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This was the question asked at the Commonwealth Club last night to four James Beard Award Winners witnessed by a sold out crowd.  It was my first time at the Commonwealth Club, but a place that I’ve wanted to check out for some time. From the ‘Philosophy of Yoga’ to ‘James Beard Winners’ to ‘Gavin Newsom’, the club brings in “experts” speaking on topics that can appeal to all kinds and interests, multiple times a week.  While you can become a member and be included in other events and get discounted speaker tickets, you can also pay a little more and check out whatever tickles your fancy.

My fancy was tickled by two Chefs, one architect/designer and one author, moderated by a well-known blogger/author, coming together to discuss their insider take on what they think puts one restaurant on top of the next.  When walking into the venue, we were asked for our outsider take on what is the key ingredient to a great restaurant.  So, I ask you…

No doubt, the premise of the evening was attention-grabbing with a hint of mystique.  Restaurants, especially great ones, have a certain enigma attached to them, and it’s this magnetism and magical energy that hooked me on the industry.  I bet you’re on the edge of your chair at this point waiting for me to unveil the million dollar answer.  Well, friends, I’m afraid that by revealing the answer, the sexy restaurant enigma would be diminished.  Besides, I paid $25 to get the answer.  So, if you’re dying to know, simply send me $20 ($5 discount since it’s not coming straight from the source) in a self-addressed envelope to Emily Doan at…

Okay, put your wallets away.  I’m afraid to say that, while four perspectives were heard last night, they didn’t answer the BIG question.  The panel lacked a bit of substance and we all can agree that a panel discussion often is a format that runs shy on payoff.  Being left without an answer, however, can’t be blamed on this distinguished panel.

My question to you is, can this question really be answered?? If so, everyone would have a ‘great’ restaurant!  Talk about the depletion of ‘star quality.’  Moreover, do we really want to hear the answer??  Facts stand in the way of mystique and mystique drives each one of us to a Saturday night out at the newest hot spot where we eat, drink, socialize and feel special for a few hours. I tend to think that feeling special has to do with captivating all of our senses in 90 minutes, plus the company that we share and someone taking care us (thank you, servers!).  I guess it’s the full package, an ‘experience,’ if you will. Could that be the answer??

Well, I like to think I know the answer to this question.  After all, I’m working on opening my own place and I want it to be great.  I’m sewing a web of energy, mystery and magic that I will place ever so conspicuously in the doorway so you won’t know what hit you.  If you indeed hit my web and it strikes you, you can tell me, at that time, what makes a restaurant great (did I mention fairy dust??).  Until then, let’s eat, drink, be merry and relish in the mystique that hooks us.