America's greatest restaurateur. Also, a forgotten way with lobsters. And some extremely lovely lemons
I knew Joe Baum and Al Lewis. They were my bosses. I was the Concierge at Windows on the World for five years from 1980-1985. I loved that job, that place, those restaurants and all the people I worked with. Joe and Al were absolute perfectionists when it came to running Windows. During the day it was private, The World Trade Club, and in the evenings and weekends it was open to the public. During the day, it was buzzing with the board meetings of all the great corporations and conglomerates of the world. Princes, Kings, Prime Ministers and Presidents visited and dined. My favorite restaurant was the Cellar in the Sky. As an employee I was given a 50% discount and so every two weeks when they changed the menu, I dined there. I got a real education about food and wine. Did you know that Kevin Zraly, the wine director and Ray Wellington, the sommelier, picked the wines first and then the menu was designed around those wines? On Sundays after brunch service, all the managers of the various restaurants, and me, would gather together in the dining room for lunch. That's when Kevin or Ray would open new bottles to discover and sample. Eberhard Mueller was a friend, so was Kevin and Ray, and all the pages who were part of my staff. Mr. Klinghoffer (the tall man in the center of the photo in your article) who was the banquet manager was a real throwback to more elegant times. The building was a living and breathing entity. You could hear it breathing as the wind blew through the elevator shafts. It rocked in the winds at 1600 ft. above the fray. I am so grateful to have worked there, it changed my life. I was in shock on 9/11, my heart was broken. To this day I have to grab my heart and tear up when I think about it. There will never be another Windows.
For lots of great detail about Joe Baum, Windows On The World, The Rainbow Room and much more I highly recommend “The Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York” by Tom Roston.
Such a great post. I met Joe Baum once when I worked for the almost equally formidable and intimidating Barbara Kafka. I remember the rainbow room when it reopened in that iteration. How things have changed
So glad you mentioned Louis P. DeGouy. It called to kind the piece included in an anthology you edited (Endless Feasts). DeGouy’s piece was called something like ‘The Mixing of the Greens’ and it was a most entertaining ode to the green salad. I found it inspiring.
Congratulations ! You have a way with words and story telling and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading all of you memoirs. You mention writing a whole chapter on lemons in your first cookbook. Could you please tell me the title of that book ? I also happen to love lemons and thinks they bring an interesting taste element in lots of foods, even sometimes in cases where you would not have thought of them. Thank you
You said you got to interview Joe Baum - do you have the interview?
As a kid in the ‘60’s, I loved going to Center City Philadelphia and eating at the Zum Zum on Chestnut St. I remember the clean, modern design and those whimsical mustard pots labeled Das Hot and Das Sweet. The sausages, potato salad and sauerkraut were delicious!
This makes me smile! Growing up and working in a family bakery/ specialty food business, my father (who knew many owners of this special community) would bring us to them all. I think I was 9 years old when we went to the Rainbow Room for the 1st time. They had a guest chef from Italy. At age 55, I continue to talk about the risotto from that night. It changed my life!!!!
I fell in love with the room as well as the intimacy of Rainbow and Stars where we have seen Rosemary Clooney and more.
I knew that day at 9 years old that I would be having my wedding reception there.. Yhat was in 1994 and worked with the Emil ‘s (Jenny) significant as the families were partners in several of the venues. Thanks for the delicious memories! Xx
LOVED this post and the memories of that shoot! I miss photographer John Vaughan's amazing eye, and the timeless glamour, passion and attention to detail that Joe Baum, Hugh Hardy, Milton Glaser (and so many others) brought to create this magic.
Lemons! A while back you asked for gadgets we loved, at the time I couldn't think of anything. Then my favorite tool (that I didn't realize) was in the dishwasher - Oxo lemon zester! I had to carefully use a potato peeler and then chop, chop. I so missed that zester I thought I'd share with a fellow lemon lover.
This post is a real gem, Ruth.
What an incredible room…”Uncle Miltie’s
Amazing touches, Ghihuly on the walls, joe Baum in command…wow! Magic.
I can't help but feel we've lost the magic! I can't think of anything today that could rival this place.
Loved Zum Zum!
And breakfast with my Father at
Zum Zum was genius. We used to go w my dad before Harvard football games. Great memories and ahead of their time!