dcsimg

Lessons from the Kitchen: Planning a Tasting Dinner

I have been asked time and time again to share some of the ideas and concepts that we are working on for the new restaurant. Until now, I have always declined to comment. I recently decided, however, that it would bring a unique element to things if I chose to speak through the food. I invited a very select group to come for a tasting dinner---with the only dialogue being where the inspiration for each dish came from. I wanted to make it clear I was not out to impress anyone, simply to let the food speak for itself. Here's a play-by-play guide to planning your own tasting dinner.

Culinary Arts

Get Fresh, Keep it Seasonal

When planning the menu, it is key to select the most seasonal items available! I head out to several farmers markets (Coppell, Dallas, Lancaster) and network directly with the farmers. Farmers and chefs share the same passion for freshness and the "right of the vine" philosophies!

Planning Your Big Meal

Once I have selected the key ingredients, I begin to work on the menu with the core team. We write everything down on a dry erase board and start exploring different approaches with each item. We also invite our service piece designer to these creative meetings. He helps take our ideas and meld custom service pieces around them to create a functional, unique approach to a dish. As an example, I am going to focus on the watermelon dish we did for the most recent tasting dinner.

Once we have a general direction for each dish, the menu needs to be balanced according to flavor profiles and weight. I feel each course should build on the next. Personally, I like to go light (citrus, melon, light floral) then slowly get into the more robust or bold flavors (wild mushroom, truffle, earthy), which allows the diner to explore so many more flavors without masking their palate.

Striving for Perfection

Creating new dishes has its challenges--time, energy, 100% focus, and a clear head. People expect you to present something that is not only 100% perfect, but also has a "wow" factor. I cannot stress enough how important it has been for me personally to block out everything around me when I plan a tasting dinner. I clear everything from my mind and schedule because I know that I have to focus all my energy on the food. As people, we often make mistakes when we commit ourselves to too many projects at once. Consequently we fall short of the 100% perfection that we expect of ourselves as chefs!

Once the dishes are developed and ready to be put together, we face many long hours of preparation. We usually start 36 hours out to ensure ultimate freshness and quality plus we need to allow for the execution and operational end. We focus on how many people it will take to plate up the multi-course dinner (10 savory, plus 2 desserts) plus the amount of cook time, detail, and complexity of each dish, as well as the available space. For the last dinner we had there were 4 savory chefs and 1 pastry chef.

Never Settle for Second Rate Work

As you can see there is much more to what we do when planning a special tasting dinner, or any menu for that matter. We pride ourselves on being unique and different, and as I said earlier, it's about pushing yourself, leading, focusing, and executing correctly. If you miss any of those steps, the food will suffer as well as your integrity as a chef.

I have never been willing to settle for 2nd best, or what the guy across the street is doing, or what has someone else done. That is not who I am. In order to achieve this daily, I must continue to focus on my cuisine 100%. If you want to be the best, you have to put in the effort to be the best! You can never compare yourself to others. Industry leaders create, not follow. Be who you are!

Browse Culinary Arts Schools & Colleges

Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT

    See More

  • DEGREE

    See More

  • PROGRAM TYPE

  • START TIME

    LOCATION
    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Matching School Ads
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
            • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
            • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
            • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
            • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Received the 2015 and 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            4 Program(s) Found
            • Hands-on culinary education with focused attention on each student
            • An ACCSC School of Excellence with multiple “Best Vocational Cooking School” awards*
            • 15,000 graduates, including celebrities like Bobby Flay, David Chang, and Christina Tosi*
            • Programs in Culinary Entrepreneurship, Professional Culinary Arts, Professional Pastry Arts, and much more
            • Campuses in New York and Silicon Valley with nearby housing available
            Show more [+]
            2 Program(s) Found
            • Ranked among the Best Colleges in the South in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Ranked the 13th  Best College for Veterans in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • A private institution founded in 1977 with a current total undergraduate enrollment of over 15,00.
            • Its student-faculty ratio is 12:1, and 89.3% of classes have fewer than 20 students.
            • Has students attend one class at a time to ensure easy access to faculty and a more hands-on education.
            Show more [+]
            4 Program(s) Found
            Virginia College , Greensboro
            • Instructors are typically real-world professionals with many years of experience in their career fields.
            • Ranked #3 in Best for Vets: Career & Technical Colleges 2014 by Military Times.
            • Presents the full tuition cost up front. In most cases, even textbooks are included in the total price.
            • Provides career services associates to help students review their resume, provide career counseling, help with job searches, and more.
            • Has 27 campus locations across the southern United States, plus offers online degree programs.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            1 Program(s) Found
            Salter College , West Boylston
            • Offers training programs in preparation for professional careers in business, health care, and computers.
            • Provides associate and certificate programs in medical assisting, massage therapy, culinary arts, and more.
            • Places students in externships to gain real world experience before completing their respective program.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).
            • 2 campuses in Chicopee and West Boylston, Massachusetts.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Accredited
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            1 Program(s) Found
            • Each campus features a public restaurant where culinary students work under the direction of professional chefs for real-world experience.
            • Hosts Platt College’s Food Fight, a friendly dessert competition for students held once a month.
            • Offers programs in culinary arts, nursing, and healthcare.
            • Accredited by the American Culinary Federation (AFC) and Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • 5 campuses in Lawton, North and Central Oklahoma City, Moore, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
            Show more [+]