I’ve worked in just enough restaurants to recognize an abnormally large pastry station when I see one. It was January, and I was standing in the kitchen below Del Posto, one of New York’s—and thus the world’s—most prestigious restaurants. The spotless counter before me was at least a dozen feet long, and the region it bordered—stainless-steel shelves, ovens, a bulky Fusion freezer on wheels that no one seemed very happy with—was now ruled by my old friend Brooks Headley, the head pastry chef here for the past year. Although I’d been sure to rib him about his rubber clogs and double-ply running socks on the way in, this was pretty much just a defense mechanism against the disconnect of seeing someone I’ve known for a long time in a position of exalted authority.The entire story continues here.
It was hard to shake the feeling that I was constantly getting in the way, despite the spooky indifference of passing staff. Employees flowed around me without eye contact, silent except for occasional murmurs of “behind” to indicate that they needed to get to a cabinet I happened to be blocking with my body. It felt like I was interfering with the duties of a beehive. When I expressed this concern to Brooks, he seemed amused.
“No, man, everyone here is terrified of a guy writing stuff down.”
He was right. My small notebook guarded me from scrutiny. That’s why no one gave me so much as a glance. When I had to cross the kitchen back to the restroom, I made sure to conspicuously carry the notebook in front of me. Later, when that still didn’t seem sufficient protection from sudden ejection, I held the notebook and pen in both hands like props, and used my Looking for Frank face (vigilant, stern, scanning the periphery) to assert my right to stay.
Brooks led me on the rounds of his prep. Navigating the hubbub of the kitchen felt like being inside an episode of The West Wing. In a dry storage room, we paused before thousands of dollars’ worth of glittering olive oil. The entire kitchen had the eerie cleanliness of a private hospital, its floors without stains. I’ve worked in as many restaurants as Brooks, but always on the ass end of the labor equation: dishwashing, busing, mopping. Before this day, I’d never been in the back of any restaurant that didn’t smell of garbage and wet rubber mats and ammonia. When I inquired about industrial can openers, I was told there were none—they get too dirty. The spotless trash vestibule smelled like a waiting room and was air-conditioned in January. If Brooks had told me to pull up a chair here for the rest of the day, I would’ve been quite comfortable.
In a smaller prep area adjacent to a walk-in freezer, I audited a session of juicing for something called the Collezione, the Collections Menu, a $175, three-hour-plus dining experience that ended with a stack of goodies in an “I [heart] NY” bag (“after three hours, all those foods, of course you’re gonna fucking love New York”). According to the terminology of elite dining, the translucent emerald-green essence of celery and apple is a “soup,” not “juice.” The conversation swung around to the stereotypes of restaurant workers. “You could say the most horrible, racist joke you wouldn’t even tell a junkie,” Brooks explained of his lofty cooking environment. “But you wouldn’t even joke about spitting in someone’s food.” After the juicing/souping, he produced a frosty metal canister of blood-orange sorbet he’d whipped up earlier. When he extracted the spoon, a thick curl of fluorescent magenta gloop dangled before us. “That’s the hang.” Brooks said with some satisfaction. This was a function of dextrose, I later learned, leading to a taste that was less sweet than granulated—a phenomenon confined to the universe of Italian gelato. Ice cream has no hang. He grinned. “The hang is totally the shit.”
No it's not a prank, i in fact did shoot this story for Vice magazine a few months ago. I saw it for the 1st time in print today, but i think it may have been in the issue before the one that just came out. The last time I actually shot something for a magazine specifically? I honestly can not remember. But this came about just the right way and everyone was cool. So here's the lead photo and beginning of the story. Btw. Brooks was very cool, and the place he works at was amazing (and they had a totally vegan menu 7 course meal for me - and i'm told any customer who requests it - but fat chance anyone I know will every go to this fancy place), I only hope to get invited back again some day.