A back-of-house look into Border Grill’s tequila-pairing dinner
Wed, Apr 25, 2012 (5:05 p.m.)
Photo: Jim Begley
Border Grill executive chef Mike Minor has hosted tequila-pairing dinners before, but never anything as intricate as his latest—an April 19 meal for 70 showcasing Clase Azul. Paired with specific tequilas, four eclectic courses highlighted unusual ingredients such as fiddlehead ferns, diamondback rattlesnake, huitlacoche (corn fungus) and barracuda. An undertaking of this size requires the utmost orchestration.
Event preparation begins about a month prior, and planning the pairings is an ongoing process between chefs and bartenders, almost until the moment the dishes are served. Minor doesn’t publish a menu beforehand. He prefers the flexibility to edit his offerings on a whim … or out of necessity, as the case may be.
Most of the prep occurs day-of, although the rattlesnake soup stock, for example, was started two days in advance. At T-minus two hours, the kitchen is eerily serene. They’ve already weathered both a 700-cover lunch and a special 12-course VIP event tasting—all while prepping for the evening’s party. With ’80s punk band Minor Threat blaring from Minor’s iPhone, prep ramps up about 30 minutes before passed apps are served. Time seems to slow to a crawl in the dining room, where patrons are enjoying free-flowing libations.
Back-of-house is the dining room’s schizophrenic twin. As an acoustic cover of “Hotel California” wafts through the party, imbibing patrons remain oblivious to the frenzy occurring just beyond earshot. In the kitchen, Wiz Khalifa blares amidst a synchronized plating of barracuda in assembly-line fashion. Minor, not unlike the Cookie Monster inked on his left forearm, appears wildly enthusiastic as waves of plates head out.
The meal closes on a crescendo, the hardworking staff introduced to a jubilant crowd with resounding congratulations. Like any good politician, Minor shakes hands and kisses babies while basking in the radiant smiles of his tipsy guests. Just another day in the life.