Line cooks are the unsung heroes of a restaurant kitchen. They’re the crew that plates your tartare and cleans out the deep fryer every night. The team that stays late so you can order half the menu five minutes before closing—and then organizes, sanitizes, and prepares every inch of a restaurant before it opens the next day. These often-overlooked culinary pros will soon play a starring role, though, in a series of Monday night dinners starting September 11 called The Lineup.
The series, which returns for three nights this month and features cooks from NYC restaurants Bonnie’s, Rolo’s and The Four Horsemen, is the brainchild of chef and Today Show Culinary Contributor Elena Besser. She came up with the concept after working for a year and a half on the opening team of Missy Robbins’ famed restaurant, Lilia, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
That experience inspired Elena to put together a team that celebrates the behind-the-scenes work that line cooks do by bringing them front and center for diners.
“This is a platform to gain experience and the confidence to possibly take the next step in their careers, or just feel reinvigorated by the restaurant industry in general,” said Elena. It’s also a chance for head chefs—who will be in attendance—to show support for their staff.
“Great people will gravitate toward supportive work environments,” Elena said. “It could even encourage the participating cooks to stay at their restaurant even longer because of their love for the chef and the work culture the restaurant provides.”
The Lineup gives each cook the opportunity to run their own restaurant for the night, starting with concepting and curating the menu. The cooks then work with the Lineup team to bring their vision to life through table settings, beverage curation, music, hiring kitchen and back-of-house staff—and providing constructive feedback. Said Elena: “They workshop their food…to make it as great as it can possibly be and execute it successfully for service.”
Each dinner is held on a Monday night, traditionally the designated day off for many restaurant professionals, with two seatings (at 5:30 pm and 8:30 pm, respectively) at Hudson Table in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Tickets are $195 and include an opening bite and welcome cocktail, followed by a curated, five-course menu and wine pairing. (Pro tip: At the time of writing, you’ll find the most availability for the 5:30 seating on September 11 with Angness Kim of the popular Cantonese-American restaurant, Bonnie’s, and the September 25 dinner with Jonathan Vogt of the Michelin-starred and James Beard Award-winning restaurant, The Four Horsemen).
September 11th: Agness Kim, Sous Chef, Bonnie’s
From The Lineup: “Chef Agness grew up in Flushing, Queens here in New York, and her cuisine is heavily influenced by the wholesome food her mother cooked for her as a child. Her menu is whimsical and nostalgic, and pays tribute to both her Korean heritage and American upbringing. Agness has previously worked at Zahav in Philadelphia, Upland, Misi, and Win Son.”
September 18th: Nadine Ghantous, Sous Chef, Rolo’s
From The Lineup: “Born and raised in a small town outside of Philadelphia, Nadine’s menu is heavily inspired by her Lebanese background and family who instilled in her a deep passion for food. Served family-style, Nadine’s menu will combine both her heritage and contemporary culinary background. Nadine has previously worked at Lilia.”
September 25th: Jonathan Vogt, Line Cook, The Four Horsemen
From The Lineup: “Chef Jonathan grew up in Virginia Beach, working in local restaurants there before moving to New York for culinary school. His approach to food aims to prove that the best dining experiences utilize masterful techniques to let simple ingredients shine. Chef Jonathan’s menu celebrates his philosophy that the simplest food, beautifully prepared, is what makes true fine dining. Jonathan has previously worked at Loring Place and Don Angie.”
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Know of any unsung cooks The Lineup should feature next? Let us know in the comments.