‘Esquire’ Escalates Chef-Fashion War With ‘Maxim’Has it really come to this? Maxim and Esquire are going at it hammer and tongs to see who can print more ridiculous images of chefs as fashion models. Esquire started it, with a never-to-be-forgotten Simon Hammerstein–David Chang tough-guy shoot. This year, Maxim released its April spread early to get the jump on Esquire, but both mags shared a few models (formerly known as chefs): Michael Psilakis of Anthos, Neil Ferguson of Allen and Delancey, and Craig Koketsu of Park Avenue Winter. Psilakis, for his part, is even wearing similar suits in both spreads. (Did he leave the Maxim refrigerator and head straight to his Esquire lunch at Insieme?) Other chefs of note in the shoot include Ben Chekroun, the elegant maître d’ of Le Bernardin, whom we interviewed for Ask a Waiter back in the day; San Domenico’s affable wine director, Piero Trotta; and the boyish Wesley Genovart of Degustation, tucking into a plate of duck and soba noodles. We give Esquire the edge for shooting the dapper John McDonald at Keens. Though he’s more of a bon vivant restaurateur than a chef, Johnny Mac is a quintessential Esquire man.
Man’s Gotta Eat [Esquire]
Related: Chefs Put on Something a Little More Comfortable
When Chefs Play Dress-Up
Tony May to Make San Domenico Bigger and Less ‘Stuffy’We were able to reach San Domenico’s Tony May and ask him why he would move one of the city’s most-stable restaurant operations. May was very candid with us. “Everybody takes us for granted,” he says. “Everybody thinks we’re a little stuffy. So we want to move forward and put ourselves in a more contemporary environment and serve Italian cuisine in a way contemporary diners want it.” As for the proximate cause of the move, May was open about that too. “They say the life of a restaurant is its lease and ours was up. We need something bigger, and we’re getting it. The truth is that we need to do a much higher volume if we are going to pay the rents landlords want today as well as the other costs of doing business.” May promises Grub Street he’ll let us know the new location of San Domenico once the lease is signed, which he expects to happen shortly. Adds Marisa May, Tony’s daughter, “San Domenico will be around forever, but now we are moving forward into the 21st century.”
Earlier: Breaking: San Domenico Moving From Central Park South
Breaking: San Domenico Moving From Central Park SouthSan Domenico, long a fixture on Central Park South, is moving. Staff were told the other night that the place will remain open through June and then close for six months. It will reopen in January in a location which will be announced once the lease is signed. Modernist designer Massimo Vignelli and Daniel Barteluce Architects already have a new design in the works. We are trying to reach owner Tony May to find out the reason behind the move, although naturally we guess that exorbitant rents may have something to do with it. More as this develops.
Momofuku Ko to Open Next Week; Wheat Prices to Affect Pizza and Bagel LoversMomofuku Ko is scheduled to open on March 12, and once the friends-and-family period ends, the only way to get in will be through online reservations. [Eater]
Café Boulud still has the power to draw big names like Tom Ford, Barbara Walters, and Bruce Springsteen. [WSJ]
The same I.D. scanners that help keep out underage drinkers at nightclubs are also helping police track down the various shooters and stabbers that frequent these places. [NYP]
Engines of Gastronomy
The Ferrari of Slicers Is Parked at San DomenicoThere’s a lot at San Domenico to attract the eye, like the Italian aristocrats or the celebrities periodically perched at table nine (Johnny Depp and Keith Richards ate there the other night). But the most striking thing in the restaurant remains the immense antique Berkel proscuitto slicer, a gift from Friuli to owner Tony May after September 11. “It’s the Ferrari of slicing machines,” May says. “It’s a simple machine, but it’s a jewel. It was a great gift.” Built in 1941 and powered by hand, it has a razor-sharp slicing edge that turns with the measured pace of a roulette wheel on its final spins.
