Comment: At the chef's table
Why every single part of a venue should get a chef's attention
People in this region love eating out. Many have said this, including Masterchef Australia judge George Calombaris. Diners see the restaurant environment as a place of interconnection and bonding, and don’t necessarily visit an outlet just, or even primarily, for the food. It’s about the ambiance, the kitchen, and the company of others.
Concepts maketh a restaurant, and that should include F&B being seen as an interactive and cultural medium, rather than just as an industry that involves venues that serve food.
Beyond the art of the food itself, talk of the qualitative nature might naturally make you think of the front-of-house staff — but the chefs also make a difference by being out and about, meeting people and talking about their food and passion, which contributes to the overall conviviality of a venue.
Open kitchens help to a certain extent — the customers can see their food being prepared, and chefs can see the reaction to their work, which all adds up. However, if the chef can be seen, but can’t find the time to make eye contact, metaphorically, diners can be left with a sense of remoteness.
I was in a restaurant recently, where the chef de cuisine stayed firmly behind the counter, didn’t look at anyone, unsmiling, and had their head down the entire time. No doubt they were extremely busy, and while the food was absolutely brilliant, if the chef had looked more approachable, it would have added another layer to the experience.
One more way in which the kitchen can interact with the customer is through social media, which we discuss in the Burning Issue this month. The most popular accounts are those where chefs, restaurant managers, bartenders and so on contribute to a feed of pictures and posts. Customers are knowledgeable and do not want air-brushed material — at the cost of a cliché, it’s about keeping it real.
For obvious reasons, chefs are big fans of Instagram as a tool for sharing the visuals of their creations, as well as their teams and travels. Just look at Vineet Bhatia’s account for a great example of how to use the platform properly.
This is probably why masterclasses and learning opportunities with chefs and bartenders are extremely popular: people get a chance to interact with those who are passionate about the industry and the ingredients they use.
The best chefs are approachable and willing to talk about their food. So, get talking to your customers and make each one feel like they have the best table in the house.
Devina Divecha, Senior Editor.