The Next Generation

"Can I look?" "I’d be offended if you didn’t." Thus was the extent of my conversation and relationship with Sirio Maccioni. He signed my copy of Sirio: The Story of My Life and Le Cirque, handed it back, he looked, I smiled, thanked him and returned to my champagne.
I am currently in the process of finishing "Sirio" – a fantastic explosion of fanfare and fauna in an account of the in-depth life of Sirio Maccioni and a world at Le Cirque encompassing the most beautiful, talented, intelligent, or at least most powerful, of an era far from being reproduced though never, ever forgotten. A world where dreams were made.
Today, we have our trendy hotspots and swanky digs, but never will an atmosphere such as represented by Le Cirque be recreated, even at today’s latest version of Le Cirque. Who dares step up to the challenge of being the next Sirio? Many claim to have what it takes though this confidence is often perceived as pure attitude. Since my day in New York, I have met a small handful of young men I can see reaching a height like no other. However, this will only happen if some can keep their egos at bay; something I would imagine is hard when the public, writers, and groupies are throwing themselves at your feet.
By no means have I met everyone attempting to reach star status. As far as chefs go, there is a rising generation of talent I see as being the next Daniel’s, David’s and Jacques’ – most not necessarily French. There is this generation that isn’t afraid to experiment, not afraid to combine traditional with unheard-of flavors and combinations. Will they go overboard? Who knows? But in any case it’s all a learning process. Will they change the eating habits of the world? Perhaps. They have studied under the masters, traveled the world, and are about to embark on the height of their career.
For example:
Paul Liebrandt – See the March 2007 edition of Vogue as Jeffrey Steingarten offers his account on Paul invited personal chef stint for two weeks – keep your eye on this one for the opening of his New York restaurant.
George Mendes – Formerly of Tocqueville, opening his New York restaurant in 2007.
Will GoldfarbRoom 4 Dessert
Sam Mason – Formerly of wd-50, soon to open Tailor in New York.
Francis Derby – Formerly of Gilt (with Paul Liebrandt), soon to be savory chef of Tailor with Sam Mason.
Angelo Sosa – Formerly of Loft and Yumcha (due to open his own New York restaurant)
Johnny Iuzzini – Pastry Chef for Jean-Georges
Tony Esnault – Executive Chef of Essex House – Alain Ducasse (due to reopen in 2007 in New York)
Chris Cosentino – Executive Chef of San Francisco’s Incanto (also, check out Offal Good)
For other big names making the spotlight, check out StarChefs.com for their choice of Rising Stars.

A couple of weeks ago, I FINALLY tried out the Russian Tea Room, even though the chef, Gary Robins, parted ways with the scarlet dining mecca only a week or so earlier. Whether he was there or not, the smoked sturgeon was delish, although the butter was cold (big faux pas). Though the prices were a bit much, the Absolut Pepper Vodka martinis were nummers, for a once-in-a-lifetime experience (with Mel Brooks sitting two tables away), not too shabby. The staff was extremely pleasant, and it’s more the tradition of what is was and perhaps what it will be that keeps ’em comin’.

One night last week, a few friends joined me at The Levee in Williamsburg to toast my farewell from New York. Can’t beat $1 beers at Happy Hour, not to mention the Frito pie and chips con queso. Thanks to all who came out. I had a great time.

If you find yourself at Grand Central with a thirst for something swanky, stop by The Campbell Apartment for a classic libation. Definitely a grand New York experience.

Good times at Morandi, Keith McNally’s new spot featuring Italian dishes by Jody Williams. On my last night out, I passed by the new crowded spot in the West Village with a friend for a glass of wine. Of course, I had to taste a bite or two of his dish: Pizzoccheri al Forno (baked rye pasta with cabbage, speck & bitto cheese). A bit juicy and needed salt. But any place with the McNally name in New York is bound to work out well.

And of course, if you haven’t seen Jeffery Chodorow‘s rebuttal on Frank Bruni‘s less than stellar review on Kobe Club, be sure to check it out.

My stint in New York has been an intense one filled with memories, names and faces I’ll definitely never forget. I’m glad I could be a part of such a magical place. It makes me wonder what life in the 70s and 80s would have been like here. I can only imagine by the stories some true New Yorker friends shared with me. There is something highly romantic about hearing them, though I can imagine the life itself to be less so. The culinary industry today that I found myself deeply attached to can be glorious and glamourous at times, though the reality can be harsh and fairly unhealthy, I might add. Romantic, and then not so. I do feel myself somewhat of a lightweight, and see many around me still struggling, surviving, reaching… and will continue to do so I’m sure as in their world New York is still the only place to be. I love New York, and will always have a part of it inside of me, and who knows, may even come back one day. Though I know there are other things out there. There is another life where apartments don’t swallow half or more of your salary, where employers pay you on time, where life may be a bit less stimulating, but where you take time to breathe and face yourself. But who am I kidding, who wants that?
Ciao, New York! Next adventure… bring it on.

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