"I put Gisele plus three down on the guest list; my friends are like, [dismissively] ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’"Photo: Melissa Hom
David Moltz just celebrated his first anniversary as a server at raw-food mecca (and popular anniversary spot!) Pure Food and Wine. He isn’t going anywhere — at least not until his band Salt and Samovar takes off — and why would he? He’s had the opportunity to serve everyone from raw foodists such as Woody Harrelson to fellow omnivores such as Bill Clinton (“I couldn’t believe it when he walked in,” says Moltz. “He rolls with a crazy entourage.”) We asked him to spill the beans (not cooked, of course) on fussy vegheads, surprisingly friendly models, and the “hump couch” in one of the city’s most coveted gardens (now open for spring).
Which celebrities have you served besides President Clinton?
Howard Stern was sitting next to Sarma [Melngailis, the owner]. On his radio show he was going on about, “Oh, you gotta see their boss, Sarma” and being pretty lewd about it. For the next two weeks, we were booked with tons of Jersey peeps saying, “Is your boss around?”
The place gets a lot of models. Ever befriend any?
One of our regular customers introduced me to Gisele. She’s like, “He’s in this amazing band, you gotta come out.” Gisele was like [assuming accent], “Maybe I come.” I put Gisele plus three down on the guest list; my friends are like [dismissively], “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” All the sudden she strolled in with her friends, and she was like, “Hey, how’s it going?”
Are there notable personality differences between raw foodists, vegans, vegetarians, and “normal” diners?
There’s this one type of raw person who’s new age-y: They meditate; raw food is a whole part of trying to expand their consciousness. But they treat you like a slave. I waited on a table of twenty [including] one of the most famous raw scenesters — they held hands and "ohm"-ed before their meal — and I had to chase down their table because they stiffed me on a $200 tip.
What has changed since Matthew Kenney left?
The older cuisine is super-nut-heavy — you could get so nutted out. Our new chef makes French-style cuisine. Me and him totally bro down about French stuff. We have a portobello dish that’s like having a kielbasa with sauerkraut and potato salad. The mushrooms are marinated in Lapsang Souchong tea so it tastes like it’s cooked over a flame.
Tell me about your wine program.
We get sustainable, organic, or biodynamic wine from small producers who will baby the hell out of their wine. One French lady waits till the moon is fullest so that the most sap is in the bark when they cut it for the barrels that they age their wine in.
Do raw foodists ever try to one-up or stump you?
There are people who are sticklers. In our desserts we use cocoa powder which isn’t fully raw. Or in vanilla extract there’s alcohol. But we’re 99 percent raw.
Tell me about the “hump couch” in the garden.
People get freaky on it. Various people who’ve worked there have slept on it. Sarma said the other day she slept on it outside in her pajamas. The busser came in really early and was like, “What’s going on?”
Do people who don’t understand how much effort goes into the dishes complain about the small portions?
I had a total bridge-and-tunnel table the other day with one raw guy. They laugh when you drop the tasting menu’s amuse-bouche. You’re like, “Dude, don’t worry about it. It’s the first bite.” They shut up by the time they have dessert.
Is the staff dinner raw?
It’s a huge salad with lots of good veggies … some rice that’s not raw. Sometimes it’ll have bread. We used to order nachos from the Mexican restaurant down the street during service — we had to stop because people were going back there and eating sour cream and everything. It was getting unprofessional.