James Layfield is happy to attend to his patrons' needs, just don't ask him to cook anything. It isn't that he wouldn't like to oblige, he just can't.
"We actually don't have the ability to cook in our kitchen," said Layfield as he sat in the Melting Pot's front bar area. A walk through the kitchen revealed that he wasn't entirely correct. A small toaster oven can broil a select group of appetizers. In another area, a single heating unit can help boil broths. However, if a patron wants a well-seared steak, well, they chose the wrong establishment.
Layfield's restaurant, 14 Grove St., Darien, specializes in fondue, and all the cooking is done at the tables by the diners themselves. Raw meats and vegetables get skewered on long forks and dipped in cheeses and broths, where they slowly cook while the patrons chat and enjoy a drink.
Layfield and his father started the business on the suggestion of an uncle who worked as a server for another restaurant in the chain. After mulling it over, the Layfields decided to shed their investment roots and give the food business a shot. They now own and operate three Melting Pots. "I just can't imagine being anywhere else," said Layfield. "My family put a lot of thought and effort into making sure this is an enjoyable experience for both the guests and the staff."
While enjoyment is the overriding goal, Layfield admits an evening spent determining what cheese and broth you and your dining companions want to share might not be the best option for everyone. While the skewered meats are boiling in gourmet broths, there is a lot of time to chat and be social. "People who enjoy the people they are with, really enjoy it here," said Layfield.
The Melting Pot's menu is available online at www.meltingpot.com . Reservations can be placed by calling (203) 656-4774.
The Melting Pot has joined Main Street Connect by purchasing an annual visibility package.
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