Secrets of the Beard House: How to get maximum joy from the World’s Premier Food Performance Space

A FEW MODEST SUGGESTIONS:

1) Skip the Greens: Greens events for younger members will leave you underfed and overliquored: you’ll feel green afterwards. However, a great place to hook up with a foodie.

2) Arrive at Beard House events at the start: Get there early and position yourself close to the garden entrance for passed apps. Often chefs take more risks with the apps and reveal a little more of themselves. Alternatively, particularly if you’re shy and alone, call and ask them to hold a plate of selections for your dinner table.

3) Hotel restaurant nights are super luxurious: Hotels spend more on wine and expensive ingredients and often give party favors.

4) Friday and Saturday aren’t usually the best: Chefs don’t want to be away these nights, so you’ll rarely get top restaurants on these nights.

5) No in-town: They’re often sub-par when competing with themselves, unless the chef is gunning for a Beard Award or trying to restore a tarnished reputation. Beware of the phone-in from a chef with a recent 3-star Times review–Cru was a disaster.

6) Beware of overreaching restaurants: Check the proposed menu against the restaurant’s menu. Too big a discrepancy in scope and scale often indicates an overreaching restaurant trying to do something inconsistent with its vision.  Humble, regional places should stick to what got them the invitation.

7) Lesser known can be most interesting: I never would have discovered the Chicago Mafia (Bowles, Cantu, etc.) if I’d stuck to big names.

8. Sit with strangers: Unless you’re with a large group, you’ll be seated with some strangers. This turns out to be a central pleasure of the house. People rarely talk about themselves, the market or their second homes. Instead, they focus on fun and food, two topics worth celebrating over the usual 5-7 glasses of top-shelf wine.

9) Go solo instead of staying home: Go by yourself and don’t feel like a putz.  If you’re shy, the cocktail hour can be excruciating, so get there closer to meal-time.

10) Embrace the wackos: A few people treat this place like an eating club, and among them are some truly original characters. If you sit with one, take it in stride.

11) Chefs want to be loved: Ask chefs questions on the way out when they’re happy and unstressed, and if you don’t have a question, say thanks. Q & A session is useless, unfortunately. More of a thank-you speech.

12) Don’t get greedy: Waiters are not there for special requests (like a second glass of the really expensive dessert wine). You’re getting plenty.

13) Stand by the pig: If you’re waiting for friends, walk over to the pig sculpture in the garden; it’s quiet, the view is great and you won’t be asked by investment bank associates if you’re here with UBS, twice.

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