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Pop-up Dinner with Chef Carmen Gonzalez

Dirty dishes in the sink

This is what the end of every cooking gig looks like, more or less.  Someone has to do the washing up.  It was no different this past Thursday evening when renowned restaurateur Chef Carmen Gonzalez prepared a Latin-flavored dinner at The Kitchen Table NYC.  The space has an open-plan kitchen, where I worked a prep shift on Wednesday, putting together some of the components of the meal that was served to about 40 folks.

Frying plantain chips

The space has a long table which seats about 20 or so people plus a wrap-around counter where another 8-10 folks can enjoy the “chef’s table” experience.  It’s the kind of arrangement that breaks down the barrier between the front and back of house, more or less, with the kitchen in view of the attendees.  Many of the guests had a full-on glance of the hubub and synchronicity that takes place to get a meal plated and put in front of them.

Order of the dishes with instructions

Putting on a dinner or event like this is a carefully orchestrated affair.  The guests must not see any of the sometimes frantic and often chaotic assembly and production that takes place behind the scenes.  It all must appear to move along seamlessly.  Starting with the prep schedule, through the appetizer and cocktails portion and then continuing with the plated courses and wine pairings, getting the timing just right to complete all the dishes and serve them in order, hot or cold as necessary, and in an organized fashion, pulls together servers, cooks, as well as the head chef in one concerted effort.

Laying out the plates

Someone will have set up the dinner table with everything that it needs, rows of wine glasses will have been laid out for the pre-dinner drinks, servers will have been instructed what to pass when and where to stand, and cooks will be keeping a careful eye out to make sure that all the components of the dishes are finished and ready to be served when required.  The actual serving vessels to be used will have been selected in advance so that they can just be rolled right out as needed to plate each course to send it quickly out of the kitchen to be served to the guests.

The kitchen in action

Once the first guest arrives, the adrenaline really kicks in and the event sort of takes on a life and flow of its own.  It’s hard to describe exactly, but everything really does seem to click into place.  Food comes out of ovens and off of stoves, it gets put on to plates and garnished, and those plates make it onto the table in front of the guests for them to enjoy, course after course.  There’s a beauty to the end of the evening when those dishes and the pots and pans end up piled high in the sink.  Then, of course, someone has to wash them all and put them away for the next time.

Menu from Chef Carmen Gonzalez’s dinner

Smoked Salmon with Crème Fraîche and Salmon Roe on Yucca Latkes

Fried Pork Nuggets with Chimichurri

Peeky Toe Crab Salad with Avocado and Crispy Aranitas (green plantains)

Maine Monkfish with Boniata Mash, Wild Asparagus, and Lobster Broth

Berkshire Pork Loin with Sweet Plantain Purée and Salsita Verde

Lamb Belly Roulade with Chard and Chorizo accompanied by Chickpeas

Mango Bread Pudding with Rum-spiked Crème Anglaise

Buon appetito!

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