Chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli on Dining at Restaurants with Children

Alex Guarnaschelli Chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli on Dining at Restaurants with Children
Photo: Bill Durgin

This week, in honor of Mother’s Day, a series of famous chefs are sharing their exclusive tips for OpenTable diners for making eating out with children a pleasurable experience. Today, we check in with one of Manhattan’s most popular chefs.

One of a small group of influential female chefs, chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli has cooked at some of the world’s most famous Michelin-starred restaurants before becoming executive chef at Manhattan’s chic Butter restaurant. A familiar face to fans of “The Cooking Loft” (of which she is the host) and “Chopped” (on which she is a regular judge), Guarnaschelli grew up eating a variety of delicious cuisines, thanks to her mother, the esteemed cookbook editor Maria Guarnaschelli. Now a parent herself, she is introducing her young daughter to new foods and fine dining.

Guarnaschelli reveals, “There was an entire year of my childhood, according to my mother, during which I ate nothing but hamburgers and French fries. My mother always looked worried if I refused to eat and my father would always say the same thing: ‘Leave her alone. When she’s hungry, she’ll eat!’” Guarnaschelli’s best tip about bringing children to dine out is born from that. “Timing your visit so that your child is hungry (but not starving!) when you arrive at a restaurant makes for an easier dining experience. Though toys and games are helpful, some good old-fashioned eating also helps to pass the time for your children.” Also, remember to relax. Dining out is supposed to be fun – for everyone. “In a social situation such as visiting a restaurant, I think it’s best to minimize the pressure on your children. Go through the menu with them and make them feel a part of the experience with you. Talk about what you are going to eat to create some anticipation and excitement.”

As a chef and parent, she advises other parents to communicate allergies or problem ingredients prior to the visit. “I write the chef an email beforehand if I am concerned about certain ingredients. Giving a restaurant advance warning, even if it’s just a day before, can really help,” she adds.

World’s 50 Best Restaurants: S. Pellegrino and Restaurant Mag Name 2010 Winners

San Pelligrino and Restaurant magazine have announced their picks for the world’s 50 best restaurants in 2010. It’s a very international list, and many of them are part of the OpenTable network. Honorees include Daniel, Per Se, Le Bernardin, The French Laundry, St. John, wd-50, and Eleven Madison Park.

It’s a big question, but what restaurant is the world’s best? Pick your absolute favorite and reveal it here or share it with your fellow diners on Facebook.

Chef Wolfgang Puck on Dining Out with Kids

Wolfgang Puck Chef Wolfgang Puck on Dining Out with Kids
Photo: Amanda Marsalis

Chefs have access to the finest ingredients and use their inherent creativity to come up with the most delicious recipes to please diners at their popular restaurants. That same creativity has served them well as parents, as they face the challenges of dining out with their children and helping to raise adventurous eaters. This week, in honor of Mother’s Day, a series of famous chefs are sharing their exclusive tips for making eating out with children a pleasurable experience for everyone at the table.

Wolfgang Puck, the chef/owner of Spago Beverly Hills and CUT by Wolfgang Puck (among many others), is one of the first true celebrity chefs, famous for changing the landscape of California cuisine (and pizza!) and becoming a household name. With a dynamic personality and continued culinary brilliance, his success continues to multiply – as has his family.

Chef Puck believes communicating with restaurant staff can be essential to a successful dining experience with children. He says, “My two young boys, Oliver, 4-1/2 years old, and Alexander, 3, do not sit still for more than 45 minutes. So, whenever I take them to a restaurant, I take that into account and I will tell the waitstaff, the faster they can serve us the better. I won’t order a tasting menu for my wife and myself. If you go out to dinner with young children, you want to make sure that you don’t spend three hours at the table. Kids will make you feel uncomfortable and the other guests might get annoyed.”

