A First Look at Waverly Inn Chef John DeLucie’s Memoir, The Hunger
We’ve just breezed through a galley of John DeLucie’s memoir The Hunger (okay, so we only read the parts about the Waverly Inn), and while we’re looking forward to reading closely during the long weekend (we have Monday off, folks), we can say this much — the chef was right to inform us it wouldn’t be a tell-all. DeLucie recounts the thrill of meeting Karl Lagerfeld (who ordered roasted carrots for takeout every day for a week, as we’ve heard before) and Robert De Niro, and he mentions Salmon [sic] Rushdie (the pages we read were uncorrected) “enjoying an early supper with a spectacular young woman.” There’s a cute story about Frank Bruni being accidentally seated at the worst table in the house (217, near the kitchen) but alas, no tales of diva freak-outs or celebrity hookups. Perhaps the most dishy thing about diners is the following nugget.
Every model on the planet wants the same thing. Sauce on the side, no oil, no butter, no fat. We might as well have served them air. And if it’s air they wanted, they would get it. Tim Zagat, the restaurant guide entrepreneur, was the exact opposite. He grabbed me once to pay a compliment to our pork shank which happened to be as large as a linebacker’s thigh. He said, ‘Chef, I’m a big fella, is that enough for me? I don’t want to leave here hungry.’” And from that day on, I made sure he never did.
Not only does DeLucie steer tastefully clear of juicy gossip, but he won’t even reveal the brand of hamburger rolls he uses! The most compelling material (as far as the Waverly goes) pertains to the creation of the menu. DeLucie recounts how he cooked up some fantastic-sounding pork belly, only to have it kaboshed by “chick-food”-conscious partners Eric Goode and Sean MacPherson:
The result of my pork belly experiment? Perfect. Delicious. At least I thought so. The partners, on the other hand, weren’t wild for it. Too fatty and too unhealthy for the general populace. Plus there were actresses to think about and the camera adding ten pounds, which may not be an issue for everyone, but when your owners both come from L.A., it counts.
Likewise, marrow bones were deemed “too gnarly dude.” So how is it that those indulgent biscuits made it onto the menu? Turns out former Times critic Mimi Sheraton suggested them!
What business does a guy from Brooklyn have making [biscuits]? All I could initially think was what a pain in the ass it would be. They’d have to be cooked fresh every twenty minutes, and where? Our kitchen was barely big enough to do the 150 dinners we projected in the first place. Maybe I shouldn’t even experiment, I thought. If they were any good, the partners would never give me the option of saying no. On the other hand, who was I to argue with Mimi Sheraton
The Waverly Grilled Vegetable Salad, meanwhile, was a facsimile of L.A. hotspot the Ivy’s mesquite-grilled veggie salad (the owners even had the Ivy’s original Fed-Exed to them).
One can only hope that after the book comes out in May, an AmEx Black–toting celebrity will beg DeLucie to put that pork belly on the menu. We’re thinking it won’t be Karl Lagerfeld.