There’s no shortage of world-class gastronomy in Napa Valley, but an exciting, new culinary offering from The CIA at Copia takes the seriousness and pretension out of fine dining. Le Petit Chef™ is a one-of-a-kind, 3D dining experience inspired by Marco Polo’s legendary travels along the Silk Road — and it’s unlike any dinner you’ll have in Wine Country, let alone the entire West Coast of America. From an inspiring, multicultural menu to the use of highly innovative technology, here are 10 reasons why your inner foodie won’t want to miss it.
If you associate Marco Polo more with the popular swimming pool game than his actual place in history, you’re likely not alone. The good news: this educational experience isn’t like any history class you’ve ever taken. Le Petit Chef is an immersive, entertaining dining event that utilizes cutting-edge technology — plus delicious, flavor-packed food — to teach you all about Marco Polo and his incredible travels along the Great Silk Road, known as a system of trade routes that ran between the Mediterranean and China. But more than that, Le Petit Chef is a lesson in the diversity of cultures. At the time (the 1200s), Polo went further than anyone had gone before. He was an inspiration to future great explorers like Henry the Navigator and Columbus, and his story, as told through Le Petit Chef, will no doubt inspire others to get out and see the world, too.
This isn’t your boring double decker bus tour. A tiny and very funny Frenchman named Le Petit Chef — who sounds like a Minion or Alvin of Alvin and the Chipmunks — is a five-star tour guide, bravely following in Marco Polo’s footsteps by sailing stormy seas, flying away from hungry camels, and barely escaping death by fire-breathing dragon, all while his passengers laugh along every step of the way.
Go to any fine dining or Michelin-starred restaurant and, while you may get to indulge in multiple courses of food, they will likely all be focused on a single cuisine. But during Le Petit Chef, each course is inspired by a different country that Marco Polo visited along his travels. While Polo’s real journey took 24 years, this two-hour exploration takes each food lover overseas to discover the cuisine of Marseille, Arabia, India, Himalaya, and China.
It wouldn’t be a proper Napa Valley dinner without wine and Le Petit Chef has the option of adding a wine pairing to each course. Sticking with the theme, even the wine goes global and doesn’t focus solely on local Napa Valley producers, meaning it’s a chance to try a tasty wine from a region you’ve possibly never experienced before. The menu showcases a range of varietals — like riesling and pinot noir — from California to Hungary and in between.
A melt-in-you-mouth duck liver amuse bouche sets the stage for six memorable courses. Experience traditional dishes from each country, like falafel and vegetable tagine in Arabia and duck two ways (roasted breast and braised thigh) in China. For the finale, inspiration from all of the travels comes together to create a fabulous dessert. It’s The Culinary Institute of America, so of course they cook to impress.
Le Petit Chef offers a cutting-edge restaurant experience, which comes to life via state-of-the-art 3D technology and visual storytelling by the world-renowned artists of Skullmapping™ and TableMation™. What this means is that Marco Polo’s travels are literally brought to life using incredibly vivid animation that washes across the walls and tables of the dining room, transporting guests across the world and firing up all of their senses at once. It’s as close as one can get to feeling the hot sands of the Arabian desert between their toes or smelling the multi-colored spices of India without actually being there.
Don’t worry, this isn’t like a Disney attraction where random people are brought up on stage as stunt doubles in front of a crowd of people. Le Petit Chef simply introduces several immersive opportunities for diners to do more than just chow down on the food. Without giving anything away, they implement tools to encourage discussions and reflection on the experience as it’s happening — plus there’s one big surprise that’s guaranteed to have everyone “Oohing” and “Ahhing”. Tip: Have the video setting on your phone ready when you reach Himalaya.
This experience is not recommended for children under 12, but young adults and budding foodies will definitely get a kick out of the dinner, so long as they’re not terribly picky eaters. [Note: Le Petit Chef cannot accommodate all dietary restrictions or special requests]. It’s sure to introduce them to parts of the world they’ve likely never traveled to and leave them with a thirst for adventure.
There are a lot of amazing dining options to choose from throughout Napa Valley but none of them are anything like this, combining fantastic food with wonderful entertainment and innovative technology. The CIA at Copia has exclusive rights to this program on the West Coast through December 31, 2019 and it cannot be replicated by anyone else before then.
The CIA at Copia is centrally located in downtown Napa’s buzzing Oxbow district, so you may as well head down earlier in the day to explore everything the area has to offer, from the Oxbow Public Market to wine tasting rooms, breweries, and gourmet restaurants. You could even spend the better part of the day right at The CIA at Copia. Book a hands-on cooking class in their stadium-sized teaching kitchen and explore the Chuck Williams Culinary Arts Museum (free to the public). Happy hour at The Restaurant at CIA Copia is offered daily from 4 – 6pm, so you can grab a cocktail or two before your 3D dining adventure begins. If you choose to stay the night, the Westin Verasa Napa is just a short walk away, making for a restful way to end a night of indulging your foodie dreams.
Le Petit Chef is available by reservation Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Nights at 6 PM through December 31, 2019. Cost is $140 per person (pre-paid) with $50 addition for the optional wine pairing.
Images courtesy of The CIA at Copia / Anne Girvin