Why NYC's Dirt Candy Is Crediting Chefs On Its Spring Menu

When we dine in an upscale restaurant, we're used to associating the establishment with its chef, who can also double as an owner. Think of Eric Ripert of New York's Le Bernardin, René Redzepi of Copenhagen's Noma, and Thomas Keller of Yountville's The French Laundry, to name a few examples. While these chefs might be the face of their restaurants, they, of course, have a whole team of chefs, line cooks, and servers underneath them who are also hugely responsible for those eateries' character and quality (via Norwalk Community College).

While a restaurant menu is clearly the result of collaboration between a chef and their team, we don't often hear about any other kitchen employee besides, perhaps, the sous chef, or second in command (via Food Network). Over the years, according to Eater, there have been calls for more transparency about who's involved in coming up with dishes. 

Amanda Cohen, chef and owner of New York's vegetarian Dirt Candy, answered those calls with the restaurant's new spring tasting menu, which specifically credits the sous and pastry chefs that aided Cohen in its development.

Four of the menu's five dishes include a credit for the chef who helped develop it

On April 13, Amanda Cohen, the chef and owner of New York City's upscale vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy, debuted her new spring tasting menu — with a few changes that are new in more ways than one. While many of us are used to restaurant menus that describe the dishes, the ingredients used to make them, as well as where those ingredients are sourced, we don't typically see any names on the menu except for that of the chef and, possibly, a pastry chef or sommelier. But on the new Dirt Candy menu, four of the five courses have a line crediting the sous or pastry chef who helped Cohen come up with the dish.

In an interview with Eater, Cohen told the outlet that historically she typically developed and tested most menu items herself. This time around, the process was much more collaborative. Cohen said she told each of her sous chefs to choose a vegetable and create a dish around it, for which that chef did "most of" the testing. "Whereas before I would say 95 percent of each dish was me, this time I would say [it was] more like 50-50," she told Eater.

Amanda Cohen said 'it takes an army to run a restaurant'

Acknowledging that a restaurant is a highly collaborative project, Dirt Candy chef Amanda Cohen noted that over the past few years, there have been increased industry efforts to credit kitchen staff (via Eater). The movement has been explored in past articles by Eater and The Washington Post

She said that the credits included on the new menu — for dishes including scallion pancake bagels with smoked onion "lox" and stuffed roasted fennel with harissa glaze — have generated quite a bit of support, not only among diners, but, of course, among the kitchen staff. "Their moms called them and were pretty excited for them," Cohen related.

"It's fun to know the names of the people who make your food," she elaborated. "It's kind of like watching the end credits of a movie, or when you go see a Broadway show and you see everybody who's worked on the production — I think it's great."