Our guests enjoy a recital by a young and talented musician from 6 to 7 p.m. During this time they sample an amuse-bouche and sip a sparkling wine.
At 7 p.m. the guests sit at one table and my guest chef, classically trained Didier Lailheugue from Doazit, France, (a little village south of Bordeaux) and I begin final prep and plating of the remaining courses. Ophelia Santos introduces and explains each wine and why she selected it for the particular course. Our guest chef sits at the table.
The purpose of Table One is for good conversation at a dinner table. We employ a student server from the culinary school.
A retired corporate attorney and friend, Margaret Buker, who has become a floral arranger, provides flowers typical of the culinary region we feature with the food and wine.
We have served food and wine from Paris, Bordeaux, Basque-Catalan, New South, Tuscany and Provence. We took renowned Chef Alain Senderens of Paris, who was a leader in developing Nouvelle Cuisine, and re-created one of his dinners by using his famous cookbook. Our Guest Chef Patrice Gaubert of Atlanta trained with him and provided insight into his techniques.
I take it you are not doing these dinners to make money. What's the motivation for you?
Yes, Table One doesn't make money. In fact, it probably functions at a loss. Even though we charge each guest $150, the cost of the wines, food, flowers and recital more than offsets the price. I do it for the love of fine dining and fine wine. I do it to give back a little of what I learned in culinary. I do it to bring guests from different walks of life together to share stories and wit. Perhaps like it has been done in Europe for centuries. We have entertained lawyers, artists, writers, judges, an actor, a musician, chefs, physicians and mediators.
What have you learned about cooking at these dinners?
I have learned that there is an abundance in our backyard of fabulous ingredients and foods from all over the world and talented people to present it, serve it and partake in it. People have an insatiable appetite for seeing old friends and making new ones, if the setting is relaxed.
What's your favorite thing to cook?
Simple, straightforward cuisine is always best. It may sound trite or overused, but food that brings comfort to the dinner guest, is a delight to the eye, that warms the heart and has aromas that swirl through the room should be rule of thumb. I most enjoy cooking for friends who appreciate the time and care that goes into the preparation of good food.
I want the plate to look as if it was easy to make, where each course or portion exemplifies the best flavor, texture and color of the food being presented. You know when a tomato is at its peak. You know when a roasted ear of corn has the best texture and aroma. You know when a cut of meat or a filet of fish or a shucked oyster is a delight to the eye and nose. This is what I like to serve.
If you could cook a 10-course dinner for anybody, who would it be?
It would be for my wife Beth and myself in our home.