Dine at a Madison chef’s table

These four spots offer customized special menus, intimate views of the kitchen and chef interactions for small groups of people looking for a different way to appreciate cuisine.
david rodriguez serving wine at an event
Photo by Patrick Stutz
David Rodriguez created The International Chef's Table in Fitchburg.

Some Madison businesses develop special dining experiences through chef’s tables, a concept prevalent especially in larger cities. A traditional chef’s table allows diners to interact with the chef throughout a meal by having seating in or near the kitchen. In Madison, these four spots offer customized special menus, intimate views of the kitchen and chef interactions for small groups of people looking for a different way to appreciate cuisine.

Host With the Most
With his background in improv comedy, it’s no wonder that David Rodriguez, chef-owner of International Catering Co., enjoys hosting chef’s table experiences. “The ones that I’ve done, certainly it’s almost like dinner and a show,” Rodriguez says. He offers two chef’s table experiences; one is on his food truck, The International, where clients can choose a location and up to six guests to dine aboard the revamped bus. The other opportunity is at a new space in Fitchburg called The International Chef’s Table. Rodriguez recently launched the latter within a restored factory building originally built in the 1920s. As a collector of cars, Rodriguez initially imagined creating an automotive enthusiasts’ clubhouse, but as he settled into the space, he decided to make a unique dining experience with a chef’s table for 10. It remains a good place to see vintage vehicles from his personal collection and from his and his friends’ personal collections. Chef’s table diners cozy up to the table created from a huge slab of live-edge wood. In the truck at the Fitchburg location, Rodriguez creates custom menus or serves meals based on his high-end catering menus. To book: chef@international-madison.com, international-madison.com/booking

Meat the Chef
Celebrate in a classy way at Rare Steakhouse’s chef’s table. Whether it’s for a special business dinner or a family get-together, your experience will be tailored, says General Manager Mike Kull. Executive Chef TJ Borup creates multi-course menus — often featuring items not on Rare’s standard menu — depending on what guests want. Borup works with attendees in advance to learn about their preferences and any dietary restrictions they have. After the menu is set, the sommelier can also curate wine pairings to accompany the meal. “With all the interest with cooking shows this last year over the pandemic, people are much more interested in what goes into their food, I think, than they are in just what is the final presentation on the plate,” Kull says. Rare has offered this experience, which is limited to 12 people, since opening in 2014. Chef’s tables are typically available on weekdays as opposed to weekends so that Borup has more time to interact with the guests tableside through explanations on preparation, ingredients and what inspired the meal’s creation. To book: mike@raremadison.com, raresteaks.com/madison-chefs-table

Secluded Spaces
Multiple spaces at The Edgewater allow guests to choose their own dining experiences. For smaller, more specialized private dinners, two options are available at this downtown hotel: The Chef’s Table and Augie’s Table. Both are tucked away in secluded spaces on the seventh floor near The Statehouse, the hotel’s fine dining eatery. The Chef’s Table room has a long table with dark accents on the walls and mood lighting accommodating two to 18 guests. Diners can order from either The Statehouse menu or a curated limited menu, or they can collaborate with the executive chef to develop a tailored meal for the group. In the other space, Augie’s Table, up to eight people can enjoy meals from The Edgewater’s restaurants’ menus or custom menus. This cozy option is located in a room with two window-covered walls overlooking Lake Mendota. Both options aim to give guests privacy and comfort when entertaining. To book: theedgewater.com/meetings-events/plan-event/private-dining

A Kitchen View
Hidden in one corner of Cento is the Kitchen Table, an alcove that gives a different view than most see when dining at the West Mifflin Street Italian eatery. Unlike the main dining room, which is a big, open space, the Kitchen Table feels slightly removed, with guests facing the kitchen. The Kitchen Table hosts groups of two to six diners at this romantic spot. “The Kitchen Table offers you an up-close and exciting view of the kitchen and staff as they prepare your food as well as food for the entire dining room,” says General Manager Alexandra Essenburg. “Our talented chef gets to have some fun and use his creativity to cultivate an extra-special five-course meal.” Executive Chef Chris Myers builds each menu depending on what he’s inspired by every week, so it’s different all the time. Essenburg says he’ll also take into account dietary restrictions and preferences. Cento is known for its wine selection, so Kitchen Table diners have the option to add pairings for each course. Essenburg says the Kitchen Table is great for celebrations and for those interested in trying something new at Cento. To book: 608-284-9378

Maija Inveiss is an associate editor of Madison Magazine.

Footer that says Subscribe with covers of Madison Magazine