A Holiday tradition here is the annual Chefs Table at the King St restaurant. I first encountered this when I went to the Greenbrier hotel to do my apprenticeship. The stewards would set a huge long table to seat thirty to forty people, to have lunch as well as dinner at the same table. They would set down plates, silverware, glasses, coffee cups, and pitchers of milk, water and coffee. We would get up to a small buffet, of which was the same food being served in the employee cafeteria, and help ourselves, and then sit and eat together. Usually, all the apprentices hung out together to eat and talk story. At the head would be the food and beverage director and then the head chefs all around him. It would last for a half hour and then everyone would go back to work. I thought, "this is nice, this is cool, at least the apprentices got to see each other and exchange stories of what they were learning or experiencing." Then I moved to NYC and at Lutece, almost the same thing. Someone makes the family meal, and if it's lunch, we sit in the kitchen and grab something to eat together before the lunch crowd comes in. Only difference, there was a jug of wine on the table. For dinner the same thing. On the weekends we sat in the dining room and I remember moments eating choucroute, poulet au pot, pot au feu, with the chef. One of my jobs, in the second half of my time there, I had to cook the family meal for dinner. After that, I had to cook dinner for two: for the chef, Andre Soltner and his wife. He liked a starter and an entrée, not too large, but it was time to spend with his wife, who also worked the door at the restaurant. I felt like I really learned how to cook at Lutece, and the dinners for chef were nerve wracking at first, but then I got the hang of it. It was dreaded that he come down after being served, to fry an egg for his dinner, because it meant he didn't like what he got from me. Our family meals were interesting to cook, they would buy a forequarter of a lamb, a whole rack of pork, six whole chickens, two whole cod on Friday, things like that, and you had to come up with stuff using that to cook.
Our tradition of family meal, or chefs table sprang from that. It is a time when you get to sit down and eat, and maybe talk story. This is Ed, a front of the house captain, that came to the chefs table. A lot of people said things, but he got up and thanked the kitchen for what they do, and I know that it meant a lot for the kitchen to hear that from a front of the house person. The family table is disappearing in America, what a shame. I also shared a news article to the team from Japan. In Japan, the younger generations are liking McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken, fast foods, and slowly, they are losing their appetite for Washoku, Japanese food, as well as losing their palate for what it should taste like, let alone how to cook it. Something disappearing there as well, as I think their dinner table has disappeared. Well, thanks Ed, great job, and thank you to the kitchen and the rest of the staff that showed up and made the pot luck a wonderful time together.