Now it was time to get down to business. Neither Brennan’s nor The Four Seasons has done anything like this before, which is understandable. Many restaurants of this caliber wouldn’t talk to one another, let alone share a kitchen. And to compound the challenge, aside from a dedication to quality and service, there really wasn’t much to link the two landmarks.
Brennan and Niccolini devised an easy fix for this. Instead of fusing history, they let it stand side-by-side. Brennan’s acclaimed chef Slade Rushing, a 2016 James Beard finalist for Best Chef: South, would get half the menu. Four Seasons’ Chef Pecko Zantilaveevan got the other.
“You have to respect what they’re doing. We can’t just go down there and say, ‘We’re going to change everything.’ Of course not,” Niccolini says.
The same sentiment flowed into hospitality. Brennan and Niccolini roamed the floor, greeting and interacting with guests, which they capped at 150 reservations each night. Niccolini is famous for his on-floor presence, and says it was a breath of fresh air to get back to what he loves.
Diners didn’t lack for choices. Each restaurant presented six appetizers and five entrées. The Four Seasons also made two desserts, while Brennan’s created three. Brennan’s put classics on display, such as Louisiana Seafood Filé Gumbo; Shrimp & Grits; and Filet of Beef Stanley with Parmesan-herb-roasted bananas, porcini mushrooms, horseradish yogurt, and sauce perigourdine.
The Four Seasons played a little bit more of a balancing act with its menu, offering some favorites along with glimpses of the future. For example, there can’t be a Four Seasons meal without Crispy Shrimp with cremonata and mustard fruits; Nantucket Bay Scallops with winter truffles and butternut squash purée; the Four Seasons Farmhouse Duck; and Steak Tartare prepared tableside.
Once the event was announced, Niccolini says Four Seasons’ regulars yearning to make up for lost time signed up, and some even made a vacation out of it.
For Brennan, he understood the dinner came with a certain level of pressure. It would introduce Brennan’s to a whole new consumer base, and a lofty one at that. Authenticity and preparation was the answer, he says. For every Four Seasons dish, Brennan connected with the authentic supplier. He made sure to order the same dover sole from England, duck from Long Island, scallops from Nantucket Bay, and so on.
“The biggest challenge obviously is being able to execute the dishes as they would in New York,” Brennan says. “We wanted to make sure we put our best foot forward in representing their food along with their help and supervision.”
Both chefs stayed in the kitchen to oversee operations. Brennan says the experience was a great opportunity for his staff to step outside the box. “This was a chance to break the normal pattern,” he says. “Inspire the kitchen. Inspire the servers. And have a lot of fun while we’re at it.”
When it was over, Brennan purchased two trees to be planted in City Park in honor of the dinner: One for The Four Seasons and the other for Brennan’s, meant to represent how the iconic restaurants are now growing together. Brennan threw a celebratory lunch at his restaurant, Ralph’s On The Park, and, again, no detail was ignored. They toasted with a bottle of Champagne Philipponnat—Niccolini’s favorite.