Where to Go for Restaurant WeekNew York Restaurant Week is coming round again next month (January 24–25 and January 28–February 1), and today the reservation lines open up. We’ve always loved the whole concept, even though at some restaurants you get a simplified menu that may not do the place justice. But what’s great about the deal ($24.07 for lunch, $35 for dinner) is the chance it gives you to try places you might not otherwise get to if you had to pay full fare. Who rolls the dice when they know they’re looking at dropping two bills at the end of the meal? But at these prices, you can afford to see where you stand on places you may only have read about. Think of it as an introductory trial offer. We would recommend the following:
Are Tuscan Chefs That Good? Find Out This WeekOn the list of people we want to see destroyed, the recently returned Tuscan tourist ranks high. Everyone has met this person. Nothing is quite the same as it is in Italy; “the pasta we have here just doesn’t compare…” “the ingredients are handled with such simplicity…” and blah blah blah. Meanwhile, they have the same flour, olive oil, and wooden spoons in both places, so what’s the big deal? We aim to find out this week, when “Five Days to Taste Tuscany’s Maremma” hits New York.
Back of the House
The Post returned to an evergreen feature idea today, every editor’s best friend: the “overrated” list. Since our philosophy has always been to slavishly ape the Post in every way short of peppering our posts with the phrase “tot-slay suspect,” we thought we might add a few of our own. Since the Post didn’t limit itself to specific dishes at specific restaurants, we won’t either. Here are a few things that we find ourselves less than overawed with these days.
Tables Available at San Domenico; A Voce Mostly BookedIt’s 4 p.m., and that means it’s time to play Two for Eight. We just asked ten restaurants the best time they can squeeze a couple in for dinner; you need only make your chosen reservation. (As always, we make the calls but don’t guarantee the results.) Today: Gourmet Italian.
A Rescue Plan for Restaurant Workers; No Fatty Crab for the UWSThe Restaurant Responsibility Act, just introduced in City Council, would keep eateries from abusing the help by tying operating permits to labor laws. [Gotham Gazette]
Fatty Crab owner writes in to say that Eater has it all wrong about an Upper West Side location. [Eater]
It’s salmon season in Alaska’s Copper River, and some of the city’s top fish cooks are spawning original dishes to take advantage. [NYDN]
Almost as Good as Rodney Dangerfield: Back to School With Culinary StarsThis spring — a season which we’re glad to remind ourselves of as we enter drab February — the Institute of Culinary Education will be offering a roster of recreational classes that we heartily recommend, despite the fact that (full disclosure) self-deprecating Grub Street editor Josh Ozersky will be teaching one. Many friends of Grub Street — and a colleague, Gael Greene, who will head up “An Evening of Excess” — will be passing along wisdom on everything from blintzes to methylcellulose.
The New York Diet
Chef Odette Fada Refuses to Eat Anyone Else’s Pasta
When she’s not commanding the kitchen of the venerable San Domenico, as she has done for over a decade, Odette Fada rummages for cheese, sausage, and foie gras in her fridge; goes for late-night dinners at Balthazar and Blue Ribbon; or stops in at her friends’ restaurants to enjoy off-the-menu items. Will you ever catch the Parmigiano Reggiano obsessive ordering pasta at one of these places? Probably not: “The only person here who can cook pasta,” she says, “is me!” We asked her what culinary pleasures she experienced this week.
In the Magazine
Life Among the Beau MondeTwo Intelligencer items caught our eye this week: a Keystone Kops farce involving truffles, bound for San Domenico, sniffed out by a Homeland Security dog at JFK; and tales of the media elite confronting their likenesses at Cafe Cluny’s “demi-celebrity portrait gallery.” Both stories have a melancholy note, suggesting as they do the emptiness of wealth and privilege — not that we don’t still lust for truffles and fame ourselves.
Truffle Kerfluffle at Border [NYM]
Sketchy Café Society [NYM]
The Other Critics
Michelin’s Explosive New Red BookMichelin dropped its ratings bomb today, and it’s safe to say that the New York restaurant world is, as usual, reeling. Though not as consequential as a Zagat snub, business-wise, the Michelin ratings are closer to the hearts of top chefs. (French chef Bernard Loiseau was widely believed to have killed himself over a Michelin downgrade.) The book is supposed to be in stores tomorrow (though our local Barnes & Noble says it’s not even at the distributor yet). We do, however, know of some surprises. Messrs. Boulud, Bouley, and Takahama are no doubt having lousy afternoons.