This is my first holiday season I haven’t been in the restaurant business in the last 20 years. Typically there is the holiday guantlet which starts with Thanksgiving then morphs into Christmas Eve, Christmas, and the grand daddy of them all, New Years Eve.
When I was a manager I would have to create menus and staff properly to adjust for excess business and demand. Having these special occassions proceed without incident was an art unto itself. Each holiday brought a different challenge that revolved around first and foremost providing the guest with an unparalleled dining experience.
It takes just one guest to complain and the day is lost. However over the course of my career (which began in the early 70’s) and was put on hold because of college and my overture into the world of radio. I realized I had a gift for attention to detail and a love for the restaurant business which you can’t manufacture but is inbred into your soul.
The art of the business is constant eduction and the ability to determine your market. Besides the afor mentioned items it is the love of creating “the experience” that sets the restaurateur apart from the rest. Beginning but not limited to the atmosphere, the quality of the product, the chef to execute the menu, and the knowledgeable and trained staff to engage and deliver in a timely fashion. The combination of all of the above helps create a very special moment in time.
People will drive to the middle of nowhere to have an exceptional meal delivered by a trained staff in an atmosphere that enhances the environment around it.
One great example of this is “Candle in the Woods.” Located in a very small town in Athol Idaho near Coeur d’Alene, the Candle in the Woods chef (Dave Adlard) and his wonderful staff continue to create and amaze with a 12 course meal and wine pairing. Each meal is a statement of profound creativity with a running storybook about the creations and the pairings verbalized by Chef Adlard and the sommelier.
When time stands still in anticipation of the next course so perfectly prepared and served, it speaks volumes about the love those that produce the meal have for what they do. If a meal is constructed that constitutes a memory then you have a very special experience. Once in that environment you are captivated by the attention to detail and the nuance of design that transports you to places you’ve never been.
I speak of this restaurant as I have been a part of many holiday menus in many different restaurants. Typically restaurants are in full regalia exhibiting the best they have to offer. Decorated to the nines with an eager staff in anticipation of serving a wonderful meal to delighted guests becomes the end game for these dedicated chefs and servers.
The Candle in the Woods prepares and executes their product as if it were their last, with the energy and focus as though it was their first. If you have a chance to engage in these amazing culinary delights that turns every meal into a holiday, then I would highly encourage you to make a reservation.
Over the holidays we are blessed to have friends and family to dinner with conversations that we may never forget. This kind of love and embracing family and friends is the wonderful culmination of a year in which most focus on all but what’s truly important… the connection we have with each other.
Anticipate in most high-end restaurants a departure from their typical fare. Most restaurants will serve a prefix menu offering add ons or other upgrades to the discerning guest. Beyond this realization is the fact that this menu (for the most part) has not been tasted by the staff and has not been seen by the servers but a short time before serving.
Most guests that go out for holiday meals are amateurs. They don’t know what to order and they don’t know how to tip. They are there because of being either too lazy to cook or are faced to comply by preasures from the family. They all come at the same time, somewhere between 6:30pm and 8pm. This is why I highly recommend preparing your own meal at home in your own time frame. Then you don’t have to deal with holiday traffic or a meal that is designed for fast delivery by a staff that really doesn’t know what they’re serving.
The exception to this rule is if you choose a place that is an amazing destination. Then, no matter what they serve, you will be awed by the environment and the fact that you just ponied up a vast amount of money for that one seflie that may or may not end up on the front of your next Christmas card. This type of memory may be worth it as you will not forget that meal at the Fairmont on top of nob hill decorated like no where else in that magical city… San Francisco.
No matter what the holiday is enjoy the fleeting time we have with each other and honor the people that are working. They miss their families and friends because they chose a business that revolves around special occassions for others. The moment they serve you, nothing could be better than the warmth of a smile to let them know they’re in the right place, providing holiday cheer, in a decorated environment that exudes the holiday spirit.