When we find that precarious equilibrium, we try to identify what worked so well, so we can replicate our success.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to dine at Alinea in Chicago. It was equal parts exciting, overwhelming and, to be very honest, strange.
My favorite course (out of 18 courses) was called “Paint.” First, the servers climbed up on ladders to pull these painted panels down from the ceiling. They laid them on our tables and then turned off the lights. Music started blasting, strobe lights were flashing and a parade of chefs came out of the kitchen throwing various dessert elements onto the center of each table. It lasted for about two minutes and was easily the wildest plating experience I’ve ever been a part of.
The dish—if you can even call it that—smoked (ice cream that had been frozen with liquid nitrogen), rolled (chocolate and raspberry spheres), shimmered (edible gold…I think) and dripped (a sauce of some sort). It tasted really good, and the act of eating what resembled a food fight was a lot of fun.
The other courses were also interesting. Some were delicious. Some were not. But the entirety of that meal taught me something valuable: A lot of molecular gastronomy in one sitting is too much.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m fascinated by modernist techniques. I think they serve a purpose when used appropriately. But 18 courses filled with spheres, gels and foams was excessive. What I needed halfway through the meal was a bite of something I could identify. I needed more balance.
Every year, as we plan the content for both this magazine as well as our annual Chef to Chef Conference (check out our coverage in the April issue of C&RB, as well as pg. 34 of this issue), we strive to strike the right balance between management and culinary topics. It’s a precarious equilibrium, but when we get it right, we try to identify what worked so well, so we can replicate our success.
This year’s Conference was especially outstanding. We had record-setting attendance and each session featured presentations that were useful and fresh. We managed to find a perfect balance between food demos and presentations. There was content that was inspiring and management-focused, as well as content that was practical and useful for running a better kitchen.
As we plan for the Tenth Annual Chef to Chef Conference next March in Seattle, we want to continue the momentum and again strike the perfect balance. If there’s something you want to learn more about, something we haven’t talked about yet, something you’re dying to try, or something we’re talking about too much—tell us.