Opening Eyes at The French Laundry

Overview

Perhaps the most important ability of front of house staff at fine dining establishments is to be able to read their guests and give them a truly memorable experience. Part of creating this legendary guest experience involves careful descriptions of food and drink being served. Even at restaurants as established and well-renowned as Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry, staff need to be refreshed with engaging ways to explain food and drink and interact with guests.

The Task

In this collaboration with Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry, our task was to use a blindfolded wine tasting, Tasting in the Dark, to give 40 French Laundry front of house staff a completely new and vulnerable environment to experience and discuss wine in detail. Furthermore, the principles at The French Laundry wanted to refresh their staff’s way of describing flavor, aroma and texture of foods and beverages to guests and elevate the guest experience as much as possible.

Outcomes

During this 2-hour, immersive experience, we utilized four premium wines from The French Laundry wine list, many of which the staff had limited to no familiarity. While under blindfold, the staff were encouraged to engage in a deep discussion about food, drink and how we describe them. Then, we homed in on the concept of sensory literacy by having the staff smell several complex aroma samples and describe them to their colleagues. Finally, four wines were tasted and described first by TFL staff and then with our team in a conversational yet highly informative style.

The outcome was a refreshed front-of-house staff with a new outlook on describing food, drink, and how they pair together. Chef Thomas Keller said, “This was one of the most unique and productive trainings he has experienced in his career.”

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