Last we talked about my L.A. kitchen, I’d mentioned how much I hated the overhead lighting. Fitted with a round, white fluorescent bulb that would be difficult to replace, the resulting light had all the charm of a middle school science lab or the waiting room of a hospital. I tried to time my cooking so there’d still be natural light coming through the windows; but once it got dark, the fluorescent bulbs came on and the room went from charming California kitchen to a scene from “Dexter.”
Once I was throwing a party in Atlanta and I had the fluorescent lights on in my apartment and my friend Ricky came and said, “Adam, no, no, no, turn off the overhead lights and turn on the lamps; this is a party, not a doctor’s office.”
The lesson I learned then is a lesson that successful restaurants have long understood: lighting matters. You may take it for granted, but the difference between the corner diner with the buzzing, yellowing strips of light and the trendy, upscale bistro two doors down with sconces and a soft, ambient glow is more than just the quality of the food. Dining is theater–people go out to see and to be seen–and if a restaurant makes you look bad, or makes the food look bad, you won’t likely go back.