How it works
Good timing and communication: They're the unsung kitchen skills that ensure your table's meals all arrive together.
Mon Oct 27 2008
You are enjoying a lovely evening at Eleven Madison Park, where you and your date have ordered one suckling pig with onions, plum chutney and five-spice jus, and one butter-poached lobster and lobster cake with celery and black truffle. From the moment your appetizers make their way to your table, the kitchen staff has just 20 minutes to get those entrées completed.
The chef has to begin the cooking process at exactly the right moment. While waiting for that, his crew is working on other people’s meals. When he calls it, one portion of suckling pig is pulled from the refrigerator, and the poissonier gets out a live lobster. The race is on.
The pig is pan-seared, then placed in the oven. Sauces are heated. The lobster is pulled apart, its shell-on tail dropped into a warm beurre monté with truffles.
The meat-station entremetier heats white-onion puree, cipollini onions and plum chutney. The fish-station entremetier warms celery-root puree, and glazes celery and celery-root sticks.
The fish cook removes the now-poached lobster tail from the butter, discards the shell and returns the meat to the butter bath.
After checking that all is ready, vegetables, meats and sauces are passed to the sous chefs for plating.
The executive chef makes a final inspection of the plates. He adds finishing touches: fleur de sel and celery leaves on the lobster, spice crumble on the pork dish. Runners rush the food to your table, where you inhale it in half the time it took them to make it.*
*To get a sense of a full night in the kitchen, multiply this process by 100 and crisscross the timing. While one lobster is being taken out of its shell, three new orders of lobster and two more suckling pigs are requested.
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