As diners become increasingly savvy about how their artisanal sausages are made, the boundaries between chefs, cooks and customers are shifting — and, in some cases, dissolving completely.
Consider the open kitchen. Once relegated to roadside diners helmed by fry cooks named Bud, visible kitchens are now hallmarks of such critically lauded restaurants as Chicago's Girl & the Goat, Brooklyn's Olmsted and Ava Gene's in Portland, Ore.
These days, chefs and restaurateurs are opening the doors to their test kitchens and incubators to the paying public. At these experimental spaces, established and up-and-coming chefs tinker with wish-list concepts while diners enjoy unfettered access to top culinary minds during arguably their most creative processes.
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At Michael Mina's two-year-old MINA Test Kitchen in San Francisco, the James Beard Award-winning chef, and his friends and staff tinker with concepts and cuisines ranging from coastal Italian to global barbecue. The prix-fixe, pop-up dinners are available for limited-time engagements at the Marina space, such as Postcards from La Costiera, the Italian menu available now.
"It gave us an opportunity to work through new ideas and concepts that were percolating," Mina explains. "It's an incredible experience for our team to essentially open a brand-new restaurant every four months."