Over the past eighteen months or so, through a foodie group on meetup.com called L.A. Foodies, I've organized family style meals at some of the restaurants of some of the chefs I've profiled in this column. (L.A. Foodies has over five thousand members). These meals were planned in advance with input from the chefs and scheduled on slower nights or at slower times to provide covers without replacing other business. As part of that planning process, a per person check average for food based on what's appropriate for proportions and the menu was first determined, and then the chef planned the meal accordingly based on that check average. Pricing has been based on food alone excluding tax, tips and drinks.
The pre-planning helps the kitchen with handling a large party. Our groups have ranged in size from eight to twenty four people at locations including b.o.s (8 covers), Sotto (16), Freddy Smalls (12), Republique (12), Plan Check (15), Cliff's Edge (12), what was Street (24), Scratch Bar (12), Ladies Gun Boat Society (12), Dominqiue's Kitchen (12), Chefs Greg Bernhardt & Sergio Perera's Wine Bar Pop-up ( 2 nights- 16 and 20 covers) and Petty Cash (8 covers). The style of service allows for members of our "foodie" party to try a number of menu items. Members are made aware before signing up of the style of service and that dietary restrictions will not be accommodated. Events are planned three to four weeks in advance so the menus planned in advance may be adjusted for availability of products and produce. It's important to note, our group expects no discounts or extras.
In a prior position back East as the Design Director for OTG Management, who oversaw all the design and construction for the first eleven years of that company's existence, I spent hours and hours in kitchens and bars interacting with management, chefs, cooks, and bartenders to better understand operations. I've seen up close how hard every one in the food industry works front and especially back of house. Writing this column also gives me a window into all the hard work and dedication it takes to rise through the ranks to become a chef. I greatly admire that work ethic. Moreover I don't have any romantic notions about the industry. Having designed and overseen construction of over an hundred food service locations, I know firsthand how high startup costs can get as well as how slim margins are. So the last thing I expect is any kind of freebie, kick back or perk. Like so many others I've met in this business, my own ethos is more about giving than receiving.
So chefs at your "chef driven" restaurant do you have a slow Tuesday or Wednesday night or seats to fill early on a weekend? If you do and would like to put together a family style meal for anywhere from eight to sixteen covers, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a dinner at your restaurant in the not too distant future.