Chef says that the average diner orders 2.8 dishes. Since we served five to six course meals to almost 40 people last night, he reasoned, the amount of work that went into each person’s meal made it equivalent to serving 80. We did this with four cooks: Chef, AK, me and Pastry Girl.
While on Friday night we had Deli Man (who will be the featured chef next week at the Pop-Up) and The Caterer on cheese soufles and assisting with the other hot dishes, last night neither could make it. While I boasted that I could surely handle three dishes (the uni starter, the fourth “cheese” course and dessert, Chef called for back-up. Thank god.
We started off the day in the kitchen of Hotel P. Chef Red, one of the chefs who helped out on our first night, is the baker here. Because the hotel didn’t have a huge lunch crowd, Chef knew if we could be in and out of there between 1-3, we could bang out a bunch of prep items. As Red let us inside, he said, “I have something for you.” Since we’d talked for a few minutes on the first night about sourdough, I was stoked.
Chef was so productive that in the span of time it took me to crack 80 eggs, he had started macerating blueberries for the new dessert, broken down the ducks and put sweet potatoes in the oven for the new large-format duck dish. After cracking eggs, I helped make the blueberry pudding and the pâte à choux for the souffles. Though I’d read about it, I’d never made pâte à choux before. We quadrupled his recipe.
Before we left Hotel P, Red gave me a batch of his sourdough starter and a ciabatta recipe (which is why the Bread Bible is sitting beside me as I write this).
Saturday night crowd
By 3 pm we were off again, headed back to the restaurant to set up our stations for dinner service, and finish prepping various items for the duck dish. Chef made scallion pancakes with crepe batter and then wrapped them around the duck meat I had pulled off the legs. The breasts he left whole and sliced on the plate.
Our diners included both of Chef’s parents – his dad is in town from Arkansas to see the taping of the TV cooking competition that Chef will be filming before service tomorrow – and a few well-known chefs who generously sent shots of tequila back to the kitchen.
The room was full and we cranked out those 40 dinners like it was nothing. When you think about it, it’s kind of amazing how few glitches we had last night. As Chef told me earlier, he had explicitly paced the five-course menu, knowing how long the diners would take with each dish and giving the kitchen enough time to plate the next one. Obviously, this is easier to do when everyone in the restaurant eats the same five courses, but still. Kind of amazing. A lot of new restaurants wouldn’t have been able to roll into Day 3 of service the way we did last night. As Chef would say, “We crushed it.”
At the end of the night I pulled Christine aside. She and Christina are the impetus and brains behind this Pop-Up. Chef calls them The Christinas in the kitchen, which makes things easy when we need help. “Get one of the Christinas!” he hollers.
I asked Christine what made them start this chef incubator project. “We thought about having a fixed restaurant,” she said, “but then we realized that we both wanted to do something bigger and work with a lot of different chefs.”
Tonight, Sunday, will be Chef’s last night. Next week, Deli Man will take over, doing his gourmet twist on Jewish Deli food. So we’re going to go out in style. Not only do we have a guest list that includes a celebrity chef, we are planning to give away bags of Chef’s White Chocolate & Pistachio Crunch Bark and, if we can get our act together, jars of his Blood Orange Marmalade. If you’re in the L.A. area, you won’t want to miss it.