The open kitchen concept in restaurants — where diners can see chefs at work and watch their food being prepared — has grown in popularity over the past decade.

In humbler form, open kitchens have existed for decades in hometown diners and sushi restaurants. Famed chef Wolfgang Puck is credited with introducing the concept in the early 1980s by opening his kitchen to a fine dining audience.[1] Many New York restaurants quickly followed Puck’s lead and the trend spread to upscale restaurants in large cities across the country.

Diners appreciate the transparency in food preparation that an open kitchen brings. Their concerns about food quality, safety and culinary excellence are addressed when they can watch how their meals are created.

The open kitchen concept enriches the dining experience while adding unique entertainment value. The popularity of television cooking shows and creation of celebrity chefs has supported its growth. Celebrity chefs draw to their flagship restaurants patrons who are interested in watching their food idols work in their own restaurants.[2] The kitchen becomes a theater for entertaining patrons who are fascinated with culinary concoctions and admire the skills of the chef and the staff.

Foods prepared in open kitchens may be healthier and of higher quality. A study by the Harvard Business School found that food prepared in restaurants where chefs and patrons can see each other rated highest in food quality and service.[3] Chefs appreciate the immediate positive feedback they receive from patrons who can see them in action in their kitchens.

In recent years, the open kitchen concept has been adopted by the fast casual market in chains such as Chipotle and Piada and quick-service restaurants such as Domino’s and Burger King. Fast casual’s interpretation of open kitchen can sometimes be more like a food assembly line, but customers enjoy watching how fresh ingredients are combined to create orders made according to their individual preferences.

What’s next in the evolution of the open kitchen concept? Puck recently opened the Wolfgang Puck Test Kitchen in his Pacific Design Center headquarters facility, a venue that seats only eight patrons at the chef’s counter adjacent to the kitchen.[4] Puck created the Test Kitchen to enable small groups to relish the evolution of his cuisine at its most experimental stage, giving patrons a ringside seat at the birth of new food sensations.

[1] See The Reach of a Chef: Professional Cooks in the Age of Celebrity, by Michael Ruhlman, 2007.

[2] “Open Kitchen Restaurants: Bane or Advantage?” Mise en Place Asia blog, Jan. 10, 2017. Available at: http://miseenplaceasia.com/open-kitchen-restaurants-bane-or-advantage/

[3] “Cooking with a View: Why Tastier Food Comes From Open Kitchens,” Fine Dining Lovers blog, March 26, 2015. Available at: https://www.finedininglovers.com/stories/open-kitchen-restaurants/

[4] “Inside Wolfgang Puck’s Most Ambitious Restaurant Yet,” by Adam Robb, Departures, Feb. 21, 2017. Available at: https://www.departures.com/travel/restaurants/wolfgang-puck-test-kitchen-west-hollywood

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