A Week in the Life
The chefs I spoke with. The places I went. The food I ate.
Julia Louis Dreyfus, among her many other sterling qualities, makes the best orange marmalade I’ve ever tasted. So when she reached out to ask if I’d join her on her forthcoming podcast, Wise Up, I kind of thought we’d be talking about food. But when we spoke on Friday we discussed everything under the sun. The premise of the podcast is that she’s asking older women for their best advice.
Not sure I have any wisdom to pass on, but it sure was fun. Julia is as fine, funny and down to earth as you’d imagine. It was a great start to a wonderful week.
On Saturday I had the great good fortune to interview Rita Sodi and Jody Willaims about their new cookbook Via Carota at the Cherry Bombe Cooks and Books Festival. There was much wisdom from these two wonderful women, but I think the biggest takeaway, for me at least, is that the secret to their success is that think of their restaurant as their home and serve the simple food they themselves want to eat. That is, undoubtedly, why it’s the place other chefs want to eat as well. (And yes, you definitely want the book.)
On Sunday I sat down with Ed Lee and Victoria Blamey for a delicious lunch at Seema - and an even more delicious conversation about restaurants. We covered the good, the bad and the ugly in a startlingly candid conversation.
This is how Ed describes his latest project. “I have started a video podcast series that I hope will make a positive impact on the food world. It is meant to be thoughtful, positive, long form and provocative. The format is simple: we dine at a restaurant and we discuss anything from food writing to wine to personal stories. It is beautifully shot and edited and the chef joins us for a discussion too.”
These are two of the country’s most thoughtful chefs, and I think the show is going to be even better than Ed hoped.
(The food at Seema? The word means “terrific” in Tamil, and it is. Chef Vijay Kumar, who is from Tamil Nadu, focuses on the food of Southern India, and there are many dishes I’ve never seen on a menu before. If you want to see everything we ate, I posted it on Instagram, but here’s a little taste of the spiciest, most seductive lamb I’ve ever been lucky enough to eat.)
A couple of days later I had the honor of helping Eric Ripert celebrate the golden anniversary of Le Bernardin. The dinner was spectacular.
At the end, Eric and I sat down to talk about everything from why he is one of the world’s most beloved chefs, to the impact Le Bernardin has had on the way fish is sold in America. Answer to the last question: huge. As David Samuels, a third generation fishmonger, said, “Gilbert Le Coze took the whole industry to a new level.”
Still hungry? Always. The following day I had lunch at the new Naro in Rockefeller Center, the latest from the Atomix team. Here they’ve focused on more traditional Korean flavors than at their other restaurants, and the result is pure pleasure. I especially loved this cool octopus salad.
Between meals I spent time wandering around The Tin Building, the new marketplace curated by Jean-Georges Vongerichten. In addition to a lot of cool places to eat, fishmongers, cheese shops and butchers, there’s a fine Asian market with very high-end products like this excellent instant dashi powder.
If you’re not in New York, you can buy it online here - although it’s more expensive than the one at the Tin Building.
Now I’m off to Las Vegas for another interesting assignment. Wolfgang Puck is flying the chefs from his far-flung empire in for a few days, and he’s asked me to run a workshop on where restaurants have been and where they’re going.
I’ll tell you about that next week.