Frank Chen

Frank Chen

people come first

Interning at a 2 Michelin star kitchen - ๐Ÿงต for story number three:

Similar to the startup space, before every service everyday there's something like a standup. The entire team - front of house, back of house, beverage, and customer relations are required to attend this 15 minute review.

Service is all about the customer. The first 5 minutes are spent reviewing the significant-significant (read: VIP) customers. There's research done beforehand as to who they are, why they're here, their background, times they've visited, and details like their handedness.

I make the distinction "significant-significant" because while every guest is important, there's certain guests that we keep an eye on. I haven't observed any real differences in service though. Everything that makes it off the pass still has to meet a high standard.

Under "significant-significant", guests who have worked or are auxiliary to the culinary industry are taken note of - they understand the nitty gritty details of restaurant work. When you know how the sausage is made, you see more, so the details matter even more.

There was no official definition of what a VIP was. The only inkling I got was customers who have returned three or more times, worked in the culinary industry, or were restaurant investors were considered VIPs.

Anniversaries and birthdays were taken note of as well. It's business as usual for us, but for our guests, it's a special day for them. It's the team's job to perform and push through the mundane. Guests want dazzle, chefs want consistency.

Handedness is particularly important. It determines the utensil layout and how the server will approach the guest when serving. They learn this by observation and they don't forget.

The second 5 minutes of "standup" involves going through dietary restrictions and preferences. Anniversaries and birthdays might get something a little extra. Menu modifications happen for vegetarians, pescatarians, nut-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free folks.

Preferences matter as well. Don't like gamey meats? Not a huge fan of peas? You won't find them in your meal. As long as guests inform the team, it's not a problem.

All of these restrictions and preferences are tabulated on little cards that indicate to the chefs when things need to be switched up. During service, this takes the form as little stickies on bowls to help the chefs know which covers are modified.

I overheard the sommelier talking about her approach when "wining" guests. It's an on-demand performance, gauging how much wine information a guest knows. She's prudent to not overload guests with information and only reveals more when necessary, providing a catered experience.

It all seems to boil down to one focus. People. Sure, there's food, there's wine, and cooking, but ultimately, it's about people.

Remembering guest preferences and characteristics can make or break a restaurant. We all have that one favorite sandwich/coffee spot we constantly hit up - the owner has taken a liking to you, knows your common orders, and gives you something extra in every order.

That's the feeling of receiving excellent service (and honestly, a strong reason to show up again). The next level of that is what I've observed here, an almost prescient ability to predict and perfect a guest experience.

It gets me curious as to how they're tracking guest preferences - do they have a queryable database (nerd alert ๐Ÿค“), or is it just scribbles in a notebook? What other key factors do they take note of?

These are important questions that compose the guest experience.

Back to standup - the last 5 minutes are reserved for any thoughts from the head chef, as well as a handout describing any new dishes that are on the menu, should anyone ask about the origin and conception.

There then is an inspiring quote read off by one of the members of the team. Another member is popcorn-selected for standup the next day, and we collectively end with "have a good service".

The saucier always throws in a little something extra. He chimes in with a "LET'S GOOOOO!" right after the service quote, and that sets the tone for the night.