For $140, you, too, can be a Benihana chef. Well, sort of. As the Washington Post‘s Bonnie Benwick discovered when she attended Benihana’s Be the Chef program, some of those slicing and dicing moves are even tougher than they look. Her onion volcano sputtered, the seasoning was occasionally off, and her station could’ve been cleaner—but on the bright side, she didn’t cut her hand while catching a knife in midair and, after several tries, she actually managed to land a shrimp tail atop her toque.
And while those chefs (who don’t make much at all) can race through the courses with utensils twirling, the key is actually not speed, says Benihana’s corporate executive chef Tony Nemoto. “He told me to watch temperatures and to remember to move the food to lower-heat portions of the griddle,” writes Benwick. “The repositioning, albeit with a flourish, suddenly makes sense. The ever-darkening center of the surface runs 450 to 500 degrees. The adjacent perimeter is closer to 325, and the edge closest to guests averages 250 to 275 degrees.”
As for the kitchen, in case you ever wondered,
The cooks and prep assistants who work solely behind swinging doors are responsible for handling takeout orders and, among other things, deveining in the neighborhood of 250 pounds of shrimp per week. One small, sharp knife, operated efficiently, can dispatch 25 to 30 peeled shrimp every 15 seconds or so.
So don’t forget to tip!