Frank Chen

Frank Chen

the magic of the experience

Interning at a 2 Michelin star kitchen - 🧡 for story number seven:

Some of my friends have asked "has working at the 2-star restaurant ruined the magic of dining there? Would you go back to eat there?"

I chuckled at the question - it's a nuanced answer, not a simple yes or no.

From a literal perspective, working at the restaurant has not detracted from any of my prior experiences as a guest. How could it? It's already happened.

Ok, ok, I'm being cheeky. I'll stop sidestepping the question.

My answer is that the magic was replaced by narratives. And like learning a language, it's a one way street - once you learn it, you can no longer hear gibberish.

Part of this rationalization is that inherent in the word "magic" is the fact that you don't have a working explanation for why something occurs.

Once I had more context, whether by understanding the process or by being in the trenches with the people who work with the food day-in and day-out, I was able to build narratives around the unknowns.

This lessens the magic in a way where the unknowns become more known. When you're operating more in the realm of knowns rather than unknowns, you have more explanations, and therefore less magic.

When I return to eat, I'll have a hard bias to shake. I won't be able to separate the narratives of the chefs and the food. They would be one and the same. I won't be able to view the dishes in isolation anymore.

Instead, I would see stories.

Stories of the time we almost ran out of peas and the executive sous was downstairs prepping them as fast as we were serving them (clutch πŸ’ͺ).

Stories of the CDC staying up until 3am, experimenting and perfecting that super-duper-special-occasion hazelnut soufflΓ©. πŸ˜‹

Stories of the heroic dishwashers that somehow keep the entire night going, dishing out (pun intended) clean plates for the guests. πŸ™

Stories of the unseen commis downstairs ravaging through hundreds of pounds of produce, washing, cleaning, picking, prepping, working faster than I could ever imagine (or keep up). πŸŒΏπŸŒ±πŸ„πŸŸ

And of course, seeing a glimpse of the layers upon layers of flavors that go into each dish, and experiencing the logistics of the whole entire operation that keep the restaurant going. πŸ”¨

So, in a way, the magic will be gone, but there'll be a different kind of magic that takes its place, which is an unbelievably cop-out answer to the original question. But it's the one you'll get. 😜