Photo by Lara Kastner
The kitchen table--not the one you eat at in your dining room but the showpiece table right in the kitchen, which became popular in high-end restaurants during the 1990s--was the result of guests wanting to see, smell, feel, and hear the action of the professional kitchen. People wanted to embellish dinner with elements of adrenaline, artistry...and in some cases drama, when the infamous egotistical tyrant chef belittled his minions in an act of showmanship.
But most, I hope, wanted to pull back the curtain on the "magic show" and gain an understanding of the how, why, and what of occupational cooking. Maybe they wanted to feel connected to the chef and the cooks who were preparing them a wonderful meal, to congratulate them and show their gratitude.
A large percentage of chefs are shy and lack the desire or congeniality to deal with the public. At least that is the stereotype despite the recent rise of the "TV chef". More often than not that is how they ended up in the kitchen, their personalities excluding them from personal comfort in the dining room.
All cooks like to be acknowledged, and deep down they want to have a conversation about their craft. They feel what they do is special, and take a great sense of pride in their skill. To find a captive audience--often the same people who would have interest in eating in the kitchen--is very rewarding. We feed off the guests' excitement.