With the recent news that a bidder offered $200,000 for a twenty-person charity dinner cooked by Eric Ripert (not to mention Edvard Munch’s The Scream fetching an astronomical $120 million at auction last week), we had the subject on our mind at this weekend’s Lucky Rice Grand Feast, held at the Mandarin Oriental. So, when we bumped into some of the chefs in attendance — Susur Lee, Gramercy Tavern’s Michael Anthony, and Ming Tsai — we asked them, flat-out, what’s the most money somebody’s ever paid to eat one of your dinners?
Lee told us that his biggest ticket didn’t come from an auction, but instead a regular diner at his Toronto restaurant: “Two or three years ago, a man came in, brought a party of five, and spent $14,000,” he told us. “I was watching from the kitchen and he sat like an emperor at the head of the table.” But, we asked, did he feel the need to do anything special for a diner dropping that much cash? “I sent over some extra desserts.”
Anthony, taking a page from the playbook of his ever-diplomatic boss Danny Meyer, told us that Gramercy Tavern’s staff “doesn’t really measure [the success of our meals] in dollars,” but did reveal that a bidder once offered $35,000 at a City Harvest event in exchange for a private dinner for twenty people.
The winner of the night, though, was Ming Tsai, who told us that he once auctioned off a small meal for eight people for $100,000 — that’s $12,500 per person, if you’re doing the math — to none other than Tiger Woods, who “bought it for his foundation,” Tsai says. “It was a gift to his best friend, who was getting married … We served a lot, a lot, of food.”