Yesterday, the lionized (and lion-haired) British chef Marco Pierre White finished filming his NBC reality show, Chopping Block. The two teams that competed for the chance to open a restaurant sometimes served up “horrific” and “painful” food, he says. Unsurprisingly, his most memorable meals occurred off of the set. “New York is the most exciting restaurant city in the world. It’s more exciting than London.” That doesn’t mean he sought out the five-star joints: “I’ve been there and done that. Do I want to be told how to eat my food? Do I want to be told that I have to have 12 or 24 courses? Or made to feel privileged because I got a table?” So where did he find what he calls “that balance of serving great food in fantastic environments at affordable prices”?
Saturday, June 14
I went to Russ & Daughters. I ordered sable and gravlax and Irish smoked salmon. We had a bialy with smoked salmon — sensational. It was the finest-quality fish. Then I walked to Katz’s Delicatessen for the pastrami sandwich — the best pastrami in the world. That was my lunch.
Because I’m filming for NBC I have to eat the contestants’ food. I only have one meal a day outside of the set. As the contestants’ nerves have settled, they’ve started to show off themselves for who they are. They show it on the plates — it’s more simplified. They’re not trying to score points. I guide and inspire them and give them a few tips along the way. At the end they could win a restaurant.
Sunday, June 15
I had dinner at Mercat. I had some octopus (which was delicious), the Ibérico ham and some delicious lamb with artichokes. It’s very nice, understated, simple. It’s a great place to sit and have a snack and be with a mate and have a glass of wine. Casa Mono is also fantastic — you eat really well there, better than you do in Spain. I go to Spain with my family so I’ve never had great, great food in Spain. I’ve never had a paella that’s cooked well. You go to France and France is France, England is England, Rome is Rome. A lot of the restaurants here are multidimensional. New York is a very glamorous, sexy city.
Monday, June 16
I had dinner at Il Buco — a good Italian restaurant. I had some pappardelle, with English peas, as they call it, and there was mint with it as well. It was off the specials. The bacalao was very good fried. There’s an authenticity about Il Buco, and there’s a chicness also. The restaurants I’ve been to here would cost double in London for the quality and environment.
Tuesday, June 17
Every time I come to New York, I go to Babbo for my tripe. It’s cooked so it’s tender — really, really delicious. A lot of people don’t prepare tripe [well]. Every time I go to Babbo it’s exactly the same as it was the time before. Solid as a rock. My tripe is perfect and the pasta is delicious. John, the maître d’, is always there to welcome you.
I also went to Kobe Club — I thought it was very expensive for what it was. I didn’t like it. I can go to Russ & Daughters and have the finest sable and it’s not a lot of money. I went to Peter Luger the other day and I liked the honesty of it — the straightforwardness of it. The steak was tender and cooked well. I didn’t appreciate the rudeness to my guests — the waiters were abrupt, especially to some of the female guests.
We’re down to the last two (both females) and they both cooked for me last night — very good little tastings. The contestants cooked tuna with tomatoes and basil and avocado. Delicious. One cooked a lobster and mango cocktail. It was delicious with a little chile. They’re starting to impress me.
Wednesday, June 18
I went to the Spotted Pig. I was Mario Batali’s guest — Mario is an old friend of mine. I had the best burger I’ve had in New York City. It must be the only place in the world where you can go to a Michelin-starred restaurant and have a burger. Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe tend to be anal — it’s like walking into a chapel of rest. But I like the atmosphere at the Spotted Pig — it’s funky.
Tonight the final, so I have to have two dinners with Piers Morgan at each restaurant. If I don’t enjoy my dinner tonight (I’m the judge — I choose the winner of the competition) or if it’s disastrous, I’ll go somewhere after. Actually, I think I’m going to go over to Katz’s and eat my insurance policy now!