Adam Reiner makes room behind his gueridon and gives us a behind-the-flambé look at food-as-performance as he prepared meals and fancy desserts tableside at The Grill, a Manhattan chophouse.
Eventually, that night at the Grill, I put my game face on and roll the gueridon over to the woman who hates bananas. “Be careful,” I say, measuring out the rum. “I’ve never made one of these before.” All waiters have their secret arsenal of stale humor to deploy when they need to butter up the crowd. As the caramel sauce begins to bubble, I pour the rum over it, gently tipping the rim of the saute pan forward to allow the fire to contact the liquid. Flames shoot skyward, casting a soft, amber glow around the table. The woman is so engrossed in my performance that she forgets to take a video. She fumbles around with her purse, but the alcohol burns off by the time she finally gets her phone out. “Oh no, I missed it! Can you do it again?” she asks, expecting a mulligan. “Of course, I can,” I answer politely, spooning the molten bananas over ice cream and sprinkling the bowl with an almond crumble. “But you’ll have to order another one.”