A Day (and Night) in the Life of Brooklyn’s Most Celebrated Open Kitchen
For some time, I’ve had it in my mind to introduce a recurring feature about a day in the life of different restaurants. The name of this intermittent series, “The Trail,” is the term used to describe a potential employee’s observation of, and sometimes participation in, a day of service at a restaurant where he or she hopes to work.
Along with a lot of things here at Toqueland, I had to back-burner that concept in deference to a pileup of book deadlines. But the perfect union of my book and blog lives presented itself recently when I needed to trail at Battersby, the successful Smith Street (Brooklyn) restaurant, for the purposes of a book proposal I’ve been writing with chef-owners Joe Ogrodnek and Walker Stern.
I normally don’t bother trailing at a restaurant for literary purposes, but in this case, observing happened to be integral to the content of the book we have in mind. As those who have dined there know, Battersby’s heart is its small, open kitchen, situated right at the end of the bar in the dining room, where three cooks engage in a game of culinary Twister, turning out an impressive roster of sophisticated food seven nights a week.
In order to function in such a miniscule galley, Walker and Joe have devised a repertoire of dishes that can be mostly prepared in advance, then finished quickly and efficiently for service. The book—Battersby: Extraordinary Food from an Ordinary Kitchen—will share the tricks they’ve developed for doing the lion’s share of the work in advance, requiring minimal time during service; in fact, each recipe’s ingredients list and methods will be divided into “To Prep” and “To Serve” sections.
I divided my trail into two parts, as well: The first was spent watching the place in the daytime (prep), starting with the arrival of the cooks around 11:30am and ending around the time the first guests of the night rolled in at 5:30pm. On another day, I arrived at 5:30pm and stayed until the last guest disappeared out the front door….