At the IACP conference in New York this spring, I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion at the Bon Appetit test kitchen. This was held at their newly designed kitchen, which I believe served as more of a showpiece kitchen for hosting functions, than an actual test kitchen. The panel contained designer Adam Farmerie, David Rockwell, author of the book Spectacle, Matt Lightner of the newly opened Altera and restaurant consultant Clark Wolf. Perhaps restaurant design is not a subject I had given much thought to before, so their thoughts about design were quite enlightening to me. David Rockwell said “the value of being there is not about something happening to you, it is about participating.” Other things to give thought to include the following. Strangers become a community through space. Spaces are only complete when there are people in it. Design moves people from place to place. There should be a sense of arrival, with a little tension, it should be sexy. Once you arrive, you have three seconds to orient. At this point a space should say you are absolutely here, in New York, for example, OR it should transport you to another world.
That evening we went to abc kitchen for dinner, just by happenstance. This is a newer Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant “passionately committed to offering the freshest organic & local ingredients possible.” It awarded the Best New Restaurant of 2011 by the James Beard Foundation. As an example of culinary space design, we could not possibly have arbitrarily picked a better spot to demonstrate what our panel had advocated. The front sign was small, classy and sexy. Upon entering, it was like you were transported to a magical fairy garden. The ambience was absolutely perfect. The food was stunning as well, and the service was warm and extremely friendly, it was obvious that our server cared a great deal about the concepts in which the restaurant was engaged. If you should visit New York, put this on your “must dine here” list.