Friday, January 29, 2010

Class Trip

In my culinary management class we sometimes take field trips to restaurants all around the city. I love getting out of the classroom and taking tours of some of New York City's most successful restaurants.

One day we were lucky enough to take a guide tour of a couple of Danny Meyer's restaurants. The tour was given to us by Mark, the GM of Blue Smoke. We walked by Shake Shack and headed to Maialino, Danny Meyer's newest restaurant. This well designed and decorated Roman Trattoria restaurant was in Gramercy Park Hotel. Some people thought the design looked to Crate and Barrel, but I thought it looked pretty authentic. The space made me wish I had this love for food when I was in Italy. We didn't get to view the kitchen in Maialino- probably because the restaurant is part of the Hotel.

We did get a tour of Blue Smoke's kitchen. We got to meet the executive chef Kenny Callaghan, but he didn't really talk to us much. We learned that Danny Meyer took Chef Kenny, Mark, and some others all around the South to learn about BBQ. The tour started upstairs in Blue Smoke and continued downstairs to Jazz Standard, a jazz club also owned by Danny Meyer. I later learned how the two spaces use the same kitchen, but our two different businesses. I thought I could definitely eat a nice dinner upstairs then come down for a nice jazz performance. Or I could just go downstairs and eat there considering its a similar menu. Thanks to my wonderful sisters, I got a gift certificate to Blue Smoke that I cannot wait to use. I love BBQ!!!!!

On another day we took a field trip to Rothmanns steakhouse on 54th street. I believe Rothmanns has another location in Long Island and is owned by the same restaurant group that owns Boulder Creek. Rothmanns is a high end steakhouse much like Mortons or Ruth's Chris. The GM brought us around the restaurant as we got to see the dining room, kitchens, and wine room. The wine room was by far the most impressive part of the restaurant. I don't remember how much wine inventory they had, but I want to say it was in the hundreds of thousands.

Like most New York restaurants, Rothmanns had a prep kitchen below the main kitchen. I noticed that Rothmanns has very steep and narrow stairs that makes it pretty hard on workers. The dining room is decorated a little more warm than some steakhouses. Steakhouses have been known to be for men, but Rothmanns wanted to target the lady so they warmed up the room and added salads to their menu.

The Chef came out and talked a little about the steaks that they use. They use PRIME USDA dry aged steaks which make my mouth water just thinking about it. He explained the dry aged process, which was pretty cool considering I love steak! I learned that steakhouses like Rothmanns make little money on their steaks because they are high food cost items. They make a lot of their money on a chicken dish or their side items like cream spinach.

Our latest and most impressive field trip was to Daniel. Daniel is one of few New York Time's four-star restaurants. Owned by Chef Daniel Boulud, this french restaurant prides itself on ultra fine dining. We got a tour from a manager who has worked their for five years and has worked his way up. I was a little disappointed that Daniel didn't give us the tour himself, but he wasn't there.

On the tour I learned that Daniel use to be the executive chef of Le Cirque, a highly regarded restaurant in the Mayfair Hotel. Daniel bought the space and turned Le Cirque into a private dining area and the hotel lobby became the main dining room. The dining rooms were nice. There was a huge flower arrangement in the back of the main dining room. I found out that Daniel spends over $100,000 on flowers every year. Supposedly the arrangements use to be double or triple the size, but they decided to downsize a little. Still, $100 gs on flowers-DAMN! The main dining room felt like I was in someone's mansion in their over-sized dining room.

I thought the bar area was a sweet place to eat if you didn't want to go all out on their $210 tasting menu. The bar/lounge area had tables that offered a la carte for those people who didn't need the whole Daniel experience. I thought the bar area was pretty sweet.

The kitchen is RIDICULOUS. It looks like a show kitchen that you'd see on TV. Everything is so clean and put together. There is even pictures on the walls! Daniel offers a Chef Table which is skybox overlooking the kitchen. This space is $300 a person for only the food, plus you have to have a minimum of 4 people so if its only two people, they still have to pay for four people. That's something I'd like to do--maybe when I'm not a broke student.

We then walked downstairs into a busy prep kitchen. Not only were there tons of chefs preparing food, but they all looked so professional in their spot-less white coats. We didn't get to tour the wine cellar which was below the prep kitchen. I was kind of bummed out because I figured a restaurant like this would probably hold close to a million in wine.

Daniel is known for the food, but even more for their service. Cameras in the dining room allow managers to monitor the area while allowing the expediter to fire courses. The amount of people dedicated to each table is remarkable. One day I'll dine here and write about it!

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