Taking Time to Get It Right: My Interview with Award Winning Chef Dan Kluger [The Knowledge Project Ep. #45]

Dan Kluger, award winning chef and owner of NYC’s Loring Place joins me on the podcast to reveal what really happens behind the scenes of a bustling restaurant, why every detail of your craft matters, and how to create the perfect experience for every guest.

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One characteristic that I think all Farnam Street readers share is an intense curiosity about how the world around them works. Regardless of industry or discipline, if there is something interesting to learn, our ears perk up and we lean in a bit. That’s how I feel about today’s show.

My guest on this episode is Dan Kluger. Dan is the chef and founder of the wildly popular Loring Place in New York City. I didn’t realize how fascinating Dan’s job was until he greeted our table (as he does with all his guests) and I started asking him questions. It didn’t take long before I knew I wanted to have him on The Knowledge Project.

Whether you’re intimately familiar with, or like me, thought you knew something about the restaurant business, you’ll find this discussion captivating.

Here is a sample platter of our discussion to give you a taste of what you can expect. (Sorry about that…) ;)

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In any field, I think there is something really important about not getting to the top too quickly and really paying your dues somewhere.

It was always just little things that I’ve taken away from each restaurant. I remember how little things that had nothing to do with the actual food, but with the experience, could change the experience for somebody drastically.

Certain things about your expectations are very black and white. You brush your teeth in the morning, you get dressed in the morning, you clean up your room in the morning, you eat dinner at night, you go to bed at night, and that’s black and white. But there’s always things in between that make it a little bit gray.

I don’t have a problem catering to individual needs, but if I’m going to do it, then I’ve got to do it my way and just make it better than what the perception would have been. Ultimately, I think, especially in New York, you have to be flexible and you have to understand that people are going to want different things out of their experience.

Using so many products from local farmers, sending a guy to the farmer’s market, and paying him to walk around the farmer’s market for two hours collecting vegetables and the best strawberries he can get and the best herbs — then, paying for an Uber to bring it over here, and unpack everything. I mean, it would be so much easier to have everything just shipped to the door, but that’s not what we want to do. Again, I think that that can be taken for granted. People don’t realize how much goes into it.

We’re seeing more than ever, I think, a huge shift in tables just not showing up. Canceling five minutes before. People showing up late and then wondering why they can’t be sat. It happened last night and I’m so tempted to say, “When’s the last time you were late for a flight?”

When I’m here, I’m happiest when I’ve created a great experience for a guest or an employee. An employee that will say, “Thank you for cooking next to me,” or “I’m really excited I got to work on that today,” or “That was a great event,” whatever it is. When I’m not here, it’s when I’m able to just turn off and be with my family and not have this constant hamster wheel running in the back of my mind.

For me, every day is very different because, A, my task list, and B, because of the customer interaction I find that I can have at night where I know half the dining room and the night just flies by — between spending time with people and just making sure that those experiences are amazing.

There’s a lot of things in this industry that are getting harder and harder and I think we will see more shifts in some form or another. Either more restaurants closing than we want or prices going up even more and people eating out less. I’m not sure what it’s going to be yet.

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Transcript

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