The overwhelming majority of modern, high-end restaurants operate on the a la carte system. They are organized around the principle of answering efficiently to their customers’ choices: What time would you like to come? How many people? What would you like for your entrée? . . . Wine?
She will have the duck and the “frisée aux lardoons”. He will have the sole, but no sauce, and no entrée. . .
The only way for a kitchen to be able to deliver any dishes’ combination in a short set time frame to a dining room full of hungry and demanding customers making their own choices, is preparation.
What chefs call “Mise en Place”: a comprehensive integration of groundwork so that dishes may simply be “finished” to order.
This overarching organization can be a hallmark of a modern kitchen, a triumph of ingenuity that allows a small team of chefs to cook a wide range of dishes.
But the “a la carte” framework, as ingenuously built as it could be is always a lesser experience. It supposes constant speculation balancing quality and preservation.
How many dishes should be integrated? How far? Shall we cook the asparagus just a few minutes before being served, taking the risk to loose control when the kitchen becomes too busy?
It was not always like this.
The 17th and 18th century table d’hôte, precursor to the modern restaurant, as one might look at it, worked like a home kitchen: everyone sat down at a communal tale, and ate the same thing.
There are advantages to the table d’hôte. The primary one is control of time, choice and quantity, otherwise said: quality.
When you master the timing, you master the cuisine in a different way, delivering dishes to their best.
Very much so like Ultraviolet, a new concept that existed centuries ago.