A Multimedia Menu at Chef's Pass

March 12, 2012 | by —allison polster | Food & Drink News

A meal at David Bouley’s Chef’s Pass, the newest private dining area at Bouley Restaurant, takes diners beyond the kitchen—far beyond. Here, guests interact with growers, farmers, cheese agers, and winemakers from around the world through Skype while indulging in their products. These proud artisans not only converse with guests about culture, health, history, technique, and product, but also share their own environments by virtually taking patrons along to forage for mushrooms in the woods or explore their cheese cave in France. “They are going to tell you a lot of things, and then the next thing you know, you are finding yourself asking questions that you didn’t think you would ask,” Bouley says. “It has a lot of momentum.”

During the meal, diners speak with three to seven craftsmen renowned in their fields. Engaged in conversation, guests often end up staying far longer than anticipated, including one group who “traveled” to five different countries over the course of their six-hour stay at Chef’s Pass. Another of Bouley’s guests dubbed the room a “culinary casino” due to the ease with which you could lose track of time there.

While the artisans lead the conversations, Bouley and his team bring out simple ingredients for diners to taste and smell, sometimes straight from the garden, in addition to accompaniments for guests to sample before they are plated alongside their counterparts. The small room, made for eight, takes its name from the “chef’s pass” area of the kitchen, where foods are plated and passed to the servers—perhaps the most fast-paced area of the kitchen.

Bouley fervently hopes visitors to Chef’s Pass will use the experience to make more informed culinary decisions and get the most out of their food choices; he even sends them off with a goody bag of culinary products. “It is not a cooking class, and it is not a chef’s room where you are watching the madness of the kitchen,” he says. “It’s a porthole into the world of artisanal passion.” 163 Duane St., 212-964-2525

PHOTOGRAPHY BY NICOLE BARTELME

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