Very often when I interview people for a job as a server, I am told that they have a "fine dining" experience. Surprisingly enough, there are no guidelines out there (or none that I can find) that define the "fine dining" concept. All the so called "definitions" are subjective and can be interpreted wrong. What makes a restaurant to qualify as "fine dining"? What is the concept of "fine dining"? Can a restaurant that serves tacos or hamburgers be considered as such due to a good service, or a classy ambiance?

I am trying to write a blog and come up with a real definition. Any personal input over this subject will be a great starting point for me. "Dining" is clear what it means by itself. "Fine" has many forms. If you ask somebody "How's your meal?" and they answer "Fine!" is not a good sign.

Just like a grape varietal can be called "noble" if followes certain guidelines, what makes dining in a restaurant "fine"? Is it the food? Is it the service? How about the ambiance? May be a combination of the three? And if that, what are the rules?

In my opinion, as a basic requirement, we need white table clothes, highly trained servers and state-of-the-art food. If so, what defines a state-of-the-art food?. Do we also need white gloves? Can we call a restaurant as being "fine dining" if it can seat 500 people in the same time, or there is a limitation?

If you have an answer to any of these questions, please, do tell.

Tags: atlanta, constantinescu, cuerno, dining, fine, food, harry, management, restaurant, server, More…sommelier, wine

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Good question. I remember being in a room with 500 restaurant executives and a bunch of analysts when one of them asked the learned panel to define quick casual. They all looked at each other and one said "not really sure. Maybe slightly better and slightly more expensive than fast food." Another attendee asked, "so how to define home meal replacement". One of the panelists said, "food eaten at home; take out basically." The attendee said " you mean like KFC? What's new about that?" Then an analyst said, "maybe you just know it when you see it".

I think fine dining is something special...a rare gift delivered by some of the most talented and professional FOH and BOH staff. It's expensive. It's fantastic and it's elegant. You feel regal and well fed. You feel pampered and special. You have an opportunity to relish in a world of tribute to food...and wine...and superior customer service. I define fine dining as a 5 course meal and a wine paring at Aqua in San Francisco, Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia, Le Bernadin in NYC, Daniel Restaurant, NYC, Auberge du Soleil
Rutherford, CA,, Julian Serrano's Picasso in Las Vegas. I live for fine dining...and a good hamburger too.

Cheers!
Excellent point, Michael. I am glad you mentioned the 5 course meal.
That brings on the table another question: Is it a requirement for fine dining a "prix fix" menu and what is the ideal number of courses you can offer in order to be considered fine dining? I know some restaurants offer up to 11 remarcably small courses.
Hi Harry, As the owner of a restaurant just down the road from you I can understand where you come from. Fine dining here in Atlanta is not the same as it is in NYC or Chicago, etc. I would say we only have 3 true fine dining restaurants here.... Bachanalia, Quinones Room, and The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton Buckhead. Everyone else is just saying they are. At VINE we may say we are approachable fine dining, yet we don't do white linen in the dining room except at the Chef's Table.

Another part of the issue is service staff. We do not have the career servers that many other cities have. Most here are young and /or in school which impedes training. Very few here say I want to excel at my craft and make a career of it.
David, I really appreciate your input. We used to have Seeger's also that was considered to be a fine dining, although in my opinion he brought the food to another level (true art). It was more a concept than a restaurant. Nikolai's Roof comes close indeed to a fine dining, however, they've started to alow the acces in the restaurant for men without a tie, which brings it to an "upscale casual" classification.
So, that being said, can we consider a fine dining restaurant an establishment where people can wear jeans or don't wear a tie?
Harry-

I only was at Nikolai's Roof twice and had a very bad experience with a waiter about the wine I ordered which he felt was "wrong" - it was not! He was rude and arrogant and it left a bad impression although the meal ws fine - to me, fine dining involves respect (on the part of the waitstaff) for the customer -
Fine dining to me is wine and water glasses super clean already on the table.
All coffee cups and plates to match
All servers wear clean uniforms
All servers are 100% knowlegeable about all the igredients in the prepared plate
The food is something that comes out higly decorated
The food has no flavor but you have to a sauce to it
The check is too high.
Not my kind of cuisine
Chef Maria Bell
The answer to this is one a lot of people are trying to figure out- just saw this recently-http://www.seriouseats.com/2007/06/serious-eats-overlord-cant-kee.html - the article paraphrases the architect David Rockwell as saying fine dining is "a two hour vacation from your life." It involves a high level of service - which is not stuffy or pretentious but professional, thorough, and caring. It involves well prepared cuisine - flavorful, with high quality ingredients, well executed.
Great discussion. I'm learning something here! Thanks.
Fine Dining
Just as the name implies, fine dining is used to describe a much more upscale restaurant, one that offers diners an elegant atmosphere with high quality service. The chefs in fine dining restaurants are usually professionally trained, and the food is fairly expensive, but worth it.

Just for fun here's the Urban Dictionary Definition:

1. fine dining establishment 31 up, 7 down
An overpriced restaurant with polyester tablecloths.

Actual "fine dining" restaurants rarely, if ever, call attention to themselves as such, just as a gentleman does not, by definition, call himself a gentleman.

Give-aways: excess text on the menu (see examples below), capitals on all restaurant-related terms, inflated prices, "house brands" of bottled water and similar, faux-luxe decor, cheap silverware, poor-quality ingredients in fussy recipe, abuse of any of the following: "oven-roasted" (never simply roasted), "sun-dried" (never simply dried), "French," "infused," &c, pretensions to internationalism despite solid Americanisms, like calling blue cheese or fromage bleu "bleu cheese."

Hallmarks of the service include having too many things done with you without your asking for them, such as removing the lid from ketchup bottles. They are normally pretentious, fussy, and ignorant about the food.
On the menu where "spaghetti" should be:

A delightlful Medley of oven-roasted vegetables in a basil-infused tomato reduction Sauce, topping hand-crafted Durum Wheat pasta cooked to Perfection. Offered with Premium parmesan, hand-grated by your Server. $29.95

In the advertising:

Oilivierio's offers a Fine Dining Establishment for your pleasure. Located in (some chain hotel). Chef Antonio Italianobut Bornintorontonio takes pride in the variety of Gourmet dishes he has created. Come and enjoy a meal at Olivierio's today with the $2-off coupon in your ValPak coupon circular to discover the soul of Italy -- right here in Bells Corners!
I laughed so hard at that description when I first saw it. Probably the guy that wrote that he had a bad experience in a low end restaurant that they pretended to be fine dining. I bet you he never tried a true fine dining ever... "..removing the lid from ketchup bottles.."???. First at all there isn't supposed to be any salt and pepper shackers in a fine dining, let alone the ketchup. That is just a huge insult to the chef, to ask for that. I am just trying to write an article about what the REAL fine dining is. Descriptions like the one from Urban Dictionary are made by "wannabe" foodies that just got out of MacDonalds and want to try something else.

For me fine dining experience is (just a few common guidelines):
-valet parking
-host(ess)
-reservation ONLY
-top of the market silverware, glassware, etc
-best in the world service, wine list, cuisine
-professional servers, polite, able to have a polite inteligent conversation regarding the topic
-you are there to be served not adviced or contradicted, unless you asked for.
-price is not an issue
-...

The reminding of this list is still to be polished, according to the ideas I will get from this discussion...
generally, small independent chef-owned restaurants still make up the bulk of fine dining but some have become famous - Thomas Keller, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and with fame comes enterprises which separate them from their small entrepreneurial start-
I guess that the "fine dining" concept is totally different if we consider the New World and the Old World as main chapters. That is a great starting point! Love your input.

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