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Jun 29, 2009 06:19 AM

Top restaurants while executive chefs are away - any decline? [moved from Ontario board]

I'm very curious to see if anyone has any opinions on whether top restaurants worth visiting only when the executive chef is in the kitchen. I don't frequent high-end restaurants very frequently, so when I do, I want to make sure that I get the true experience for my money. Has anyone directly compared the quality of food at the same place with or without the exec chef in the kitchen?

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  1. 99% of the time you will not know if he is there or not and even if he is there you have no idea if he is actually on the line or in the office doing paperwork..

    That being said a chef does not do every station so if you order a 5 course meal the chef will most likely only see one course.. It is ussually not like Hells kitchen where teh chef stands at the pass and inspects evey dish that goes out.

    2 Replies
    1. re: OnDaGo

      Would that differ at all if you're doing, say, a full chef's tasting menu?

      I gather from the two replies that the top restaurants would have sufficiently trained sous chefs and other staff that could competently run the kitchen on their own. But just like with any business, the staff typically are more motivated to work harder when the boss is around. I guess it all depends on whether there are other motivating factors (ie. strong leadership elsewhere)?

      1. re: SMOG

        Honestly, it all depends on how the kitchen is set up that determines the chef's style. Kitchens are set up as a line or with scattered stations and a central plating/staging area. In the first case the chef/person in charge will either be expediting or working a station and doing most of the plating. In the second case the chef usually plates and expedites, but doesn't work a station (unless it's quiet or understaffed). In any case, your meal will be at the mercy of the various cooks that are there, and if the cook is off his/her game then it's going to be a long and difficult night.

        I also think that how a person performs in the presence of the boss depends entirely on their disposition... some people can work people, some people just collapse and lose it. However, I think I'm veering off track. I think you'll get relatively consistent food at Toronto's top tables regardless of the day... I generally don't like to go when it's super busy anyways. At least I haven't heard of instances where it's better to go on some days than others.

    2. I've eaten in restaurants where I know the chef (either through an interview or filming a cooking video) and end up with 'special' treatment during the meal courtesy of the exec chef - interesting dishes, extra accompaniments etc.
      The meals were wonderful, executed to the highest standard. But when I stick my head in the kitchen at the end of the meal, I find out that they aren't working that night... If I didn't have this compulsion to thank the kitchen staff, I never would have known.


      1. If the quality is not there when the "head" chef takes a vacation then the chef does not make a good job hiring and training his staff to keep a high quality every single day.

        Like other wrote, the chef does not look at every meal that goes out the kitchen door; probably gets there early to see that everything is in order and get the kitchen starting, and checks the first few orders to see if things looks ok.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Maximilien

          that depends upon the chef. i know plenty of chefs who do expedite and do see every plate.

          that being said, there is no way for a guest to know whether or not the chef is in-house that night. if there is a precipitous decline when he or she is not? that place will not last.