coconut, corn, egg, licorice

This week I reviewed Next’s Tour of Thailand, the second menu in Grant Achatz’s and Nick Kokonas’s ever-adaptive restaurant. During the course of fact-checking, executive chef Dave Beran responded with a few e-mails about particular dishes that were so illuminating with regard to his creative process that it seemed a shame to keep them to myself. So here they are:

Could you tell me the amount of time you had to prepare for this menu?

Beran: Ideally it would have been three months to prepare for the menu. The concept is that once a menu is in place we will immediately begin the production of the next. The challenge with the first one was that the French menu continued to evolve for the first month. Additionally, the restaurant was still in its infancy so there were many kinks to work out. For the Thai menu it was more like crunching for the finals. We locked down the idea to do Thai for the second menu about a month before the change and then spent the following three weeks ordering, researching, and cooking. Basically from 10 AM-2 PM I focused on Thai, 2 PM-12 AM I helped with additional kitchen prep and service, then from midnight until 4 AM or so I worked on the new menu and research. The goal was that each week we would lock down four dishes and spend the transition week training the staff, prepping with cooks, and refining concepts. One day was entirely devoted to the som tam. I think I made it about eight times in front of our management team. The last two dishes for the menu were the coconut and the dragon fruit. Those came about in one afternoon, two days before we served the first one.