Are Exposed Kitchens Entertaining or Distracting?

Bloggers Paula Nino and Riki Altman disagree about the merits of exposed kitchens. What follows are their disparate views:

Paula's P.O.V.:

There's something exciting about watching a chef and his team working behind the line to create your food. It's a way to satisfy the curiosity of how the dishes at a restaurant are prepared and, in some cases, observe the deftness of the chef. But sitting at the counter of an open kitchen is not just a chance to watch. The fun also comes from interacting with the people who are about to feed you.

Whether it's a team cooking or a one-man operation like at NAOE, most times

(when they're not slammed) they are happy to talk about dishes, their preparations and food in general, especially when they sense your curiosity and interest. Before you know it, they're suggesting other places to try and telling you how to make that delicious sweet potato puree.

It's a different experience than just sitting at a table with your dining companion -- and probably not advisable on some occasions, especially if you want your companion's undivided attention -- but it adds another dimension to the meal that makes it fun and entertaining. The only downside: the smell of food on your clothes when you leave the place, but I can live with that.

--Paula Nino

Riki Weighs In:

I don't really hate exposed kitchens and, as a matter of fact, I'm happy to be able to see that the preparers of my meal are working in a clean, sanitary environment, but I feel that all the extra action takes away from the pleasure of one's dining experience. Especially from a woman's perspective, the attention needs to be on the company at your table, not flickering flames nor the clanging of cleavers. And guys, as confident as you may be, having a hottie like Chef Jeff McInnis out in the line of sight (a la Gigi) is a total distraction for the ladies. See, it works both ways.

Miami ain't Hell's Kitchen so we don't need to know what goes on behind the line. All we need is trust that our food is prepared properly, tastes great, and has some nutritional value. If you require action while you dine, either eat at home or get a ticket to the Improv or some sports bar.

Plus, an exposed kitchen requires decorum and, thus, robs chefs of the secret ingredient that makes any recipe more than just sustenance: passion. If these chefs are hampered from being the pirates they usually are (meaning, they aren't given the freedom to curse, throw knives, or play Metallica at deafening levels during the dinner rush), we suffer the consequences. Keep 'em behind closed doors and rockin' out, I say, and let me eat in peace.

--Riki Altman

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New Times staff