Evan Sung

A spread at Dirt Candy, one of our Top 100 Independent Restaurants.

Editor's Letter: Finding the Joy in Food

My friends are always saying, “It looks like you’re eating at so many good restaurants.” I’d say it comes with the job, but I was like this before. I’ll say more accurately, it comes with the obsession. But the obsession isn’t quite with the restaurants in particular (no offense to you, dear reader). The obsession isn’t even with eating, or cooking, or food in general, despite how it may seem. The obsession is joy.

It looks like I’m not the only one connected to this business who’s chasing joy in some fashion. When I finally sat down to watch the new season of Chef’s Table on Netflix, I heard Momofuku Milk Bar maven Christina Tosi say those exact words in referring to why she bakes. Later, when I interviewed our cover girl—another great pastry chef in the business, Caitlin Dysart—she said something about joy, too.

So what is this joy we speak of? For some, particularly those with a sweet tooth, I imagine the joy lives inside an elaborately decorated, multi-tiered cake, or in the perfectly baked macaron, or in the simplicity of a flaky pan au chocolat. For me, it’s at the end of a four-course meal inside a Michelin-starred restaurant with a dearer than dear friend.

You must know what I’m talking about, or you wouldn’t work in this business. Picture it. You’re totally stuffed, leaned back against the booth, in a dimly lit restaurant where everything looks a little more perfect than real life. You squint across the table at whomever you’re dining with and with a deep sigh you say, “That. Was SO. Good.” During the moments savored between the plates dropping onto the table in front of you, full of tantalizing glory, and when they were whisked away empty, you’d left your body. It’s transcendence, right?

Maybe it’s just me and the company I keep, but people seem to agree with me.

And I have to wonder if this isn’t what each of you strive for with every guest you greet, seat, and serve. It being my job to make your job easier, we’re giving you some inspiration for spreading joy in this issue. Just a few—tips and tricks from 100 of your peers. We’ve got it covered from menu trends to design. With 100 restaurants, we couldn’t manage to fit them all in print, so be sure to go online to get behind-the-scenes tips from all 100 operators.

I hope this month's content gives you ideas for how your brand can transcend. As for me, I’ve got a dinner reservation to get to.

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