Ok, I promise this will be my last post about Per Se for a while, but there’s just been so much to say that it would be a crime and injustice towards you dear readers to cram it uncomfortably into one post!
So there I was two hours into our meal, camera in hand, feverishly snapping photos of some of the most beautiful food this side of the Seine in Per Se’s delightfully elegant, yet tastefully modern dining room, when our server approached me, looking right at my camera.Â “Oh no”, I thought to myself, “this is it.Â He’s had enough.Â Per Se just doesn’t roll this way.”
To my great surprise, not only did our server not mind my incessant picture-taking, but he offered me the treat of treats: a guided tour of Per Se’s kitchen, or, the Holy Grail of Culinary Design as I call it (we’re on a first name basis like that).Â What follows is my attempt at re-creating my tour through the spectacular, daunting, beautiful, and flawless origin of Thomas Keller’s masterpieces.
Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we?Â Nestled in between the dining room and the kitchen is the “cool down” hallway, which is a naked, calm space for servers to collect their thoughts after the hustle of the kitchen and before the bustle of the dining room.
The next room through that seemingly inauspicious hallway is the main room of the kitchen.Â Â Here, food is garnished, completed, plated, and picked up.Â It wasn’t entire clear which, if any, food is actually cooked in this main room, but it was where the majority of the chefs were, including the head chef.
My tour guide insisted I capture this gem above the entrance / exit of this main kitchen area:
As we continued through the main kitchen out the back, I was able to capture the main area from a different vantage point:
Out of the main kitchen and down the rabbit hole!Â The next room is probably an uncommon room in other kitchens, but in Per Se’s it makes complete sense.Â It is a secondary main kitchen, which functions as an entirely separate and self-sufficient second kitchen for large parties.Â The idea here is that a large party should not interfere with the timing or enjoyment of the other diners, and so a second kitchen alleviates this possible time crunch.Â Here are some photos of it (there were no large parties that night, so it’s empty):
The next hallway contained yet another gem, an important message from Chef Keller to his chefs and a gentle, but important reminder about service:
Next was the specialized, custom-built oven that is used to broil, bake, cook, and otherwise prepare meats of all kinds:
Down another corner was what appeared to be Per Se’s espresso machine.Â What struck me about this room, and indeed, the entire kitchen thus far, was that it looked better than brand new.Â It looked spotless in the way that made me think it was cleaned top to bottom every hour, meticulously cared for like it was a living, breathing partner to the chefs and servers.
Next was Per Se’s truffle room.Â No, not where they keep their frozen truffle mushrooms(which I hear they have an entirely separate freezer for), but where they create day-of and keep cool their decadent chocolate truffle creations:
Last, but certainly not least, was the bakery.Â Interestingly, I was told that this bakery is actually used round the clock, as it is shared with Thomas Keller’s more casual restaurant Bouchon downstairs in the Time Warner Center.Â Different pastry chefs of course, but the same equipment.Â No wonder those mini baguettes are so good!
To conclude, I’ll mention a few things about the tour that surprised me:
- It was eerily silent.Â Everything and everyone was moving in perfect unison, as if they were actors in a play rehearsed a thousand times.Â As a result, there was hardly any commotion at all.
- It was startlingly clean.Â It was as if no actual cooking even occurred there.
- Everyone in the kitchen was genuinely nice.Â Despite the rush they all must have been in, many stopped what they were doing to chat with me.Â For example, the wonderful pastry chef is originally from Cambridge, England.
In all, Per Se’s was by far the most impressive kitchen I’ve ever seen, and at least 2-3 times the size of the dining room itself, I will remember it as the most substantially important aspect of the entire experience.Â Walking into the kitchen, I could actually feel how proud the chefs were to be working in and with it, and I think that sentiment certainly finds its way into the food.Â That level of dedication is difficult to fake.
Before you ask to see more photos from Per Se’s kitchen in bigger sizes, you should probably check out my photo page (I’m three steps ahead of you).