Critics Hail Dana's Bytes As "Restaurant of the Future", But Protesters Mar Grand Openng

Inside the gates of Lambert Ridge Winery in Healdsburg this weekend, the lucky 25 people who finagled their way to the grand opening of Dana's Bytes - the most anticipated new American restaurant of 2015 - were marveling at its delicious food, its conviviality and its innovative concept that does not employ servers, sommeliers, busers, or even dishwashers. 

Outside however, more than 200 servers, soms, busers and dishwashers were staging a loud - and at times even vitriolic protest - fearing the new restaurant of Boulevard's chef de cuisine Dana Younkin would so revolutionize the restaurant industry they would soon be standing not on the kitchen firing line, but rather in the unemployment line. 

As patrons filed in, dozens of dishwashers loudly chanted  "You've got a date with an unclean plate" and scores more servers yelled  "Dana's bytes will not delight"  Sonoma County Sheriff's were on hand to keep the peace, but six protesters were arrested on disorderly conduct and failure to disperse charges.

"They have wiped out the entire front of the house," said Alysabeth Alexander, vice president of politics for SEIU 1021, a service employees union local for San Francisco. "Maybe it's good thing. They will see how much service employees will be missed."

But, no one seemed to be missing the front of the house at Dana Bytes. In fact, the mood on the sloping yard inside the winery could not have been more celebratory. Fortunate diners simply approached chef Dana as she was cutting a prime rib of Thompson River Ranch beef, sliced off a gloriously marbled piece and - while still on the knife - handed it to the nearly salivating crowd

Diners, glasses of wine in hand, mingled about like they were at a terrific house party rather than a restaurant, stopping by the outdoor kitchen island where Younkin, assisted by Nancy Oakes and Nancy Silverton, handed out the superb beef as well as Maine lobster claws and lamb chops cut from a rack, all finished off in two wood burning ovens behind them.

Platters of morels, asparagus and "day-dug" potatoes were laid out on the kitchen island.

Nancy Silverton, who provided to mozzarella-based  appetizers for the opening,   said this is the way she's been eating for years.

"I love this way to eat. standing up in a kitchen or before a outdoor grill, giving out bites to friends," said Silverton. "I'm glad somebody is finally taking it to the public. I am going to open a similar place in the Green Meadows area of Los Angeles. "

With San Francisco's minimum wage set at $12.25 an hour and set to go $15 per hour on July 1,  2018, many restaurants analyze predicted more restaurant would be going to the Dana's Bytes format which has already come to be known as "Goin' Younkin"

"I think at my next restaurant I might be Goin' Younkin," said Dominique Crenn, of San Francisco revered Atelier Crenn. "I think at certain restaurants there will always be a need for the front of the house, But, at others, like at Dana's Bytes, they may not. We are constantly hearing about farm-to-table. Why not from the chef's hand-to-the-diner's mouth?"

Jessica Sweedler, chief development officer of Meals on Wheels of San Francisco who was at the opening of Dana's Bytes, said she was considering ways to implement the Goin' Younkin format into the organizations fight against the neglect and malnutrition of seniors.

"I can envision chefs all over town knocking on doors and handing delicious - and nutritional  - bites to our seniors," said Sweedler as she stuffed morels and peas into her mouth. "Who needs dirty dishes?"

Technically Dana's Bytes did employee one front of the house worker, Richard Crocker, chief of staff at Boulevard where he oversees 500 employees. Crocker was seen running about, picking up wine glass, refiling them, piling up dirty plates and rushing them off to a small cleaning station inside  the winery.  By the end of the evening, the haggard-looking Crocker was seated off alone in the now-empty yard drinking a Negroni,   "I'd tell someone to get me another drink," Crocker said, "But, there's not a god damn server in sight." 

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