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NYC's Telepan restaurant.
I’m always game to have a chef cook for me when I’m at a restaurant. But when it comes to putting my trust in the server to help navigate my meal, I become wary. There is no greater disappointment than being let down after ordering what you've been assured beyond reason is the restaurant’s not-to-be-missed dish instead of your gut order. So I’m truly impressed when my server can not only orchestrate the perfect order, but also do so with contagious enthusiasm. The other night, I was at the great Upper West Side restaurant Telepan. The dining room caters to a sophisticated uptown crowd and isn’t the type of setting where you expect your server to describe a dish as “stupid-silly good comfort food,” but ours did just that. How could I not order the “Southern-style” croque madame after that kind of outburst? Our server, Jeffrey Greene, has known chef Bill Telepan since Telepan's days as a sous chef at Gotham Bar & Grill and he has been at Telepan nearly since it’s opening. Greene had a story to share for practically every dish we asked about ("Chef dislikes saffron, so he uses an herb oil in its place for the spring paella"). And his every suggestion was spot-on, including the dubious-sounding pea pancakes, which he described as "the essence of Spring," served with wild mushrooms, pea agnolotti and spring vegetables (it turned out to be my favorite dish of the night). So I'm giving a quick shout-out to food-obssessive servers like Jeffrey, who help make a good dining experience great by sharing their passion for their chef's food.