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Chefs Table - Chefs

 
The kitchen has always remained the chef's domain. It is where he makes magic. But what happens when the guests move closer to the chef and enter his field of action, perhaps even form a close interpersonal relationship?

This has already been happening in restaurants abroad through the concept of Chef's Table. It is a way for chefs to come closer and interact with guests, getting to know them better and deriving inspiration from their individual tastes and preferences. It is said that the concept dates back to medieval ages when the king's personal chef would interact with the royal guests and create a menu after knowing their tastes and preferences.

Today, it is a space allotted for diners within the kitchen, where they can interact on a one-on-one basis with the chef in his space. While the concept is common the world over (ForbesTraveler.com has even listed the top ten Chef's Tables in the US), it is yet to catch on back home. There are only a few high-end restaurants which provide such a service to their guests. Joss in Mumbai has a special table called the D-1 while The Park Bangalore has a model known as Table One in its restaurant i-t.ALIA. In this case, it is not a particular table but the service which can be provided to any number of people with a notice of 24 hours. Naming the table may or may not be a marketing gimmick but it does provide the table a separate identity - perhaps one which is required to create awareness of what the table can offer.

According to Farrokh Khambata chef and owner of Joss, the Chef's Table is a 12-seater table, cut off from the main dining space. "The dishes may be exclusive and not necessarily be from the regular menu." Chef Mandaar Sukhtankar, Chef de cuisine at The Park Bangalore, describes The Park initiative as a concept similar to creating a special menu. "However, Table One goes a step further by customising other aspects of the dining experience as well. It has special table appointments, customised printed menu cards, exclusive fine-dining pre-plated menu - also paired with wines - for a maximum of 10 guests. It also comes with dedicated waiters. The intention was to create an enhanced dining experience for diners wishing to celebrate a special occasion or to just simply indulge in a gastronomic evening."


At Joss one generally requires advance reservation for better preparedness. Khambata comments, "The booking needs to be done at least three to four days in advance. We discuss the likes and dislikes with guests and decide the menu accordingly."

Prior notice is also important to check the availability of any exclusive ingredients which may require a longer time to procure and prepare. says Sukhtankar. "The frequency of bookings is once a week on an average as compared to earlier when there were fixed days. However, since Saturdays tend to be hectic, we abandoned the fixed-day routine," says Khambata.

Investments vary from nothing to the cost of procuring unavailable exotic ingredients. But it is all about smart thinking and utilising existing resources. There need not be any extra investments. Nachiket Shetye, owner and chef at East Pan Asian, a restaurant in Mumbai, has tweaked the Chef's Table concept. He provides a tasting menu to whoever comes in looking for something different. He explains, "Often people know the flavour they are looking for but do not know what to order."



With a 100-cover restaurant, he can make a Chef's Table of each table, providing personal service to everyone simultaneously. All that he has to do is talk to the guests and understand what they are looking for. He explains that the food is prepared from fresh stock which is purchased daily. The chef suggests whatever would best suit the palate of the guest. Often, however, a course-wise menu works better than a tasting menu, as in the case of Joss. For guests however it's a different deal. At Joss, a complete vegetarian meal costs around Rs 1,200 per head, while non-vegetarian fare would cost up to Rs 4,000 to Rs 5, 000. At East it is Rs 750 for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare, excluding wine.

As for future trends, Sukhtankar believes, "The fine-dining segment has witnessed changes in dining trends, and restaurants and event planners are conducting more and more F&B-related events. Moreover, the need to serve culinary delights from across the world has driven the trend of gustatory evenings." However, Khambata feels that multi-cuisine restaurants will have difficulty succeeding. "It is better to concentrate on one international cuisine and excel in it, rather than trying to do a mix bag," he says.

As to why they chose to introduce this concept in their restaurants, Khambata says, "I adopted the concept not for money but to share the love of good food. It also adds value to the restaurant." Shetye, feels that these tasting sessions are crucial because they not only allow him to create something new every day but also help gauge what the guests like or dislike, which in turn helps him create a new menu.


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