I had the great honor of working for two of the greatest chefs of our time, Jean-Louis Palladin and Guenter Seeger.  When Guenter arrived from Germany in 1984 he hired me to be his sous chef, some months before the restaurant actually opened.  So we spent that time establishing our network of purveyors, and bonding.

We went out to dinner several times together.  The first time was at Restaurant Nora.  When the waiter approached to take our order, Guenter nodded toward me and said, “You go first”.  Fine.  I’ll take the smoked salmon with blinis and the rack of lamb with fresh mint, medium rare.  Guenter?  “I’ll take the same.”

Next time was at Galileo.  Guenter says, “You go first”.  OK, I’ll have the grilled calamari and the white truffle risotto.  Guenter?  “I’ll take the same.”

Third time, same thing:  I order, Guenter takes the same thing.  So I ask him what the deal was.

“Jimmy, he said, when you and Stacey go to a movie, do you go into one theater and Stacey goes into another?”

“No” I replied, certain of my answer.

“Of course not.  You’re there to enjoy the same experience and you want a real experience, not a piece of this and a piece of that.  And you order well, so I’m ok with what you’re ordering.  And besides, I don’t like people eating off my plate.”

It certainly got me thinking.  The Chinese put lazy susans on the table so all can share, but they do serve platters of food, made for sharing.  I recall a meal at the French Laundry years ago.  There were four of us and Thomas was really making a name for himself with great food, service and ambiance.  Out came course one, different for each diner.  Then course two, four more apps.  Then course three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten.  That’s forty small plates shared by four people, a bite from each.  It wasn’t a culinary experience so much as a culinary clusterfuk.  Great food it was, but as far as dinner goes it was like going on vacation and doing 20 cities in 20 days.  A lot to see, but not a lot to appreciate.

I’m going with Guenter on this one.


4 Responses to “To Share or Not to Share….”

  1. Fat Food Taxi writes:

    I thought you might like to see your video that we took last summer.
    One of the best afternoons we had, and sadly, the last bit of sun we have seen since we left!
    Take a look.

    Hope all is good.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:12 pm
  2. The Marinara writes:

    Jimmy, I think Gunther’s perspective is very interesting. I’d like to try it sometime.

    At the same time, I have a hard time believing that it is any better than the approach of Thomas Keller at the French Laundry. I think both options are appropriate for different people under different circumstances. I am not so sure there is always a hard and fast rule, guess mostly because it is rare to have someone who knows food really well making the decisions for us.

    March 9, 2011 at 3:26 pm
  3. Elizabeth writes:

    Glad you weren’t out in the dining room when we enjoyed our singular evening @ TFATR…the four of us ordered your “chef’s recommendation” and we passed our plates for each course around the table to share as our eyes rolled back into our heads.

    We *still* talk about that meal. And bless you for so generously sharing the recipes on your website back then. I’m sure my execution of your fabulous dishes doesn’t even come close, but we do dream with each culinary resurrection.

    We’re glad you’re back!

    March 10, 2011 at 5:13 pm
  4. Ron Pemberton writes:

    I worked with Chef Seeger for two years in Atlanta. My experience with Chef, and Peter Krehan; improved me both personally and professionally for the rest of my life. It was more than simply a restaurant – it was an ideal. Best culinary experience of my life.

    April 21, 2011 at 11:56 am