Brian Fitzpatrick
Commander's Palace

Dinner at the Chef's Table

In February of 1999, Marie and I went to Commander's Palace in New Orleans with our friends Beth and Ken Martin and ate at the Chef's table. Basically, what this means is that they seat you at an oblong table on one side of the kitchen so you can see everything going on. Then the chef's of the respective areas of the kitchen try to see how much they can feed you before you pass out. And if that's not enough, they keep bringing more alcohol to help along the process. I really think that they take bets to see if they can make you drop dead from over-indulgence.

The Menu

So the basic deal is this: You don't order anything except for the wine (and any other cocktails that you might want to drink). Then the Head Chef (or the Sous Chef) feeds you whatever they decide they'd like to feed you for the evening. This is the chefs served us that night:

The Evening

We got to Commander's at about 6:45, and were immediately seated in the kitchen by Lally Brennan. I was taken in by the huge pots and pans, the seeming chaos of such a huge kitchen (which, we were told, would feed a relatively small crowd of 600 tonight). Ethan Powell (Sous Chef) was our host for the evening as Jamie Shannon, the Executive Chef, had the evening off.

We were presented with our own personal assistant, Aldo, who's job it was to get whatever it was that we decided we wanted. From dropped forks to Commander's apron's, Aldo was the man.

We didn't just have the typical Commander's excellent service--the chef for the section of the kitchen responsible for the dish being served came over and told us everything we could possibly want to know about the dish--right down to where the ingredients came from. Wow.

Many other restaurant guests were escorted through the kitchen to their tables in the dining room across the courtyard, and they often commented on how lucky we were to be sitting where we were. At the beginning of the evening we acknowledged this in a quiet and demure--almost apologetic manner:

Wife (to husband): "Oh, well that looks like a nice table!"

Me: "Sure is nice, yes."

We bashfully smiled and acknowledged that, yes, it was great to sit here, and yes, we were very lucky. Well, 2 bottles of wine (and quite a few Commander's Palace Bloody Mary's later), the whole quiet routine was over. The exchanges began to go like this:

Wife (to husband): "Oh, well that looks like a nice table!"

Me: "Damn straight. This is awesome!"

As the evening progressed, the oohs and ahhs slowly turned into groans as we struggled to find room for more food. We began to take bets on who would pass out from food coma first. We began to fear the next course. We began to wish we had worn our elastic pajamas instead of our nice clothes.

Ethan and the other chefs answered our every question, right down to where Commander's purchased the mother of pearl spoons that they used to serve the caviar. I asked Aldo if we could get a Commander's Palace apron like the one that the Sommelier was wearing, and he came back with 2 aprons, and Ethan called all of the chefs over and had them autograph the aprons for us. That turned out to be the ultimate souvenir as not one of us had remembered to bring a camera.

After a lot more chatting and goodbyes, we rolled out at about midnight to head home, change into some loose clothing, and get some sleep. Undoubtedly one of the best evenings I've ever had. If you ever have the opportunity, I highly recommend having dinner at the chef's table--it's an occasion that you will not soon forget.

chop

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