It is normal to hate Mondays. It is not normal to be at State & Lemp on the second Monday in November.
The restaurant is closed for new-menu tasting. And filled with hate.
Four chefs work near a stove with boiling pots. They wear aprons. And evil grins.
Dicing and stirring, shoulder to shoulder, they banter as they cook. They confess food phobias. They gripe about culinary trends. They unleash edicts about even and odd numbers.
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It’s that wonderful time of year: Hatesgiving.
“Like if you had a bowl of pasta, four meatballs looks stupid,” pastry chef Michelle Kwak announces. “Three meatballs looks better than four meatballs. And five meatballs is even better, because it’s more meatballs.”
“I hate salmon,” co-owner Remi McManus declares. “Terrible!”
“The pumpkin spice latte thing — I get why people like it,” chef Kris Komori says. “But ... sometimes people obsess about it. It’s just, like, let it go.”
Focused with heads down, the chefs assemble test versions of the restaurant’s latest prix-fixe menu. It will debut two days later and be served through November. Officially, the seven-course meal is nameless. It’s the 107th menu launched at Boise’s most ambitiously creative fine-dining restaurant, opened at 2870 W. State St. just over four years ago.
Fondly, this food is known as Hatesgiving. Every dish was concocted from a “hate list.” Each member of the State & Lemp team contributed, whether it was despised ingredients or culinary pet peeves.
Komori, 34, was nominated as a James Beard Award semifinalist in 2016 and 2017. At State & Lemp, Hatesgiving is a fun, challenging exercise in keeping the restaurant at the top of its game.
“It’s pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone a little bit,” Komori says. “It’s actually really great. ... You look at this thing that you thought you hated, and you see it in a different light.”
Hatesgiving is not actually served on Thanksgiving Day. State & Lemp will be closed for the holiday. That’s one of the tongue-in-cheek seeds of hate that started this recent tradition.
“Everyone asks us if we’re going to have a Thanksgiving menu,” Komori says. “For us it was, we’re not going to do Thanksgiving. We’ll do the complete opposite of Thanksgiving.”
“I’ll get five calls tomorrow,” McManus adds, chuckling. “ ‘Are you guys open for Thanksgiving?’ What? No, we’re not open for Thanksgiving! Or ‘What are you guys doing for Christmas?’ And we’re hanging out with our families!”
Dining at State & Lemp can feel like joining a new family. The small room seats 22 diners, who share a set, fixed-price menu ($80). Meals are served in courses at what amounts to one long table.
When Hatesgiving debuted in 2016, it was a hit. As servers explained the concept to unsuspecting guests, it became a conversation piece. Who doesn’t remember being a kid at the table and loathing something?
“The experience dining here is getting to know your neighbors a little bit and having that shared experience,” Komori says. “Within the context of this Hatesgiving thing, people inevitably start talking about things they don’t like. It is really cool.”
The beauty about enjoying a Hatesgiving meal? If you aren’t privy to its inspiration, you’ll never realize you have a belly full of hate. The State & Lemp crew spends hours creating and fine-tuning each dish.
“We had a sauce last year that was black olives, liver and blue cheese all mixed together,” Komori says, smiling. “And it sounds really disgusting, but it was good!”
This year’s hate list included more than 30 entries, which Komori compiled in a spreadsheet.
“It actually took most of us a while to even come up with things,” he says. “You don’t really think about it that often.”
He grins toward Kwak, who is working in a corner of the kitchen.
“... Then Michelle’s got a list of like a dozen things.”
She tilts her head back in agony. “So much hate,” she groans as the kitchen fills with laughter. “SO MUCH HATE!”
The rage at State & Lemp varies wildly — from lamb tongue and “sh**ty whiskey” to radial symmetry and food trends.
“Remi also hates diagonal plating,” Kwak says cheerfully, setting down a dessert, “which is why this is going diagonally.”
The State & Lemp team gathers around her, using spoons to devour Kwak’s rich, phenomenal creation. She calls it a Mondae. (Remember, everyone hates Monday.) It was inspired by a food trend Komori noticed in Portland: sundaes.
Bonus: A Mondae also contains sunchoke ice cream and sunchoke chips.
“People hate being gassy,” Kwak says, “And sunchoke is known for making people gassy.
“You’re going to experience it a little bit,” she warns.
(Totally worth the risk. Mondaes rule!)
Taking chances is part of life at State & Lemp. Failed experiments are dismissed with a smile. Komori’s eyes dance like a mad scientist’s when he explains a State & Lemp kitchen game called “Is it Good or is it Gross?”
“You announce it like it’s a game show,” he says, raising his voice. “Is it goooood? Or is it grooooss? And everybody has to try it. And if we even get one gross, then usually the game is over.”
This would seem to disqualify any salmon dish at State & Lemp. Since a co-owner loathes it?
“I mean, I hate salmon,” McManus explains enthusiastically. “I think it was just years in restaurants and seeing it cooked so many times and just being filthy and stinky and worm-ridden.”
The kitchen erupts in laughter.
(Don’t worry: Salmon makes the menu at State & Lemp sometimes — just not this Hatesgiving.)
Like all good holiday stories, Hatesgiving has a happy ending. Customers walk away enlightened and entertained. Chefs go through the process of reimagining ingredients, rediscovering them in fresh ways.
And everyone has boring ol’ turkey at home on Thanksgiving Day.
“I’ll try a little bit,” he says, smiling. “A little bit of the dark meat.”
“Even on Thanksgiving, I get stuck cooking all day, right?” he continues, chuckling. “It’s fine. My comfort zone is in the kitchen, anyway.
“But my favorite Thanksgiving dish is the leftover sandwich the next day.”
• • •
State & Lemp
You know what you’re really gonna hate? Unless there’s a late cancellation, Hatesgiving is pretty much sold out. State & Lemp tends to be booked about two weeks in advance. But here’s the scoop on dining in the future.
Address: 2870 W. State St., Boise
Hours: Seatings at 7 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; seatings at 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturdays. Parties taken on Mondays and Tuesdays. During December, seatings on Fridays change to 6:30 and 9 p.m. Reservations required for all seatings, and can be done online.
Price: The prix-fixe menu is $80 per person; additional $30 for wine pairing; tax and gratuity not included in price.
Opened: October 2013
2017 Hatesgiving menu
Freekeh. Dill. Egg. Cucumber.
Shrimp. Mandarin. Sage. Coffee.
Teriyaki. Quince. Celery.
Persimmon. Brussels Sprout. Tobacco.
Chocolate. Malt. Sunchoke. Almond.