Meet the Artists Behind the #MenuDecoded Illustrations

#menudecoded

To complement the results of our recent Harris Poll online survey around menu terminology, we wanted to create a #menudecoded glossary to help educate and delight people who might be confused about certain words. As with any compelling glossary or dictionary, illustrations are key to enhancing a user’s (or in this case, a diner’s) experience. The OpenTable design team looked to the creative community to help with this aspect, partnering with well-known illustrators Ping Zhu, Keith Shore, Harrison Freeman, Brianna Harden, and Eddie Perrote, who share a combined client list of The New York Times, Penguin Books, Dwell Magazine, American Express, and Vice, among others. Here, each artist shares a few insights about themselves, their process, and the terms they worked with.

Keith Shore (Yuzu, En Brodo, En Papillote, Primi, Terrine)

Keith Shore is the art director for Danish brewery Mikkeller and works from his home studio in the Philadelphia suburbs. His favorite term to illustrate was yuzu. He says, “I’ve made many beer labels that center around this awesome fruit. It’s a great shape to draw and has a fun, loud color palette.” Follow Keith on Instagram @keithashore + Twitter @keith_shore.

#menudecoded

Brianna Harden (Okonomiyaki, Gougère, Harissa, Lardo, Crudo)

Brianna Harden is an illustrator, book cover designer, and self-proclaimed adventurer living in Brooklyn, New York. She notes, “My creative work involves making paintings (usually of food or people) primarily for editorial clients and designing book jackets for Penguin Random House. When I’m not drawing or designing, I embark on frequent travels to just about anywhere that allows me to rock climb and eat good food.” The terms she most enjoyed bringing to life? “The gougères and the crudo. There’s something about the delicate crudo that reminds me of floral arrangement — every ingredient is carefully considered for size and balance. It was a compositional challenge to depict a perfectly arranged little piece of fish. The color scheme also turned out to be my favorite, as the vibrant pinks and greens were delightful to paint. My other favorite was the gougères — not so much to draw but to sample. Shortly after I received this illustration assignment, I went to visit my friend where he bartends at the Brooklyn restaurant French Louie.  Without knowing about this project, he brought out one of their appetizers — a basket of warm gougères  with cheese. It was my first time trying the delicious pastries, and I’m obsessed with them now.” Follow Brianna on Instagram @brianna_harden + Twitter @brianna_harden.

#menudecoded

Eddie Perrote (Piri Piri, Shiso, Meuniere, Amuse Bouche, Semifreddo)

Artist Eddie Perrote is a professional illustrator, designer, and, he adds, amateur food eater. He resides in Brooklyn, New York. When asked what term he liked tackling best, he revealed, “I’d say the Amuse Bouche was my favorite to illustrate because of the unique role that appetizers play in terms of food pairings — I could get wackier with it!” Follow Eddie on Instagram @eddieperrote

#menudecodedContinue Reading

Menu Jargon Confounds Diners: Top Misunderstood Menu Terms Decoded

Top Misunderstood Menu Terms

Can’t tell shiso from yuzu? Don’t know a gougère from gochujang? You’re not alone. As culinary trends evolve (or stage a comeback), the terms diners are finding on menus can be confusing and impact how they order at a restaurant. A recent online survey conducted by Harris Poll revealed many diners believe some restaurant menus are more confusing than they need to be (29%), are concerned that ordering a menu item made with an unfamiliar ingredient will ruin their dining experience (56%), or feel they will be wasting their money if they don’t enjoy their meal (74%).

The survey findings also revealed several menu terms that more than half of diners do not know the meaning of, and inspired the OpenTable design team to work with illustrators to create a visual Menu Jargon Decoder to demystify the visualization, meaning, and pronunciation of confusing menu terms, including okonomiyaki, bibimbap, piri piri.

The survey, which was conducted online by Harris Poll in March 2016 on behalf of OpenTable, found that an overwhelming majority of diners (91%) say they are more likely to order a dish they are not familiar with if it has additional menu features. Diners also indicated that the future for digital menus may be bright with more than half saying photos of the menu items (53%) or a glossary of menu terminology (30%) would make them more likely to order a dish they are not familiar with.

Additional findings include that nearly 2 in 5 (37%) of diners choose a restaurant based on how familiar they are with the items listed on a menu. When diners encounter a term they didn’t understand on a menu, most (67%) have asked the waiter to explain what it is, but some (42%) have asked fellow diners at their table if they are familiar with the term. Nearly 1 in 5 (18%) ordered a dish with an unfamiliar ingredient or term as a challenge to experience something new. Men were more likely than women to do so (21% vs. 14%, respectively).

According to the survey, at least half of diners say they do not understand the following menu terms in ranking order:Continue Reading

Pim Techamuanvivit on Kin Khao, Starting with What You Don’t Know + Breaking the Mold for Thai Cuisine

Pim Techamuanvivit grew up in Bangkok and has been an internationally renowned tastemaker with stints as a food blogger, author, and jam maker. But her greatest achievement to date may be as an award-winning restaurateur in San Francisco at Kin Khao. Opening its doors in 2014, Kin Khao (which literally means “eat rice”) quickly earned a well-deserved Michelin star. Here, she speaks with contributor Amy Sherman about her journey into the hospitality industry, her much-lauded, flavorful fare, and future plans for her acclaimed eatery. 

