Napa Valley chef Curtis Di Fede won’t put chicken on his menu. But roasted hen? That he might do.
There’s not much difference; pretty much any chicken you’re getting in a California restaurant is going to be hen, not rooster. But to Di Fede using “hen” sounds more pleasant. It also does what he wants a menu item to do – start a conversation. “I really want people asking questions at the table,” he says. Experience has taught Di Fede something every successful chef/owner knows: the language of menus can speak volumes.
“People think of the menu as the dishes you offer. It’s not. The menu is where you start to tell your story,” says Bradford Thompson, a James Beard award-winning chef and founder of Bellyfull Consulting Inc., a full-service culinary consulting company with clients such as New York’s popular Miss Lily restaurants.
Thompson, who teaches kitchen and back-of-house skills at the International Culinary Center in New York, begins menu construction with the question: Who are you? If you can’t come up with a one-sentence answer – whether that’s the style of food, the history of the chef/owner, or some other thematic element – you’re in trouble, and this is how you end up with hundreds of items on the menu and zero personality.
“When you see a well-written menu, you see a point of view,” says Thompson. “Maybe you seem some whimsy. Maybe you’ll see a French-trained chef who’s spent some time in Asia. You’ll understand their story a little bit.”
Click here to read the rest of this story, published in Foodservice Consultant magazine.