Behind the Scenes at Per Se

I had the opportunity to dine at Per Se this past week in celebration of completing my master’s degree at The Journalism School at Columbia. The restaurant is the New York flagship of famed executive chef Thomas Keller and for the past four years has been awarded a three-star rating by the Michelin Guide. Per Se offers an eclectic menu that changes daily according to the freshest available proteins and produce.

The four-and-a-half hour dinner began with a tuna tartare amuse bouche and a warm gruyère pastry puff. Appetizer, entree and dessert selections were made from an exquisite menu that boasted a selection of nine courses from every array of fish, meat and vegetable imaginable.

Clockwise from top left: White Asparagus Salad with Sunny Side Up Egg, Seared Foie Gras with Roasted Vegetables, Dark Chocolate Mud Pie, Lobster Macaroni and Cheese.

I opted for a first course of English peas and carrots, followed by gnocchi with rich morel sauce. Entrees included smoked duck, seared beef and a lobster macaroni and cheese. The nine course meal, which included several additional smaller courses, ended with a dark chocolate mud pie, warm doughnuts and coffee ice cream. The dinner was topped off with a tour of the kitchen, which boasted a staff of more than two dozen chefs executing each dish with precision and care.

The kitchen at Per Se, where preparations for lunch and dinner service begin at 5 a.m. each day.

A chef at the plating section arranges a bed of roasted corn for the next course to be delivered.

A chef at the plating section arranges a bed of roasted corn for the next course to be delivered.

But Per Se was more than a dinner. It was a culinary experience that demonstrated one of the most exquisite and imaginative displays of flavor and gastronomical creativity. I can’t imagine a more pleasant and enjoyable atmosphere overlooking Central Park and I look forward to one day mirroring my experience at Per Se by dining at The French Laundry, Keller’s West coast equivalent in California’s Napa Valley.

The sign above the entrance to the kitchen reads, "Finesse: Refinement and delicacy of performance, execution, or artisanship."


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