Pim Techamuanvivit

What prepared you most for being a restaurateur?

Everything prepared me! I’m not self taught; I learned from everybody and stole from everybody. Cooking Thai food is just cooking. What gave me the confidence was jam making. I was cooking for friends and family, and they loved it. And then when I made jam, it was so well received. So I thought, “Maybe I can try this.” It gave me the confidence to go professional. I’m a much better Thai cook than I am a jam maker. Also, I have something to contribute. I really feel like I have something to contribute to the conversation. It’s not just me; I’m a link in a very long chain. I don’t want the flavors I grew up on to disappear.

When I decided to get serious about it, I sat down and started a list of things I didn’t know — that was probably the smartest thing. There were things I knew nothing about, like running a professional kitchen, then I just worked my way through it. So it became like my road map.

It’s easy to look at a restaurant and think it’s so easy. People think it’s like having a dinner party every day when really it’s about putting trash bags into cans into every day.

Was finding the food you want to eat the motivation behind the restaurant?

Yes! You know, a lot of chefs, they are motivated by wanting to feed people. I like cooking for friends, but it’s more about wanting to feed me! I want the food to be available to me and others. I’m from Bangkok so I was exposed to food from everywhere. The menu is not really all Eastern or Southern Thai. I don’t understand why people aren’t making the food I want to eat.

Are there particular things that you find to be the most frustrating about being a restaurateur?

Having people think of it as not valued. For instance, why is my rabbit curry $32? It is because it’s almost an entire rabbit in a bowl; where else can you get that? At Saison, maybe. It feeds several people. There’s a lot of work going into it. The quality compares to any of the best restaurants. So, it’s disheartening. There are 29 ingredients in the Massaman curry paste — made from scratch. That’s the part that I struggle with. At the same time, I am sticking to my guns. This is how I’m going to do it. Our average check average is $40 or so per person. That includes drinks and food! Because we’re Thai, people don’t value it. I have to make peace with that.

Pim Techamuanvivit

What dishes are you most proud of on your menu?

It changes, but right now, all of the curries, because it’s so hard to get them right. I remember before we opened, I talked to distributors for things like fish sauce with lists with curry pastes. I told them I was making my curry pastes from scratch. They were shocked because it’s difficult and hard to get consistent. Thai ingredients are not standardized, such as chiles and lemongrass. If you ask my kitchen, they will say the curry station is the beast. It’s hard to get right. Everything we do is something we want to get right.

Why do you think so many Thai restaurants follow a formula of serving the same dishes?

A lot of Thai restaurants are not opened by people with culinary training in the cuisine; they are immigrants who want to open businesses. They are constrained by what they think people want. They think the “American taste” is going to keep them in business. Another constraint is what people value in ethnic cuisine. People think ethnic food has to be cheap. So they are constrained by that. You can’t do things from scratch, you can’t buy good ingredients if you are trying to be cheap. So they buy cheap prepped food. But you see it changing with some restaurants using good ingredients and better techniques. We are breaking the mold. I wanted to see if I could make it economically viable.Continue Reading

Talking Shop with Stephanie Izard: On Goat, Being Recognized at the Airport + ‘Reasonably Authentic’ Chinese Food

Talking Shop with Stephanie Izard: On Goat, Being Recognized at the Airport & “Reasonably Authentic” Chinese Food

Chef Stephanie Izard is not short on accolades. In addition to being named winner of Bravo’s Top Chef — along with being named fan favorite (she had my vote) — she earned James Beard’s Best Chef: Great Lakes award in 2013 and Food & Wine’s Best New Chef title in 2010.

The awards are well deserved. Izard is the Executive Chef/Partner of three beloved Chicago restaurants: Girl & the Goat, Little Goat (a diner and bakery), and her latest, Duck Duck Goat, an ode to what she calls “reasonably authentic” Chinese food. The menu boasts a menu of delights including Duck Eggrolls Nom‎ Wah style; Sichuan Eggplant & Goat Sausage; Sanbeiji (Taiwanese 3-cup chicken); and Slap Noodles with shrimp, goat sausage, eggplant, and mushroom. Bring it.

Andrea Strong spoke to Izard, who was very pregnant with her first baby due in late May, about becoming famous, naming her restaurant after a goat, and what to eat when you’re expecting.

Talking Shop with Stephanie Izard: On Goat, Being Recognized at the Airport & “Reasonably Authentic” Chinese Food

Growing up in Connecticut, how did you get into food?

I always think that chefs either grew up eating really good food or really bad food and had to learn to cook in order to eat. In my case, luckily, my mom was a great cook. She was always making things from all over the world. She was really into Asian food and would make tempura, moo shu pork, even sushi, alongside things like roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. We would make a menu for the week and hang it on the fridge. My friends could look at it and decide what looked good and when they wanted to come over.

When did you know food would be your life?

I was the kid who was always watching Julia Child, but back in the early ’90s being a chef was not what people think it is today. It was not really a career. So my plan was to go to college and get a business degree.

And I guess looking back on it, I found a roundabout way to get into business. I went to the University of Michigan, and let’s just say it was a lot of fun (maybe a little too much fun for me) and I didn’t get into business school. I graduated and I felt lost. My dad actually suggested cooking school. He was the one who said, ‘You’ve always loved to cook, why not try it?’

Did you have an ‘Aha!’ moment where you knew it was the right decision? Continue Reading