The Theatre of Food
There is a great clip from Francis Mallmann’s Chef’s Table episode. It’s a segment that starts at minute 26:33. He says that when he was 8, he was invited to a dinner outside with his parents. He remembered nothing about the food, but he remembered the elegance of the table settings and the special-ness of the entire event, and then he says, ‘I got into food for the theatre of it.’
I asked the staff at Uchiko to think about that: why would anyone come here to get a crunchy tuna roll and salmon nigiri when they can grab basically the same thing from Central Market for a fraction of the price? Why would anyone wait hours for a chance to sit at the sushi bar? Why do we bother with learning out of date, ritualized steps to open a bottle of wine when at the end of the day, most people just want to drink? The fact is, theatre is a big part of what we do and how we operate. People come for a show and that is something worth keeping in our minds. Something worth practicing.
For that reason, I invited Logan Ware, one of our former bartenders, to help us learn a form of theatre; ballet. He taught us some of the basics – we went through each of the five core positions, focusing on our posture. We then learned a few fundamental steps, and got to practice them together, putting what we learned to the test in the dining room. At the end of the session, even if we never quite remembered what exactly we were supposed to do when someone shouted ‘glissade,’ the attention given to gracefulness and stance made an impact.
We, as service industry professionals, have all had one of those nights where every-single-thing flows together perfectly. No one bumps into anyone. Things are taken out of hands gracefully. Nothing breaks. When we’re at your best, we are part of a fast, intricate, and elegant dance. We all want that to be the standard, not the exception, so practicing things like ballet allows us to practice focusing on the little things: the placement of our feet, the precision of our movements, and importance of our posture. All the little things that add to the theatre of food.