November 9, 2010

Prep in kitchen

In my mind one of the great things about the new restaurant is that you all get a chance to see the food being made. From day one that’s been something we’re proud to display on the trucks, but we’ve always had some items that require larger equipment and couldn’t be made on the truck (e.g., hummus). Now you might hear the Robocoupe 23 Quart monster humming away in the background, or see Ashley or some of her crew chopping up pickled veggies. We think it’s fantastic.

Others may disagree. Peter, from the Chinese shop on the corner told me we did the restaurant all wrong. In his mind the kitchen should be “hidden on the second floor.” We made a huge mistake to put it at the window. “Oh well… too late now…” he says with a laugh. (If you haven’t met Peter you need to stop in. His restaurant has been at it for over 50 years and he’s a real character.)

But he’s not the only one. Charlie, from Andover Shop, a men’s clothing store down the street from us was giving me similar advice. “I just don’t want to see food being made” he says. He thinks it’s a colossal mistake and wanted to talk to me about ways to hide the kitchen. “If you knew what went into the sausage you wouldn’t want to eat it…” he says. And isn’t that the point?

I asked some questions and he told me he loves the way Sushi restaurants do it, “all theater” but added “I don’t want to see what’s really happening, trash cans etc.” (Good thing we don’t have any trash, but more on that later.) Of course I can’t stand that sort of artifice. I’m even critical of show kitchens in restaurants like Craigie on Main and Towne. I actually wanted to have the dish room on display (which didn’t work because of space considerations, but you can still see it at the back of the bathroom hall).

It’s sort of ironic. One of the things I love about the Andover shop is that their fabric bolts (equivalent of our produce) is on full display. And they get my suit made in Lawrence, MA, which I like because I know where Lawrence is, and I have more transparency into the process.

But seriously, I never anticipated this. I can’t imagine the open kitchen as anything but fantastic, so it’s really surprising to me to hear it criticized. I mean, really? People like their food being hidden away? They like not know how it’s made, where it comes from? I’ve always known that I value the transparency more than most. I think because I have a pretty good idea of what actually happens behind walls/ doors out of sight, and it’s worse than you’d imagine. But I never thought people would actually dislike this approach.

These photos are actually taken from OUTSIDE of the restaurant. That’s nuts, hunh?

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