Ask a Waiter

Jeremy Sullivan of Kobe Club Gets $5,000 Tips From Rush Limbaugh

“Our business speaks for itself.”

Jeremy Sullivan was born in Missouri. He has been working as an actor in New York for the past five and a half years (you may have seen him mud wrestling in the nude with Matt Damon in The Good Shepherd) and has been a waiter at Kobe Club since its ever-so-rocky opening early last year. With some wondering whether threats of a recession will bring restaurant prices down, we asked him for insight into a place where businessmen don’t think twice about ordering the $700 pour of cognac for dessert — something that, as a midwestern boy, still flabbergasts him.

Have you met many fellow actors while waiting?
I met Susan Sarandon when she came in. We get a lot more music-industry people — I’ve met Jennifer Lopez, Nickelback, Ja Rule. Derek Jeter came in for his birthday. He was the last table, and we were all hanging out. He had a game the next night, so he wasn’t drinking. Our bartender said, “I want Derek to do a birthday shot.” He said, “Oh I’m not supposed to…,” but Michelle is a pretty good-looking blonde girl, so she was convincing. We did birthday shots, and he invited us to a club afterwards, but I had worn sweatpants and Crocs that day! I waited on Tom Brady and Gisele two weeks ago.

Did anyone give him the business about losing the Super Bowl?
We had a lot of businessmen in the restaurant, so there were lot of camera phones out. Tom asked me to have a table of guys next to him refrain from taking pictures of him with their Curves and iPhones.

So do people get freaked out by the samurai swords hanging from the ceiling?
We’ve had a couple people refuse to sit under them. Everyone always asks if one of them has ever fallen. We all have our own jokes, like “Not this week.” My response is usually, “A couple fell recently, but we think we worked out the kinks.”

How do you describe the difference between American and Australian Wagyu?
The further you get from Japan, the less pure the breed gets. The Australian is better than American in marbling, but less than the Japanese. Marbling is the distribution of fat through the meat — in the Wagyu, it distributes through the muscle, instead of around it, which gives it a more buttery taste.

Is there much competition between you and Quality Meats, across the street?
When we first opened there was a little bit of tension — they put up a sign in their window pointing toward their door saying, “Kobe Club overflow enter here.” We laughed at it. Our staff and their staff all know each other; we meet up at P.J. Carney’s and have a beer after work.

Do people haggle about the $10 bottled waters when the bill comes?
Occasionally, people will be mad when they don’t realize they drank four bottles of water and ask why it’s $40. We do serve Voss, one of the highest-end bottles of water out there. Our markup on that isn’t outlandish at all.

Were you there when Rush Limbaugh and Bill Clinton met for the first time?
They were sitting halfway across the room from each other. None of us knew they hadn’t met. Clinton stood up, walked over, introduced himself to Rush. They sat and talked, and the guests and staff were all, “Whoa — that’s crazy!”

How often does Rush come in?
He tends to come in about once a month. He goes for the nice Australian and Japanese steaks. He really likes to indulge in some of our nice wines. He likes to do it up. He likes to throw down the most massive tips I’ve ever seen. The last few times his tips have been $5,000. They started out at 100 percent of the bill, and then they just grew and grew.

Do people spend money just to show off?
Some of the bills absolutely flabbergast me. We have so many businessmen with their clients, where money is literally no object. They’ll order six Jap rib eyes for six guys, ten appetizers, and tear through our reserve wine list. Then they’ll top off their dinner by ordering a glass of Hardy Perfection cognac, which is $700 for a neat pour.

With all this talk about the recession, has there been talk of lowering prices and whatnot?
There hasn’t been. We haven’t really seen a drop in our check average yet. Our check average right now is resting at $182 per person. That number is there because there are couples who will spend less than $200, but then also couples who spend $700 on their whole meal.

Finally, it has to be asked — what did you think of the Times review?
It made me unbelievably proud how Jeffrey stood up for his staff and what his letter [in the Times] said about the quality of the staff. Our business speaks for itself. We just opened in Miami, and potentially look for more Kobe Clubs coming soon.

Jeremy Sullivan of Kobe Club Gets $5,000 Tips From Rush Limbaugh