Last week, for some unknown reason, a grown man left his wife and children in Seattle and came to intern at Dirt Candy for three days. Normally, this would be the warning sign of an impending nervous breakdown, but in this case it was totally normal. Michael Natkin writes my favorite vegetarian blog, Herbivoracious, he has a book coming out, he's staged at a lot of restaurants and so when he contacted me wanting to stage at Dirt Candy I was more than a little flattered.
The thing I like about Herbivoracious is that Michael makes real, restaurant-quality food at home. He's not aiming to make a simplified home cook recipe, he doesn't cut corners, and he doesn't dumb down what he's attempting. He's using new technology, and really busting his hump to try to pull off high-end vegetarian cooking at home - the kind of stuff a restaurant would put out without feeling any need to apologize for. It's hard work, and it's probably really difficult to do over and over again in a home kitchen, but every week he pulls off a recipe that I would have previously assumed was overly ambitious and too hard for someone working from home.
Michael staged here for three days and wrote up his experiences on Herbivoracious and it's the best description of what an average day is like at Dirt Candy that I've ever read. I was sad to see Michael go. He was a great intern because he's staged at enough restaurants to know how to evaluate the work that needs to be done and he knows how to start doing it. Free and competent? It was a winning combination.
But what really gives him a place in my own personal heaven is that he speaks up about responsible reservation-making:
"Dirt Candy seats just twenty people, and usually does three full turns every night, so at most sixty diners can eat. A six-top that no-shows and isn't replaced by walk-ins is 10% of the business! Chef Amanda answers the phones herself, re-confirms every reservation, and manages the timing so that no-one ever has to wait for their table. They can't. There isn't any place they could possibly stand. Keep this in mind the next time you make or break a reservation (at Dirty Candy or anywhere else)..."
Michael's piece is a must-read if you're interested in what it's like to be in the Dirt Candy kitchen.