10 Things You Need to Know About Top Chef Seattle Episode 11

The idea of elevating a humble cuisine is a bit tired, but last night it was inspiring to see Sheldon execute his mission to marry the authenticity of Filipino food with modern elegance.

This season has been supremely frustrating, from the appearance of the grating and gangly CJ to the non-cancellation of The Josie Show, but this episode is really the sour cherry atop all of that. Don’t get me wrong; it was so satisfying to see Sheldon shine, but if you were on Twitter and following the #topchef action, you’re well aware of the mutiny among viewers prompted by the events at judges’ table.

1. Stefan was immediately singled out to do front of house because he’d been through restaurant wars before. I see that logic, but not at all, because … it’s Stefan! He does not suffer fools, and, really, that’s part and parcel of FOH work. I will say, however, in my years as a hostess, I did often fantasize about being able to shame campers into moving on so that I could seat the throngs of hungry diners at the door.

2. Kristen basically called Josie classless.

3. Elevating a cuisine you’ve never had before is a hard thing to do. And Josh did just that, with Sheldon’s tutelage, of course.

4. Brooke has opened four (!) restaurants with her husband, so it’s no surprise that she has a deft front-of-house touch.

5. Sheldon may well be the most guileless, genuinely kind cheftestant this competition has ever seen.

6. Kristen would prefer to have a dishwasher as her sous. This sounds like an insult (and probably is), but Sheldon started out as a dishwasher and he employs his restaurant wars dishwasher to help with prep work.Continue Reading

Top 100 Restaurants in the U.S.: 2011 Diners’ Choice Award Winners Revealed

Menton, one of the newest restaurants from Chef Barbara Lynch is among Boston's most coveted reservations.

OpenTable is pleased to announce the winners of the 2011 Diners’ Choice Awards for top 100 best overall restaurants in the U.S. Derived from more than 10 million reviews submitted by OpenTable diners for more than 12,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the list of honorees is a terrific dining guide for the year ahead!

The honorees span 34 states and Washington, D.C., and include Canlis in Seattle, Barbara Lynch’s Menton in Boston and John Besh’s Restaurant August in New Orleans. North Carolina tied the dining mecca of California with ten winning restaurants, while New York eateries claimed seven spots. South Carolina, Texas and Virginia each took six places. Colorado and Ohio restaurants earned four wins apiece, and Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts and Minnesota all won three nods. States also represented on the list of winners include Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Rhode Island, and Tennessee, among others.

Congratulations to this year’s winners. Diners, how many of our best-of restaurants have you dined at? Tell us here or join the discussion on Facebook!

Server Not Servant Blogger Patrick Maguire Shares Restaurant Service Secrets

Blogger Patrick Maguire is glad to be your server, not your servant. Capice?

In honor of the announcement of the 2011 Diners’ Choice Awards for Restaurants Providing the Best Service, we sat down with Boston blogger Patrick Maguire, a longtime service professional and champion of service providers via his popular Server Not Servant blog.

Patrick, as someone who sits on both sides of the equation, server and diner, how hard is it to execute service at these award-winning restaurants?

A lot harder than most people will ever know. I heard about what went on behind the scenes at Menton, arguably the new pinnacle of fine dining in Boston (Ed Note: Menton is on our list!). The planning, training, role-playing, and practice required to provide consistent, seamless service requires a huge investment of time, effort, and energy by everyone involved. Service is only one part of the overall dining experience. As I have said before, great service is execution; great hospitality is a mindset, an awareness, and a culture focused on making a meaningful and memorable connection with guests. If you make a memorable connection with your guests, you can convert them from being guests to becoming ambassadors for your restaurant.

What’s the most difficult aspect of being a service provider?

Staying on top of all of the information that you are bombarded with. With all of these new movements — the cocktail renaissance, snout-to-tail butchery, sustainable sourcing — the list is endless. And, diners have so much information, literally at their finger tips, that they expect servers to know exactly where their food is sourced, in addition to knowing the ingredients of each dish and how it is executed in the kitchen.

Continue Reading

Chef Barbara Lynch Reveals Recipe for Raising Adventurous Eaters

Photo: Justin Ide
Photo: Justin Ide

With Mother’s Day and parenting on our minds, we continue our series of interviews with famous chefs who are raising children as they raise their reputations in the culinary world. Today, Boston chef Barbara Lynch discusses how she approaches dining out with her young daughter.

James Beard award-winning chef/restaurateur Barbara Lynch, whose newest restaurant is Menton, grew up in the hardscrabble neighborhood of South Boston, getting her first kitchen job cooking at a local rectory at the age of 13. Since then, she has become one of Boston’s most revered chefs — as well as a mom to daughter Marchesa, 6, and a proud stepmom to three grown children. It’s no surprise, then, that she advocates for parents to dine out with their children at an early age. She urges, “Take them out! The sooner they are taught table manners and included in dinners out, the sooner they will behave and maybe even become more adventurous eaters.”

For your first trips dining out with your child, “Start with places that you know the kids will love or that are particularly child-friendly and then work your way up to other types of restaurants. Eating together should be a fun experience and a chance to enjoy each other’s company.” Lynch and her friends would include her daughter in relaxing Sunday brunches with nearly a dozen of friends. She says, “Marchesa could color at the table while we chatted, and the fact that she absolutely loved the chocolate cake helped, too.”

Lynch says of her daughter’s developing palate, “From the time she was a baby, she adored gnocchi with Mimolette, which is like REALLY, REALLY good mac and cheese! These days she can’t get enough of the fried calamari at B&G Oysters…loves them!” If your child isn’t ready for these flavors, she suggests, “I think every child goes through phases where they hate all green things or will only eat macaroni and cheese, but they are usually just that — phases and short-lived. I think the trick is to encourage them to have a bit of everything—just try!”