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Is it still worth trying Per Se without Benno?

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My husband and I made a reservation for dinner at Per Se on Sunday, Feb. 8th, 2010, hoping that we would be able to catch Jonathan Benno before he left. I called today, to find out that his last day was last weekend! This might be a silly question, but is it still worth trying Per Se without Benno? We actually just missed Corey Lee when we ate at French Laundry this past summer, and we had a less than stellar experience. I'm sure the other chefs who remain at Per Se are wonderful, but I'm just a bit wary of spending that much on a meal again when a kitchen is going through transition.

Any thoughts? Thanks!

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  1. I'm also interested in recent experiences post Benno since I have reservations 2/18. Having also been previously let down by TFL, I would also be curious to see if there is any discernible drop off knowing that the kitchen is probably Keller standardized by now.

    I have already booked EMP as my back up.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Porthos

      I like EMP better in any case...always have.

    2. I had a wonderful dinner at Per Se in August. Chef Benno was not in the kitchen that night (they gave us a tour of the kitchen). There is a live video feed to the French Laundry kitchen, so I'm guessing that Chef Keller can keep a close watch on what's going on in the Per Se kitchen during the transition. I wouldn't hesitate to return right now.

      6 Replies
      1. re: ellenost

        There's something disconcerting about this for me. Having my meal cooked via video feed...doesn't do it for me. I would wait until the new chef gets settled in. I cannot imagine that the chef at Per Se has zero influence on what goes on in that kitchen. I mean, they're not robots programmed by Thomas Keller.

        Although, that's a bit how I feel about Per Se. It is a bit programmed and soulless. Both the food and the service.

        1. re: gutsofsteel

          Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that the meals at Per Se are cooked via video feed. I did mean to imply that Chef Keller keeps a close watch on what is happening in his kitchens to avoid any decline in quality. I am confident that whoever is taking over for Chef Benno is well qualified for the job.

          1. re: gutsofsteel

            I've heard reports that the restaurant hasn't missed a beat. The upcoming chef de cuisine, Eli Kaimeh, is talented and has been on their kitchen staff for a considerable period of time. It seems like the chef transition at Per Se is proceeding even more smoothly than the Corey Lee -> Timothy Hollingsworth transition at the French Laundry last year. The depth of talent Keller has in his kitchens is an incredible asset.

            1. re: hcbk0702

              I have no doubt about the talent, but for myself, I would wait until there have been multiple consistent positive reports after the transition.

              1. re: hcbk0702

                I too had some reservations, especially as I was with several friends who had never been there before. The meal, all 20+ courses, was every bit up to the quality of my other Per Se meals. That is, it was extraordinary. The best in America, IMO, with service to match. Been there around 15 times and I'm looking forward to two more meals there in April.

                1. re: RocketJSquirrel

                  RJS: How were your recent two meals? Did they live up to the Per Se of the past?

                  Thanks.

                  -----
                  Per Se
                  10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

          2. Recall when Per Se opened and many had doubts about Thomas Keller not being there daily?
            Regardless of the Chef de Cuisine the cuisine still remains within Keller's circle of vision and concept. Those who visit often may notice subtle changes here and there with a new Chef de Cuisine but never drifting outside that circle.
            I'm sure transitions can be challenging as in any business. But they run a tight ship and are totally professional. I would not be to concerned about it. Enjoy.