If you’re familiar with the New York fine dining scene, you know that it always helps--and sometimes is even essential--to know somebody “on the inside”. Whether it’s getting access to otherwise inaccessible reservation times, or receiving perks such as good seating, gratis dishes, and other compliments of the chef, having an inside connection will improve your experience at any restaurant, while turning you into a V.I.P. But it's not always easy to make those connections and break into the world of preferential treatment. At many restaurants, it's impossible to even get seated unless you know someone, let alone any additional perks. For the average diner, the V.I.P. experience isn't all too common.
Well, now there’s an app for that. I Know The Chef gives you instant access to the privileges of the well-connected. Creator Joshua Stern, a graduate of Boston University’s School of Hospitality, has brought the often intangible, difficulty cultivated connections of the elite to the consumer.
Here’s how it works: once you sign up for the I Know The Chef, you have instant access to reservations at over 60 hot restaurants. A dynamic, user-friendly layout allows you to pick a cuisine and a time, and you’re booked at a vetted eatery in two swipes of an IPhone screen.
In this respect, I Know The Chef functions like a friend who always has the hook up, available 24/7 to pull strings in your favor. However, unlike that friend, or even the typical concierge service, the app is virtually instant. That shouldn’t be mistaken for automated, though: Stern is always open to accepting requests and getting hands-on when securing service for his clients. On this matter, he told us a story about receiving a request for a 6:30pm reservation at NoHo sushi bar Bond St; he personally called the restaurant to make the reservation. He was initially turned down, but when he mentioned that he knew the GM and the owner, a 6:30pm spot magically appeared. The client was able to enjoy his meal thanks to the connections afforded him by I Know The Chef.
Another part of the I Know The Chef deal is the special service given during the meal. Advantages include preferential seating and complimentary extras like appetizers, desserts, and champagne. The definition of “special treatment” varies by restaurant: each is free to create their own V.I.P. experience. I Know The Chef doesn’t pay restaurants for the perks, and they don’t pay him to be listed. “We’re cultivating relationships...not contractual obligations”, Stern said.
For a number of reasons, restaurants have been happy to work with I Know The Chef. One of those reasons is the customizable function of the app. As part of the signup process, users list their preferences when it comes to various aspects of the dining experience. This allows the app to know, for instance, what type of wine the diner prefers, or whether they would rather be seated by a window or in the middle of the action on the floor. This information is available to the restaurant before the diner even arrives, allowing them to tailor the meal and the atmosphere to the diner’s preferences. That sort of custom service harkens back to the old school of restaurant hospitality, now enabled by new technology.
Yet another function of I Know The Chef will extend beyond the individual dining experience. Stern has been organizing regular events for I Know The Chef members, to serve as the foundation for a community of like-minded people. Undoubtedly, this could be a way to make your own connections, to complement the ones available through the app.
I Know The Chef is currently available at the App Store. A quarterly subscription will run you $59.99, and an annual subscription is available for $200.00. If you want to test it out before committing to either of those options, I Know The Chef also offers a 10-Day Trial for $19.99.