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Business

Waystead Inn: where guests can design their own menus

5/22/14 | By Josh Davis, Staff Writer

BERLIN– Waystead Inn chef Mark Kauffman is inviting guests to participate in a “food fantasy camp.”

Kauffman recently began offering dinners at the historic inn based on menus designed by customers.

“We used to do Wednesday dinners and we’d advertise in the paper a week in advance,” he said. “In the old model people could look in the paper on a Thursday and would have to call by Tuesday to make a reservation.

“We’re not a restaurant so we have zero inventory as far as food is concerned except for the breakfast,” Kauffman continued. “Any time we planned a Wednesday dinner, the menu was planned and we would buy the food on a Monday or a Tuesday and base it on how many people had a reservation.”

The chef wanted to move away from the old model, opting instead to offer guests what they would like to eat as opposed to “what we think they want.”

“When you go into a restaurant like the Atlantic Hotel or Si’culi they have a menu and you can choose from all sorts of things,” Kauffman said. “The problem with what we had been doing is it doesn’t give people the opportunity, in my mind, to say what they want. We all have food fantasies and yens – we wake up in the morning and say, ‘I want to start dinner tonight with dessert and then go to soup and then nuts – I want to do it backwards.’ Or, ‘I want steak’ or ‘I want lobster.’ If you are a person who enjoys food or wine you’re going to run out of options around here.”

Kauffman trained at the Lion d’Or in Washington, D.C. in the 1970’s, once considered the District’s best French restaurant, as well as in the French Riviera in the 1980s.

“I come from the old school of learning the classics – the basic techniques for cooking,” he said. “If you don’t have the basics then you don’t have any business being in a restaurant kitchen. I like things done simply – I like to be able to taste a steak or the chicken or the fish or whatever, and just treat that with respect and not a lot of frou-frou.”

Kauffman said the limited number of Berlin restaurants and the restricted dining options previously offered at the Waystead Inn forced many customers to travel to other places to satisfy their food cravings.

“The answer is – call me,” he said. “I’m a French-trained chef; I can make just about anything you can imagine and some of the stuff you can’t imagine. So I’m trying to turn the tables on potential guests and customers to decide what they’d like to have, and then call me and consider me their private chef.”

Guests who call a week in advance can design a menu for between two and 20 friends. Kauffman will negotiate a price, source his ingredients and email a preliminary menu. A deposit is required.

“Based on what you want I can give you a reasonable price,” he said. “Obviously if you want steak it’s not going to be $19 per person.”

Beer and wine are also available during the dinner; the Waystead Inn does not, however, have a liquor license.

“I want to give people the opportunity to think of dining out in a nice place at their initiation with their preferences rather than mine,” Kauffman said. The chef said he’s placed no restrictions on ingredients. “If I can get it, I’ll make it,” he said. “It may take me a couple of weeks to find something like ostrich, but I can get it.”

“Ideally what you want to do is try it out once and then realize that they can call the shots as far as when and what they would like to do for dinner or lunch,” Kauffman continued. It’s simply turning the tables in the sense that they have the option; instead of me making the menu, you make the menu. For a lot of people it’s a completely new experience. If you’ve got a fantasy, give me a call and I can make it come true.”

For more information call 443-856-4755 or visit www.waysteadinn.com.

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