He also recommends going to favorite and familiar restaurants. “When I go with my young children to a restaurant, I generally go to one where I am well known, and I’ll call them in advance to have something ready as soon as we sit down, like a pasta or a risotto or maybe some chicken skewers, so that way the kids won’t fill up on bread.” The kids will also be immediately engaged in their dining experience.

Along with the foodies everywhere, Wolfgang’s boys adore some of his most popular dishes. He says, “Both of my kids love pizza. Oliver is especially fond of our white truffle pizza, and Alexander loves risotto. As for me, lamb chops are their favorite, and for dessert, panna cotta.”

Foodspotting: Does Foodie Photography Make You Lose Your Appetite?

The Getty Museum in Los Angeles has kicked off its new (pre-digital) food photography exhibit called “In Focus: Tasteful Pictures” around the same time that everyone is talking about the rise of diners obsessively photographing their food; some are even videotaping their dining experiences. Chefs, beyond Grant Achatz, and including Ludo Lefebvre, are getting upset that food isn’t being enjoyed at the proper temperature — and that the photography is slowing down service.

Do you photograph your food when dining out? Are you irritated when others do so? Is videography taking the documentary portion of dining out too far? Tell us what you think here or on Facebook.

Diners Behaving Badly: What Annoys You About Other Restaurant Patrons?

Annoying Diners Diners Behaving Badly: What Annoys You About Other Restaurant Patrons?The folks who run the food and dining section of the Chicago Tribune probably dine out a lot, so it’s not surprising that they’ve got a complaint (or 10) about their fellow diners. Judy Hevrdejs compiled the list, which includes people who linger at a table long after their meal has ended and diners who bring their own salt to a restaurant.

When I was a restaurant worker, I had a lot of complaints about diners. A LOT! As a diner, though, I have just a few, one being people who monopolize the wait staff’s time at the expense of other patrons. You know the people I’m talking about — the ones who ask question after question about the menu, the specials (“What was the first one again? And what did the other one come with?”), or the server’s personal life (“You’re from Texas! How’d you wind up in New York?”), while you wait and wait (and wait) for your check.

What do your fellow restaurant diners do that drives you mad? Has another patron’s behavior ever ruined your dining experience altogether? Tell us about it here or over on Facebook.

Baumé in Palo Alto; Kirwood in Atlanta; and Other New Restaurant Reviews

Restaurants that have recently earned rave reviews…

* Rick Nelson reports on his visit to Apertif in Woodbury, Minneapolis. [Star Tribune]

* Jennifer Graue boasts about Baumé in Palo Alto. [Mercury News]

* Diners in West Hartford, Connecticut, will enjoy new Mexican eatery Besito. [NECN]

* Encore in Denver deserves an ovation. [Denver Post]

* Alan Richman stops by Colicchio & Sons in Manhattan’s Meatpacking district and likes what he sees — and eats. [GQ]

* Kirkwood in Atlanta isn’t really new, but it is really good, according to Bob Townsend. [AJC]

* Baltimore’s La Scala continues to deliver big flavors in Little Italy.  [Baltimore Sun]

* Michael Bauer believes Marlowe‘s second act deserves three stars. [San Francisco Chronicle]

* Barbara Lynch’s new restaurant Menton is amazing, according to a Boston blogger. [LimeyG]

* Michael Schulson’s Sampan scores a “very good” endorsement from Inquirer critic Craig LaBan. []

* “Top Chef” contestant Dale Levitski has helped Chicago’s Sprout earn three stars from Phil Vettel. [Chicago Tribune]

* STK Miami serves up sexy food in a similar atmosphere. [Miami Herald]

Jersey Shore Restaurant Week: Here’s ‘The Situation’…

Jersey Shore Restaurant Week 2010 Jersey Shore Restaurant Week: Heres The Situation...Made famous first as a vacation spot for folks living in Pennsylvania and western New Jersey, the Jersey Shore has stepped into the spotlight lately, courtesy of the eponymous MTV “reality” show and the antics (G-T-L!) of cast members Snookie, DJ Pauly D, JWoww, and, of course, The Situation (only one of whom is actually from New Jersey). In actual reality, the Jersey Shore is a picturesque stretch of beachfront communities with fine dining restaurants aplenty. To kick off the coming season of fun in the sun, restaurants along the shore are celebrating Jersey Shore Restaurant Week. Participating restaurants include Avenue in Long Branch, David Burke’s Fromagerie in Rumson (home to Bruce Springsteen), Scarborough Fair in Manasquan, and more.

