Communal Feasting

By Barbara DeMarco-Barrett

Beneath the high ceiling of Pelican Grill, basked in soft light from the long windows facing the Pacific Ocean, sits a long polished table for 12. From just several feet away, the dozen lucky diners can watch the Grill’s bustling, open-air kitchen. Its sparkling stainless steel, wood-burning brick oven, copper pots and hood and granite work surfaces provide a visual feast as guests enjoy an up-close-and personal view of the preparation of their meal. “It’s bringing the dining room into the kitchen,” says Executive Chef Jean-Pierre Dubray, who adds that the Tasting Table—the Resort’s latest addition of personal dining touches—is part of the communal dining trend among the best restaurants in the world. In this comfortable setting, the warm neutral tones of Pelican Grill inspire relaxation and a jovial, gustatory mood. On the table, rustic-styled china in reds and browns match the fabric of the chairs, and all of the dining accoutrements work in concert with one another. Sights, sounds and smells from the kitchen—garlic sizzling in olive oil, fish broiling in butter— work up your appetite, as does the knowledge that the meal you’re about to enjoy has been created specific to you and your tastes. “Guests might say, ‘Tomorrow I’m coming with 12 guests and I want prime rib,’” Dubray said. The chef will then take the guests along on his cooking extravaganza, from raw ingredients to ready meal, interacting and answering guests’ questions as he prepares and cooks the food. The menu for the Tasting Table, which is also known as a “chef ’s table,” is created daily, based around the freshest produce and items that Chef Luke Turpin can obtain at market. “Because of the small quantity of menu items prepared for the Tasting Table, the presentation, personalization and unique seasonal ingredients are something different to attract guests, as opposed to taking a seat in the dining room,” Turpin said. Sample menus include Maine Diver Scallops and Pomegranate Glazed Wild Salmon. “The chef may have a special meat, special fish or special vegetable, but not have enough for the entire dining room, so it will be unique to this table,” Dubray added. What is most special about the Tasting Table, beyond the signature food items, is the relationship between the chef and the guests, and how they interact. Guests get to take part in their meal, rather than first seeing it when their server places it before them. “Sometimes guests know exactly what they want,” Turpin said. “They may say, ‘I want to try morel mushrooms,’ or ‘I’ve always wanted to try this certain dish that I’ve seen on the Food Network.’ They may be foodies and don’t want to try cooking a dish for the first time at home, but want to watch it being prepared and have the pleasure of tasting it.”