Windows on the World Creator Thinks About the Freedom TowerThe chance to put a restaurant at the top of the Freedom Tower seems like a peerless opportunity all right — at least, that’s what the Port Authority hoped when it invited restaurateurs to propose plans for the new space, set to open in 2013, earlier this week. But we only know one person who has created a major restaurant atop the city’s highest skyscraper: Michael Whiteman, who with his partner Joe Baum created Windows on the World (which the Freedom Tower’s restaurant will be the de facto replacement for). Whiteman is something of an expert on skyscraper restaurants: He also created the modern version of the Rainbow Room, along with top-floor restaurants in Singapore and Taipei. We asked him how hard it was going to be for whoever won the contract.
More and Weirder Trends From Restaurant Guru Michael Whiteman
We recently had occasion to assay the National Restaurant Association’s somewhat dubious restaurant trends piece. Today brings us a far more formidable attempt — that of Michael Whiteman, the restaurant-business guru who, with his late partner Joe Baum, created Windows on the World and the Rainbow Room, and who is now a full-time restaurant consultant. Whiteman’s trends are even more disturbingly freaky than were the NRA’s but seem mostly accurate to us. Here’s how they break down.
Restaurant-World Elders Debate the Evils of the $44 Lamb Chop
Is the New York dining scene better than ever? The question seems to our dazzled senses like a no-brainer, but it was the source of almost rancorous debate last night at a 92nd Street Y panel discussion which featured New York’s Gael Greene, famed chef Jacques Pepin, Über-restaurateur Michael Whiteman, and New York food historian Arthur Schwartz. “Food Talk” host Mike Colameco chaired the panel — helplessly, as the debate raged to his right and left.
Gray Kunz Finds a Sweet New Business ModelGray Kunz’s lavish dining space Grayz — at one time thought aborted — is back on again, this press release trumpets. Set in the former Rockefeller mansion, which was previously occupied by Aquavit, Grayz will be devoted to corporate catering and private dining events, but there will also be a big lounge area where the chef will be serving cocktails and “finger foods.” “The layout of the space on two different levels inspired me,” Kunz tells us. “When I thought about midtown, I realized there were too few private party spaces and even fewer great cocktail lounges.” Restaurant consultant Michael Whiteman sees a more practical advantage. “Private catering is a lot more profitable,” he tells us. “You can charge more per person than you would in a restaurant, and there’s very little waste because you know just how many people are coming.” And those finger foods? “They sell a higher proportion of alcohol, and they are a lot easier to plate and prepare than high-end composed dishes.”
Back of the House
Restaurant Guru Predicts the Future, Assumes We’ll Eventually Get HungryMichael Whiteman — the restaurateur who, with his late partner, the legendary Joe Baum, created the Rainbow Room, Windows on the World, the Hudson River Club, and a number of other historically important places — has issued his annual predictions for next year’s restaurant trends, including “tropical superfruits,” “ethical eating,” and “wildly flavored chocolates.” The list is pretty wide-ranging, but if we were handicapping all ten wrinkles, we’d say the odds are on “chef-driven steakhouses” (as Whiteman has persuasively argued), “Japanese small plates” (i.e., izakayas), and “burgers with pedigrees,” like those promised by Joe Bastianich’s Heritage Burger (which we announced the other day). The long shots for ‘07? Peruvian cooking, those spice-flavored chocolates, and the popularization of molecular gastronomy (“equivalent to a gastronomic IQ test in which typical diners are all below average”). Then again, no one ever said we were the oracle.
‘Party-Colored Beets’: 2007 Buzzword Preview [Eater]
Remembering Joe Baum [NYM]