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Chef's Perspective: The Shift Collection

Shift at Dialogue

Our relationship with chef Dave Beran goes back to his time at Alinea and Next Restaurant. In a conversation with him, we discovered he chose our Shift collection for his new restaurant, Dialogue. The Shift collection evolved from an idea of food transforming the plate, causing an asymmetric tectonic interaction. We were interested in chef Beran’s thoughts on selecting this collection. In his post below, he considers the question, “How do we plate a course that shows movement...?

Chef's Perspective: The Shift Collection
by Dave Beran

My first “meeting” with Martin, or at least his work, was when I saw the hibiscus dish at Trio. I remember thinking, “this isn’t a plate, this is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.”  

My second experience was watching an old interview with Grant Achatz talking about breaking the monotony of dining – speaking in reference to Antenna.  Everything seemed foreign, yet logical. Why hadn’t anyone approached plates with the same philosophy the progressive chefs were approaching food? That’s where Martin stepped in and changed the game.

I started working at Alinea back in 2006 where I finally met Martin and got to work with some of his pieces. The food was different than any I had ever seen, yet somehow, everything was focused and intentional. A perfect potato sphere and garnishes sat atop a tiny pin, suspended over a bowl or a pureed soup of the same flavors. In my wildest dreams as a young cook I couldn’t dream up ideas like this or ways to present it.

I spent the next ten years with the Alinea group and became friends with Martin. Over the past 4 years I have worked closely with him, especially in the design at Next and the Bocuse d’Or service pieces. I have always been impressed by his ability to translate a wild idea into a tangible good. Every discussion begins with the question “what is the purpose of this?” Then, typically, a lot of awkward pauses, a couple mistimed jokes, and ultimately a few profound words that begin the discussion. He always asks the right questions and offers a far different perspective.

Now, I am in the process of opening my first restaurant, Dialogue. As a chef, we always have a desire to find the balance between the plate and the course. They can’t compete. There must be a balance. Menu development coincides with the search for the perfect plate for each course.

For our opening course, we were in search of a large, white plate. The course - a scallion, peanut, and caviar dish - is built to resemble a tree lying flat on the plate.  The course pushes the focal point off center, having scallions laid out to one side extending off the plate as though they are growing and reaching away from the guest. The purpose is both to establish the negative space and to create a sense of movement.

Immediately, I thought of a plate Martin had been working on during my tenure at Next: Shift. It was a plate that did exactly what I was trying to do with the food.  The plate almost leaned to one side, allowing the food to grow up the edge, creating a non-literal center. Shift gave us a sense of weight and depth to one side allowing us to “grow” the course off into the distance.

As with anything Martin designs, he had asked the questions we were just starting to consider. How do we make a course that draws a guest’s eyes off center?  How do we plate a course that shows movement and makes the guest look toward the negative space? It was more than just shifting the center of the food on the plate, it was shifting the center of the plate and allowing the food to grow around it.

Shift was the first plate we chose for our restaurant. Stylistically, my food walks the line of classic and modern, and I am always looking for versatility in a plate. Shift was just that, a timeless white, round plate that offsets perspective by changing the focal point of the dish. Rimmed on one side with an unending plane that drifts off on the other. These were the best of both worlds, the hint of a rim alluded to the classic simple round while still presenting a modern aesthetic.  

With the creativity and ingenuity of all Crucial Detail pieces, there is always a focus on functionality and purpose. Shift is a great example of that: personality while focusing on being functional and unique. These will become a staple in the catalogue of plates at Dialogue.


Dialogue is an intimate 18 seat restaurant in Santa Monica. Guests should expect an immersive experience that plays to all of the senses.

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