Image by Ryan Dorsett
When Terminal 5 opened at John F. Kennedy International Airport in 1962, Jean-Georges Vongerichten was still just a little boy growing up in Alsace, in Northeastern France. By the time it was “decommissioned” in 2001, JGV was one of New York’s hottest chef-restaurateurs, feeding Midtown expense-accounters at Vong, and trendy MePa downtowners at Spice Market (both are now closed).
Today he runs an empire of 38 restaurants, stretching from Miami to Mexico, Sao Paulo to Shanghai. But what will surely be one of the most buzz-worthy projects of his entire career will be dramatically unveiled this spring: the resurrection of the old Paris Cafe, at the newly revitalized JFK hub (attached to the JetBlue NYC HQ).
Now slyly rebranded as the TWA Terminal, it will unapologetically reach back to airline travel’s “glamorous age,” when arriving at an airport and boarding a plane were more akin to happy hour at your favorite oversexed cocktail lounge. Staff will be appropriately decked out in period fashions, but without any of the, ahem, sexual “boundary” issues of those earlier, less “enlightened” decades. (Indeed, one should strongly reconsider any temptation to resurrect the word “toots” when addressing female servers.)
Image by Emily Gilbert
The restaurant will be a part of the hotly anticipated TWA Hotel, which, like the rest of the project, will be organically woven into the optimistic, retro-futuristic aesthetic of a decade when it seemed as though – as current nostalgia would lead some to believe – all we had to worry about was the Soviet Union and nuclear war. The Eero Saarinen designed terminal did indeed represent something of a leaving behind of the fuddy-duddy ’50s, for an era full of hope, high heels, and the promise of space travel. No surprise, it was dedicated literally five months before the network debut of The Jetsons – which was the animated embodiment of the swinging, anything-seemed-possible ethos of the time.
Curiously enough, the new Paris Cafe menu will represent a distinctly old, postwar notion of Continental cuisine, with such Euro-tastic grandad faves as bouef stroganoff, chateaubriand and lobster thermidor. As for attention to period detail? You can actually order a cup of Sanka or a can of Tab.
“As an avid traveler,” Jean-Georges enthuses, “I am very excited to be a part of recreating a culinary destination in this iconic landmark.”
No opening date has been set in stone as of yet – but expect to be knocking back a few rounds of Pink Squirrels by your first flight of the summer.
Up, up…and away!
Images from top: Emily Gilbert; Max Touhey; bottom 2, Ryan Dorsett