Saturday, June 8, 2024
Home Places Meet & Eat Dave Marken Packs a Punch at What's the Kitch?

Dave Marken Packs a Punch at What’s the Kitch?

By M+E Staff

“[What’s the Kitch’s] concept was actually born out of the small plate concept. Tasting menus were all the rage, and it really resonated with us as an experience that really was unmatched by any other dining experience. We tested our concept for over a year before launching and took even a further step—making the small plate into the small bite—which defined who we were and allowed us to stand out. I think what sets them apart from other apps is we are a tad daring in what we offer at what are called ‘highend events.’

“The mac and cheese egg roll is one of our biggest hits—it’s so basic in theory but our preparation, seasoning and chic presentation help make it stand out. We make a mini Cuban sandwich, which we call Havana Heaven. Instead of sliced pork, we braise pork shoulder for 24 hours in a mix of 26 different seasonings. And then we add spicy British mustard. When people tell us it’s the best Cuban they have ever tasted, it’s a validation of how combining flavors that usually wouldn’t be found together truly can transform a bite.”

“My personal favorite is the Amarillo slider with guac, roasted poblano pepper, blue corn tortilla chips, melted pepper jack cheese and jalapeño ketchup. We beta test or ‘beta taste’ everything first many times before adding it to the menu. I absolutely knew this was a great burger, but I also knew it was missing something. We tried a few things before landing on the jalapeño ketchup. I was skeptical to even try it as ketchup and guacamole are two tastes I didn’t think belonged with one another. Yet they were an amazing partner to one another on this bite. Blending ingredients together that you wouldn’t think would work has been a key to our biggest successes.

“We love finding new recipes more than anything. When we have a rare day without an event—I and our other executive chef Jeff [Langelli] will have kitchen experiment days where we will try out 20 new ideas we’ve come up with over the last month or so. … It’s quite entertaining when you think your brilliant idea will be revolutionary and it ends up tasting or looking horrific.”

“We focus more on the innovative drink stations. Our adult hot chocolate bar is very popular in the winter months. We have a DIY sangria bar where you essentially make your own sangria exactly how you want it. We also like to use fire and ice in our presentations. People really enjoy getting a cocktail that looks like it just came out of a secret lab as it bubbles out ‘smoke’ because we put a dry ice pellet in the bottom of the glass. When we serve Baileys under a marshmallow that’s currently on fire—it adds a lot of theatrics to something that is typically basic in its own form. We like to add a sense of entertainment and fun to everything we do.”

“When we first started, we were offering very standard but fancy looking cheese and charcuterie boards. They continued to grow in scope, and one day Natasha [Matallana], who is the visual genius behind our company, thought she could change it a bit. So she made a small Grazing Table, and it was a hit. Then she made another one, and it got a bit bigger and fuller, and another and another to the point we have done now 24-foot Grazing Tables and a double-tier, 10-foot Grazing Table. Of course it’s delicious, but it’s also a conversation piece.

“A sampling of what it includes: hand-sliced, imported cured meats such as serrano ham, sopressata, fellino salami, etc. Many cheeses from aged sharp white cheddar (never yellow), goat cheese, manchego, and triple whipped creamy brie rounds topped with a raspberry reduction and fresh raspberries. Tricolor carrots, purple cauliflower, pan flashed asparagus, house-made hummus with everything seed and honey on top (it’s a hummus hater converter), lots of fruits including star fruit, dragon fruit, radish watermelons, figs, etc. Also has dried fruit, nuts, fresh baked breads, artisan crackers, chutneys, dips, sweet treats, yogurt pretzels, pink Himalayan-salted popcorn.”

Chef Stations
“The standard buffet is old and tired—to us. No disrespect to the buffet as I recently did some major damage at one in Las Vegas! Also, Jeff and I grew up as best friends, and our favorite place to eat was the local Chinese buffet. So we get it— they have a very important place in the world, we just thought let’s do it different. We like fresh food. Even if it’s a taco—I want it made right there and then, not sitting in a chafer for hours. People really enjoy seeing a waffle come right off the griddle, or a dish of paella made how they want it pan tossed right in front of them.”