My favorite place to eat is in restaurant kitchens. If I can score a seat at the chef’s table, it’s two thumbs up for me. I’d always eat back there if I could. I’d like kitchens to have a “standing room only” option at a table somewhere in the back of the house, the way theaters do.
A restaurant’s back of the house is analogous to theater in other ways, too. A well run-kitchen operates almost like a ballet—a precision dance of preparing, plating, and pushing food through the line. I love watching the choreography of it, hearing the music blasting and the occasional “FUCK! Where did they put the spoons!” from a disgruntled manager trying to keep everything on track.
The front of the house is all about a quiet, tasteful experience. You rarely hear the staff grumble or curse. It’s so much more real and present back where things are coming together.
In the back, I can also see my food being prepared before I eat it—another plus! This raises my expectations. When you eat in the front of the house, particularly if you order a tasting menu, you have no idea what is about to come to your plate. My way, watching each course being prepared, you get to salivate in anticipation .
I love the whole busy, time-tested, hectic but regimented show. As a former operations person who has spent a lot of time on manufacturing house floors, I am fascinated by how restaurant kitchens feel similar to the way I think a 1950’s factory floor would be. Not much has changed in the kitchen from that time, either. Pop a WWII-era chef into one of today’s kitchens, and I bet he would know exactly what to do and how to operate most of the equipment. A microwave or a sous-vide might puzzle him, and he’d likely admit that a robot-coupe would benefit from an update, but the rest would suit him perfectly. But that’s all secondary to any skilled chef julienning vegetables or searing a steak to perfection. That is the timeless spectacle, and like any good piece of theater, something not to miss.