A plate gets a last check and touch up before it goes out at Next.
  • Michael Gebert
  • A plate gets a last check and touch-up before it goes out at Next.

Yesterday I recounted my conversation with Next executive chef Dave Beran about Next’s Bocuse d’Or menu, and how you turn an international culinary competition—geared to the needs of judges—into a dining experience for diners who are meant to be enjoying themselves, not issuing scores. That conversation was captured in fits and starts throughout one evening’s service; the rest of the time I was watching for images that would sum up the astonishing amount and variety of work that goes into the meal. Well, and staying out of the way of people who were carrying extremely hot (or in the case of liquid nitrogen, extremely cold) things.

Below is the slide show that resulted, showing all of the meal’s 15 courses (though not all of its surprises along the way) but also trying to show the work—focused, purposeful, often menial yet carried on mostly with the conviction of its importance—that goes into the food. There’s a little joking around and the occasional flash of anger in Next’s kitchen, but mostly there’s just dogged professionalism and incredible stamina—I never saw anyone but Beran even drink water during service.

At the beginning of the evening I asked Beran how long the meal typically ran, and he said about three hours and 15 minutes for a two-top, three and a half hours for a four-top. The doors opened at 6 PM, and I had a menu to keep track of as I photographed the dishes. When I got the last of two desserts, fully plated and ready to go out, I looked up at the clock.

It said 9:16 PM.

Here’s the slide show:

Tomorrow: What will the next season of Next be about?