The SoCo kitchen has very few secrets. When diners ask how I prepare a particular dish, I tell them.
Cooking isn’t mysterious, and good chefs don’t make it mysterious. The more guests know about what they’re eating, the better they’re able to enjoy it.
Sharing my recipes or methods doesn’t jeopardize my restaurant’s future. My restaurant’s future is founded on my point of view, my experience, my abilities, but most importantly on my time.
Diners are buying my time—both past and present—which is considerable in some cases, as I make everything I can from scratch.
I make my own bread, English muffins, bagels, stocks, sauces, syrups, crème fraiche, ricotta, pasta, sausages—among many other things. I’ll bake bread to use in my bread pudding that I then cut into French toast for our b&b guests. Kimberly fusses over her homemade cookies, which she then turns into crumbs for pie crusts.
(I may have actually become more dogmatic about my from-scratch cooking than some of my former chefs!)
I also dry-age my own beef. I make my own sauerkraut, jams and preserves. And we grow a lot of our own vegetables, herbs and some fruits. I’m working on making my own puff pastry as well as testing some methods of curing my own meats.
We built our restaurant’s 12-foot-long farmhouse table entirely of wood reclaimed from our property . Heckfire—Kimberly and I made the restaurant itself from scratch!
And our diners join us—in part—so they don’t have to do any of that work.
Our diners also don’t need to create menus. They don’t have to buy or prepare the ingredients. They don’t have to plate the food. Most importantly, they don’t have to do dishes or clean the kitchen (assuming they bring enough money for dinner
On a day when the chef is up early to start prep for the evening meal, diners can sleep in.
While the chef is discovering that he or she is out of (insert one of any number of essential ingredients here) and rushes to the store, the diners can watch television or take a nap.
When the chef is double- and triple-checking that all the food, ovens, plates, pots and pans are ready to go, the diners can relax and enjoy an aperitif.
Good chefs also know that many of their diners are accomplished cooks. When these cooks come to eat, it’s not for lack of great food at home. Cooks and food-minded diners understand how much work goes into creating a meal, and are fully able to appreciate the liberation of sitting back and letting someone else do it all.
It is with some guilt that I view my job as a chef. Spending days preparing food for a single dinner is something I love. I am very fortunate to have this opportunity and I don’t take any of my tasks—whether chopping onions or scrubbing the kitchen floor—for granted.
So, when someone asks me how I made something, I tell them. I’m thrilled if our guests want to spread the “gospel of good food” by recreating or reinterpreting things we serve.
I know that even the most ambitious among them will want a night out of the kitchen—and that’s when we’ll see them walk through the (made-from-scratch) door at SoCo again.