At least not at the Gramercy Tavern, which has about 135 employees and two staffs of cooks and chefs for lunch and then dinner. Plus the four of us who they kindly let join them in the kitchen this week. The morning in the kitchen was followed by an incredible 2 1/2 hour lunch in the main dining room. Talk about a priceless experience.
We were pinching ourselves that here we were in the kitchen of one of the top restaurants in the world, peeling beets, latteling soups into containers, marking them, de-stemming parsley, chatting with the kitchen staff, soaking up every little detail and having the time of our lives. We would have scrubbed pans if they had asked. By the time we arrived at 9:30 a.m. the kitchen staff had already been there since 7 a.m. We were welcomed into the kitchen by one of the restaurants 5 sous chefs, Howard Kalachnikoff, who along with everyone in the kitchen, graciously and patiently answered our zillions of questions, and taught us a few things too.
Several things impressed us – the kitchen group all love their work and love working where they are - no drama in the kitchen there. The freshness of the ingredients. All the fruits and vegetables are purchased from the farmers market at Union Square. Fish arrives fresh daily from the Fulton Street fish market. So everything is the freshest of ingredients, and the menu is very health conscious too. They use very little butter. Tons of stocks, including veal, chicken, vegetable. And they often use onion puree to thicken sauces to cut down on fat and calories too. And we got to sample things in the kitchen too, like the squash soup, freshly made garlic flakes, and a curried cauliflower. We learned about slow roasting vegetables and meats in water in tightly sealed bags. And that you should also cut off a few of the outer leaves of brussel sprouts. There’s more, but hey, we can’t give away all their secrets. And after our hard work in the kitchen, we were escorted to the lovely dining room, with a stop along the way to our favorite part of the restaurant – their wine cellar. And then we sat down and over the course of 2 ½ hours, we were served the most amazing array of special chef tastings - tantalizing soups, fresh snapper, the tenderness chicken breast, braised veggies of all types, and honestly we don’t have enough room here to even list the desserts. And in the small world category, the wonderful young woman who coordinated our visit, Kaitlin Barthmaier, assistant to exec chef Michael Anthony, was once a Gael Greene intern, and has just started a wedding cake business. More about that next week. We’ve posted our photos of this wonderful behind the scenes experience below and send our since thanks to everyone at the Gramercy Tavern.