Monday, February 23, 2009

Why I like Fabio

Fabio from Top Chef.

I like Fabio from Top Chef because I feel he represents the warm bond between customer and chef. There are chef's who prefer to be left in the kitchen and hide there. There's no correct position and I feel that it's one thing to be able to envision and execute. It's another to be able to connect your guests with the process.

As diners become genuinely more knowledgeable about food, we'll see more exchanges of information between the chef and the trusted customer. I love it when some of my best customers share with me a dish they had at an another restaurant and we try to recreate it together.

Obviously we don't always get it right, but what is right? There are very few "right" ways in my opinion. There are "fastest and safest" and then adherence to the restaurant's standards. Because we're breaking standards, what is "right" is our best effort to execute on some of our customer's ideas. They get to play exec chef from vision standpoint, and I take the role of the soux chef that gets things done.

What's great about working at Okoze is that I'm never micromanaged. I'm given a great deal of flexibility to comp dinner items, make off menu dishes. At the same time the respect goes both ways. If I'm asked to make something beyond my skill, I'm not going to try it and risk the customer's experience. I'll have Jason, the owner, go and get it done, with me taking notes and snapping pics. Then at home, I'll break apart the dish into the individual skills, and practice on myself. Basically I try to serve, the way I would like to be served.

I think Fabio's approach is one that will keep customers coming back. No restaurant executes flawlessly all the time. But if the relationship is there, and you know the chef is accessible, you'll spend your time and money with the organization that values your mindshare and business.

I wish I could have had a piece of the chicken he made on the "Last Supper" episode. It looked really good. Oh yeah, and the piece of food porn on the top is wasabi root flown in from Japan, in front of a Masamoto Virgin Steel Gyutou knife.

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