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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Eddie Lau Talks About Dux

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 12:00 PM

click to enlarge Summit (and Dux) chef Eddie Lau. - MEIGAN CANFIELD
  • Meigan Canfield
  • Summit (and Dux) chef Eddie Lau.

Eddie Lau made a name for himself in the San Francisco food scene as a forthright, witty blogger before becoming chef of the Summit last fall. He's been supplementing his work at the cafe by hosting a series of elaborate, experimental dinners called Dux, which I reviewed in the paper this week. Before I filed the review, I spoke to Lau about why he was covering bitter melon in chocolate and steaming egg whites with lobster.

SFoodie: First off, how did Dux come about?

Lau: It was something I had been planning for a year and half -- really, the idea for at-the-table seating came from what José Andrés does at Minibar in DC, but not as modernist or molecular-gatstronomy oriented. So I always had the idea to do something intimate, different, and partially educational at the Summit's bar.

With Dux, it seems like you're doing a lot with a limited setup. Do you have a lot more high-tech equipment in back?

Everything's done in the prep area, and then finished on portable equipment. It's really all about focusing in on those eight diners at the bar and their dining experience over the course of two hours. Everything is timed out to make sure it comes out right.

Just recently, I saw that Saison went from 40-something seats to 18. I could see why they were doing that -- it was just about the diners' experience. Unfortunately, tailoring a great experience or doing something different doesn't mean that you make much money at all. But I've always approached Dux like an art project.

What do you mean by "art project"?

So with Dux, there's always been different things I want to do under the name -- all these little projects that aren't just that sit-down, 8-seat dinner. Another one of our projects is to work with two professional photographers on different series of chef's knives and equipment. We're doing the last round of shooting in December, and once that's done, I'm hoping to have an art opening at the Summit. I want to create something a little more cerebral, more all-encompassing that focuses on different aspects of food.

How long do you take to develop the dishes for each Dux series?

Generally a few months. The first, all-duck dinner included a lot of dishes I had ben playing around with for over a year. As we've progressed, I've spent a few weeks making sure dishes were tested properly and choosing dishes that fit the storyline for each series.

Are you thinking of expanding the dinners at all?

Obviously, having a full-service restaurant would be great. Unbeileveable. At the same time, having a restaurant means you might not be able to push the same way as you would with a popup or these casual dinners. So I'm careful not to call Dux a restaurant. I want to consistently do things that probably net no reward. There need to be more [food venues] out there that push the boundaries and show people interesting flavors outside the common dining spectrum.

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Jonathan Kauffman


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