So here’s the most insane bit of information I can share with you about last night: Chef had never plated those dishes before. No, seriously, I mean, he had never made them, not once.
He had made some of the components before. Or, rather, he had done similar things with different ingredients. But for the most part, he just had a hunch that each dish would work and then made sure each element tasted good on its own so that when he put them all together, they played off each other.
Chef’s goal is to open his own restaurant and the great thing about this pop-up format is that it gives him a chance to show off his skills. I’ll be surprised if he isn’t up and running by the end of the year. His food is stunning.
When we were at the farmers’ market a few weeks back, I remarked that Chef was such a nice guy, I bet he was fun to work with. He was quiet a moment. “Or, are you an asshole?”
“I’m an asshole,” he said.
Maybe there are times when the heat of the kitchen makes him behave like an ass, but it’s hard to believe after seeing how Chef’s friends rallied to make him a success last night.
Not only did three of his friends show up on their days off to cook, AK (Alaska) let Chef transform his apartment kitchen into Base of Operations. After a trip to the Bread Bar for pan de mie, we arrived at AK’s apartment mid-morning for the second day in a row, catching him in the middle of doing laundry and cleaning house from the night before.
Chef cut toasts out of the bread while I grated aged gouda for the soufflé. The trick with the pop-up is that you can’t actually move in to the kitchen until 3 or 4 pm, so we had a little time to spare. AK went for a run. Then another friend, The Caterer, arrived and together we loaded three cars full of stock, gelee, purees, mousse, pate a choux, fish, sausage, brioche, grated cheese and several dozen other items and headed for the restaurant. When we got there, I sliced radishes paper-thin on a mandolin (and did not cut myself), while the boys prepared the stations.
Since several other guys are lined up to “pop up” after Chef, they joined in last night, too. The kitchen was jam-packed with chefs. Fortunately, it’s a spacious kitchen and since part of Chef’s restaurant concept depends on having chefs run the dishes to the table, it also came in handy.
We had a small crowd last night, but it included a table of TV celebrity food show production people, and they loved it. And tonight we have 50 on the books. No small achievement for a restaurant that opened yesterday.