Book your reservation today, but don’t expect to spot Sammi ‘Sweetheart’ and Ronnie. While they will return to the Jersey Shore eventually, the cast is currently filming the show’s second season in Miami.

London Diner Denied Water at Restaurant; Management’s Excuse All Wet

London Diner Denied Water at Restaurant London Diner Denied Water at Restaurant; Managements Excuse All WetThe Daily Mail reports that a thirsty London diner asked for a free glass of tap water in a restaurant — and was refused. After spending more than $300 on dinner and ordering a bottled water and a round of drinks, the patron, Sonya Adams, politely requested a some tap water, only to be told it was against restaurant policy to serve diners free tap water. However, this policy is in violation of a new law introduced in the U.K. designed to help thwart alcohol-related crimes; alcohol retailers cannot turn down a patron’s request for a complimentary glass of water from the tap.

The restaurant’s management could face a hefty fine, prison time, and/or a revocation of its liquor license. Adams, who paid her bill but opted not to leave a tip, won’t be returning to the restaurant.

Charging for water has been an issue here in the States in the past year. What would you do if a restaurant refused to serve you a glass of tap water on the house? Walk out? Leave a small or no tip? Offer to pay for the water? Weigh in here or tell us your thoughts on Facebook.

Thomas Keller Speaks; Art Smith Is Getting Hitched; and Other Chef News

Chef Watch Thomas Keller Speaks; Art Smith Is Getting Hitched; and Other Chef News* Culinary king Thomas Keller (Ad Hoc, The French Laundry) discusses his restaurant empire, his dreams for a burger joint, and why he won’t expand into Abu Dhabi.  [Eater]

* Keller also talks to the Wall Street Journal about the difference between Napa and New York diners. In case you don’t have a subscription, there really aren’t any. [Wall Street Journal-subscription required]

* Oprah’s favorite chef Art Smith is tying the knot with his longtime partner at his D.C. restaurant Art and Soul. [Grub Street Chicago]

* Colby Garrelts, chef/owner of Bluestem in Kansas City, is happy to be nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award, but he’d be even happier if he won one on May 3. [The Pitch]

* Award-winning chef and author Michel Nichan, who owns Dressing Room in Connecticut, loves Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink in Miami.  [Daily Beast]

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Pay What You Wish at a Restaurant: Geordie’s at The Wrigley Mansion

Here’s one from the feel-good files: The New York Times “Freakonomics” folks called readers’ attention to a restaurant in Phoenix that is allowing diners to pay what they think is fair for lunch. Geordie’s Restaurant and Lounge in The Wrigley Mansion isn’t pricing its lunch entrees, instead letting patrons decide what they’re worth.

Being a bit of a cynic, I wondered how this pricing experiment was going, so I phoned Celeste Nichols, the general manager. She says, “It’s been very well received. We’re getting lots of local diners as well as people from out of town.” In terms of the value diners are placing on their entrees, Nichols reveals, “We’re pretty much getting $13 or better. People are loving it! They think it’s a great idea.” Nichols, who championed the concept, said she’d seen a restaurant in another state do it and thought it might be something that would be fun to try at The Wrigley Mansion. She admitted she was a bit skeptical at first (after all, someone could just wish to pay a quarter), but, Nichols says, “It’s turned out that people pay fairly, if not better than we anticipated.”

Available at lunch, Tuesday through Saturdays, the “Pay What You Think Is Fair” promotion at Geordie’s in The Wrigley Mansion has been going on for more than six months with no end in sight.