A Chef’s table is usually located in or near the kitchen of a restaurant. VIPs and special guests are served a special meal prepared and served by the head chef – often right in the kitchen. Some restaurants, such as Delmonico's and Smith & Wollensky (pictured, right) in Las Vegas, have glassed-in areas that separate the diners from the kitchen, while still providing a view of the activity of the chefs preparing the meal. Dining in this manner is pricey, but you may have a small group of important people that would love a unique experience.
Chef’s tables are often used when high-end meeting planners want to taste the different options available for the various courses. A tasting not only allows planners to decide between different items (types of appetizers, etc.) but also to test the food quality at the venue.
The tasting can be a degustation, which is a culinary term meaning an appreciative tasting of various foods. It focuses on the sampling of small portions of many of a chef’s signature dishes in one sitting. Each course is presented in an Iron Chef format, where the chef describes each dish he or she has prepared.
Some caterers try to avoid tastings, because many planners have abused the privilege by bringing too many people to the tasting. Realizing that many things are decided by committee, some caterers will provide a complimentary tasting for a set number of people, say 4 or 6, but any additional attendees will be charged a fee. Kevin McNally, of the TAJ Boston, says that they typically offer complimentary tastings for up to four guests, plus the meeting or event manager, and they charge for extra guests.
Kevin Brant, of the Belo Mansion in Dallas, provided this sample copy of the restaurant's tasting guidelines:
Tastings may be requested and scheduled for plated events with a food and beverage minimum of $10,000 or above. Availability of specific items to be tasted and scheduling of such tasting are at the sole discretion and availability of the Chef. Tastings are available Tuesday through Thursday, 1:30 – 3:30 PM. This avoids any lunch or dinner events / commitments with our Culinary and Banquet Team. Only one (1) tasting is offered complimentary for up to 4 people. We do not provide tastings for items from our stations and displays menus. We are happy to customize a menu to meet your style and needs or you may select from our selection of menus.
Provide us with your selection of:
- 4 Hors d’oeuvres
- 2 Salads
- 2 Entrees
- 2 Desserts
Please forward three (3) dates and times that work best with your schedule, keeping in line with the above guidelines and we will find a date that works with our Culinary and Banquet Teams event calendars. We require no less than two (2) weeks’ notice for such arrangements to be made. Lastly, we must have your menu selections no later than 10 days prior to the tasting to keep your original scheduled date.
If you really want a tasting, negotiate for one when you are in the contract phase and get the commitment in writing. Be advised, however: not every event will warrant a tasting. Planners with low budgets that are ordering ordinary items will rarely be given a tasting.