a good one — is a calibration of texture, temperature, and ingredients, especially flavors like salt, acid, and fat. This process doesn’t happen by chance. It’s often the result of methodical, creative experimentation and refinement to get that balance precisely right. Asking the server to take an ingredient out of a dish is akin to sawing the leg off a table – the whole thing can “tip” over and all that hard work goes out the window. A number of chefs I’ve spoken with complained that it drives them nuts when customers arbitrarily eliminate a component, ask for it on the side, or – the worst form of insult – request to substitute something else entirely. The main worry is that when you remove an ingredient, the dish no longer tastes the way it was intended, and the experience (and their vision) is seriously diminished.
Advice: If it’s an actual allergy, you’d do best to order something else. If it’s an aversion, ask your server to guide you to a dish that has all the flavors you enjoy most.Continue Reading

Scenes from the OpenTable Aspen Food & Wine Classic Champagne + Sushi Party #FWClassic

The 2015 Aspen Food & Wine Classic was held this past weekend, and OpenTable was there to help celebrate the best in food and wine as curated by our friends at Food & Wine magazine. Since no celebration would be complete without bubbles, we were pleased to host our second annual Champagne-centric soiree at Matushisa Aspen with famed chef Nobu Matsuhisa. ICYMI, we present a few scenes from the OpenTable Aspen Food & Wine Classic Champagne + Sushi party.

Chef Nobu Blog Copy Matsu Party  (75 of 144) copy

Chef Nobu was in the house, which makes sense because he owns it, as was OpenTable’s Leela Srinivasan.

Sushi Blog Size Matsu Party  (29 of 144) copy

There was sushi, obviously.

Eric Ripert Blog Size Matsu Party  (58 of 144) copy

And chef Eric Ripert, too.

Lots of People Blog Copy Matsu Party  (78 of 144) copy

There were a lot of other fun food + wine people there also, but the Champagne never ran dry despite our efforts.

Krug Waterfalls Blog Matsu Party  (42 of 144) copy

PSA: Don’t go chasin’ waterfalls — unless they’re Krug waterfalls. Then by all means…

Dana Cowin Blog Size Matsu Party  (135 of 144) copy

It’s not a Food & Wine party without the mag’s editor-in-chief Dana Cowin and Maria Sinskey of Sinskey Winery (Do you see what I did there?).Continue Reading

Lunch Break: Meet OpenTable Employee John Orta

John OrtaIt’s fair to say the best thing about Mondays is lunch, so we’re pleased to bring you another edition of Lunch Break. This week, we feature OpenTable employee John Orta. He originally hails from Phoenix, Arizona, and he works at the OpenTable headquarters in San Francisco as senior vice president and general counsel, where he apparently talks a lot. He’s fond of whiskey and meat, but it’s pickles he can’t live without. Read on as John dishes on his dining habits and reveals why he’s fasting for lunch. 

 

Name: John Orta

Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona

Job Title: Senior Vice President + General Counsel

What that means that I do at OpenTable: I talk a lot.

Years at OpenTable: 8 1/2 (Yikes!)  Alma mater: UC Santa Barbara (BA); University of San Francisco School of Law (JD), UC Berkely (MBA)

I have worked in a restaurant as a: Dishwasher / busboy / pizza maker

The food I can’t live without: Pickles

The one food I’ll never try: I will eat anything. Once.

My go-to drink or cocktail: Whiskey, neat. If I’m feeling crazy, rocks.

The delicious dessert I refuse to share: Whiskey (see above).

My favorite thing about dining out is: Laughing loudly with friends.

If meat is on a restaurant’s menu, I almost always order it.

My last best restaurant meal was at: Commis

The restaurant I am a regular at: CaminoContinue Reading

Get Freaky with Tiki: 11 Tiki Cocktails Approved by the Polynesian Gods

Yum, yum, yum, and a bottle of rum! It usually only takes one look to spot a Tiki cocktail. The brightly hued, over-the-top summery spritzers utilize a rainbow of juices, Polynesian-themed glassware, and colorful garnishes galore. Oh, yeah, and lots and lots of rum, so they’re typically super strong. Warning: You may start drinking one at a stateside bar only to wake up days later on a Mexican beach with no recollection of how you got there. To help you cool down during the hot summertime months, we’ve compiled a list of 11 truly tremendous Tiki cocktails. Whether you wear a Hawaiian shirt or lei while you’re drinking them is totally up to you.

Bird of Prey, Hello Betty Fish House, Oceanside, California
Any cocktail served in a pineapple is A-OK our in book. The Bird of Prey is a buzzy blitz of rum, Campari, pineapple gomme syrup, and lemon juice. Just to clarify: you can’t eat your glass when you’re done with your cocktail.

HELLO BETTY FISH HOUSE - Bird of Prey

Blood of the Kapu Tiki, Three Dots and a Dash, Chicago, Illinois
Shiver our timbers! The gory-sounding-but-delicious Blood of the Kapu Tiki is a heady mix of aged rum, aged rhum agricole, grapefruit, lime, curacao, grenadine, absinthe, and Angostura bitters. “Sharks” swim in the icy slurry, so be careful when you sip.

Three Dots - Blood of the Kapu Tiki_lowres

Holy Terroir, Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen, Morristown, New Jersey
We love paper umbrellas. When a cocktail arrives with one of those pretty parasols jutting out from its depths, we suddenly feel like we’re lying underneath a palm tree as an ocean breeze ruffles our hair. There’s one shading the side of the Holy Terroir, which unites rum, lime juice, golden falernum, and bitters.

Jockey Hollow_Holy Terroir

Jamaican Mule, Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar, Rockville, Maryland
Twisting up Tiki tradition, these bartenders put a Spanish accent on their Jamaican Mule. Rum, allspice dram, lime, and ginger beer come together to create a buzzy beachside bevvie.

Jamaican Mule

Lychee, BDK, San Francisco, California
The Lychee cocktail is much more complex than its name implies. It’s made with smoky tea vodka, salted pistachio syrup, lime juice, housemade coconut-lychee milk, rum, and grated ginger. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s coronated with shaved toasted coconut and lime zest, then presented in a ceramic pineapple cup.

The Lychee at BDK Restaurant & Bar

Tai One On, Alder, New York, New York
Bar director Travis Brown wanted to riff on the classic Tiki ‘tail, the Mai Tai. So he swirls together cachaça (a soulmate of rum distilled from sugar cane rather than molasses), lime juice, coconut orgeat, and Angostura bitters. It’s the taste of island living in a glass.

Tai One On

Missionary’s Downfall, Farmers Fishers Bakers, Washington, D.C.
You know any cocktail named Missionary’s Downfall is going to be devilishly good. Remy VSOP and peach cordial are the main stars here, though there’s plenty of rum blended into this slushy sipper. Perfect for those days when it’s hot as hell.

Missionary's Downfall Farmers Fishers BakersContinue Reading