A Day In The Life Of…

18 Dec 2014
3 min read
Michael Franey is chef de cuisine at Nitehawk Cinema, New York City’s original cinema eatery.

The easiest way to describe what I do is that I work in a restaurant whose dining rooms are literally movie theatres. And I think that is the most special part of it, the movies. It forces me to constantly be creative with our menus and our service and to continue to try new things, new techniques and new ways to design new specials.


Every morning I make myself some coffee, maybe a quick breakfast, and read up on the notes from the previous night’s service. I will start to make a mental list of things to follow up on with my opening sous chef and prep team, my daytime porters and the people that we work with for maintenance of the restaurant. Once I get into Nitehawk, I will put on another pot of coffee, check in with my morning sous about orders – if they came in correctly, if we got shorted on anything and how we are doing on the prep list for that night’s service. I will go around to do a quick walk-through of the building, check on the state of cleanliness of the theatres, the back of the house, the bathrooms, hallways and follow up with the daytime porter on those issues. After that, I sit down and start to work on menus for upcoming special events, menu changes, or specials for upcoming first-run movies. The movie specials can sometimes be extremely easy, but more often than not, it’s a process that involves a lot of research looking for clues and cues from reviewers or blogs.


I will start to recipe test and throw ideas around with my sous chefs and the bar manager about how to pair up our specials. This is the best part of the day, getting out of the office and into the kitchen to work on new projects, as well as show my prep ladies new techniques and recipes. Once my closing sous chef gets in, I will go over any special events we have going on that night or any other notes regarding orders or prep lists for the next day and then help them start to get the line set up for service. The line cooks and servers start to roll in and I do an abbreviated version of the debrief with them as well.


The process for planning a Film Feast usually takes two months and begins with identifying people we want to work with, companies that offer something out of the box like we do. It could be a brewery, a distillery, another restaurant or a specialty food store such as Murray’s Cheese, whom we are already working with for our Romeo and Juliet Film Feast scheduled for February 2015. This step is really the most important one, finding the partner. If they embrace the process and the end product as much as we do, it’s immediately very special for everyone involved. After an initial meeting and picking a suitable film, we all break up, watch the movie independently and then circle back to meet with our notes. We select classic and new-classic films for our Film Feasts because people are already familiar with them and are usually passionate about them. It’s usually a specific scene, a mood, a line in the film that we are all drawn to. This is when the menu really starts to take shape. After this meeting, we finalise the menu. I’ll start to test recipes, finalise the timing structure for each course and refine the plating on the dishes. I can always tell from the initial meeting with the partnering company and the movie that we’ve chosen, if the event and the menu is going to be truly memorable.


Once service starts I will expo the main push and then start to wind down. I check in with the closing front of the house manager, leave notes for my overnight porter and check on the tidiness of the walk-ins and dry storage areas.

For more information, visitnitehawkcinema.com