Omnivore - Knife's Edge: Amateur night
The night when the uninitiated come out to dine, and overly ambitious young chefs show who the real amateurs are.
Its a three course dinner culminating with a warm molten chocolate cake. Preceded by lobster or Black Angus beef, or both for a $25 supplement. A complimentary champagne toast. Live music from a band charging four times its standard rate. And party favors, my favorite being the shiny plastic top hat, epitomize the schlock that is: New Years Eve Dinner, Anytown, USA.
Amateur night could be any Friday or Saturday night, when people who don't usually dine out head out on the town to blow a paycheck. But the serious amateur nights are New Year's Eve, Valentines Day, and Mother's Day brunch. These are reserved for that special brand of customer, many of whom haven't ventured into a restaurant since the previous holiday. It's a night that shiesty restaurateurs gouge prices. A night when guests ask for ketchup with their aged rib eye. And also a night when burned out chefs retreat into ubiquitous schlock, and overly ambitious young chefs mistakenly puff their chests out...
As a much younger chef, I relished my first experience with New Year's Eve. I viewed the evening from an unusually naive yet honest perspective. People would be looking for luxury that night, surely, and I was most willing to supply it at a premium. I persuaded my food and beverage manager to order the type of things chefs in neighborhood bistros cant typically get.
Seven loins of milk-fed veal. Six blue-shelled lobsters. Five pounds of golden porcini. Four lobes of foie gras. Three pounds of beluga caviar. A wooden crate of Belons. Two pounds of Dover Sole. And one baseball size, fresh, black truffle. And as each special order was hand-delivered, it was truly the Twelve Days of Christmas for me.