American Invasion: Thompson Hotels Open The Belgraves in London

It doesn’t get much more British than Belgravia, the posher-than-posh London neighborhood where row upon row of cream-colored Georgian townhouses surround lovely green parks locked to anyone not landed-gentry enough to have a key and a double-barreled surname. Everyone seems like they should be called Gemma or Jemima or Jeeves, and they all look like they emerged from the womb in a Burberry trench, clutching a long black brolly instead of a rattle. None of them even has bad teeth.

Within the district, Montcomb Street, a particularly delicious crumpet on the tea trolley of delights that is Belgravia, is the kind of place that makes you (or at least me) wish to be British, achingly so. This petite row of winsome shops and eateries—Rococo Chocolates, nouveau gastropub The Pantechnicon, fashion designer Stewart Parvin (who holds a Royal Warrant from The Queen, herself) and a branch of the food-porn-y veggie-centric cafes from hot-shot chef Yotan Ottolenghi—fills daily with dapper gents in perfectly tailored suits speaking with clipped consonents into ever-present Blackberrys and women dressed so conservatively, they all look primed for their first day of work at Sotheby’s. (And I wonder: Are Londoners more attractive than New Yorkers, or am I just a hopeless Anglophile? Or is it just that the rich are always prettier, and in London, I somehow manage to only ever see the rich?)

Into all this comes The Belgraves, a months-old property from the American hotelier Thompson—you know it for L.A.’s Hollywood Roosevelt and New York’s 60 Thompson, among others—which renovated and moved into a mid-20th-century structure formerly known as Belgravia’s ugliest building. So what’s an American interloper doing in a place like this? Quite nicely, it turns out, quite nicely, indeed.

In large measure, this is due to the slightly irreverent work of bad-girl British decorator Tara Bernerd, a socialite turned designer who streaks her hair pink and here has created a blend of high and low English and American style, mixing uptown with down, punk panache with Savile Row swagger, Soho-style sandblasted brick with Scandinavian antiques and cushy chairs from designer David Linley—who also just happens to be The Queen’s nephew. Bernerd herself calls the look “rough luxury,” which sounds like an entirely paradoxical, and therefore perhaps rather American concept, while Thompson co-founder Jason Pomeranc points out that “our first hotel, 60 Thompson, was always ideologically based on the intimacy of British hotels. That’s something that’s always been an inspiration to our brand.  We wanted an Anglo-American fusion in terms of design, service and atmosphere.” 

For the Anglo element, Pomeranc turned to Bernerd, of course, but also to local starchef Mark Hix, who loaned not only his name and his skills to the hotel’s modern British lobbyside restaurant, but also his collection of canvases by YBAs (that’s Young British Artists) to the hotel’s walls. On the American end of things, there’s the stylized but still in-your-face American flag behind the check-in desk, as well as more subtle and comforting notes, like the bellmen in Levis, plaid shirts and Chelsea boots “rather than the typical top hat and tails you’d normally find in Belgravia,” notes the hotel’s American-born general manager Joseph Kirtley, who spent more than a decade with Morgans hotels in New York, Los Angeles and London before Thompson wooed him away to The Belgraves. “As an American brand, we were able to have a little bit of fun with it all.”

Upstairs, the fun continues, in the hotel’s 85 rooms and suites, all done in shades of platinum and grey, with rich (you might even say royal) aubergine and Bordeaux-colored velvet accents. It’s the ones on the park side of the building, and sitting on the hotel’s upper floors, that you’ll want to book, what with the tufted-velvet banquette alcoves built into their bay windows and the views up and over Belgravia’s mansard roofs. These extend out towards Buckingham Palace, Victoria, Green Park and Picadilly beyond, all of which are lovely places to visit, though you well may find yourself jonesing for the charms of Belgravia when you do. But don’t worry, Gemma and Jeeves will be waiting.

NYC vs LA: The Thompson Concierges

Keeping up with what’s new and trendy as well as checking in with old favorites is the balancing act that is the job of a hotel concierge—after all, the buzziest restaurant in town may mean a long wait and lousy service, which translates to unhappy customers who would have been happier with a tried-and-true standby that still offers them a taste of the city. We went bicoastal find out what the pros at the Thompson Hotel Group are recommending these days. This is what Kelsey Wilson, a lead concierge at the Thompson Beverly Hills in LA, and Paul Salvatore Petersen, head concierge at 60 Thompson in NYC, had to say:

Favorite bar for cocktails?

LA: My favorite bar for cocktails would have to be SUR Lounge.  SUR has a separate lounge/bar area attached to the famous SUR Restaurant, located in the heart of West Hollywood.  The feel is trendy, sexy and elite, and the décor is absolutely stunning, as is the clientele.  

NYC: I love Death & Company in the Lower East Side. More and more bars are popping up where the cocktails have been elevated to an art form. Death & Company was one of the first places in NYC where these mixologists brought elegance and craftsmanship back to the cocktail. Not to mention how cool it is inside!

 What’s the best dish you’ve had this year?

LA: As I can think of several, I would have to say my absolute favorite dish has been the Miso Cured Alaskan Butterfish at Asia de Cuba.  The dish features Cuban black beans, edamame salad and tempura shishito peppers. I have had some amazing food but this was on a whole new level of delicious!  The plate was colorful, had amazing texture and totally surprised my palate.

NYC: I am going to say it was the Braised Lamb Shank at La Promenade de Anglais. It’s a new restaurant in Chelsea that is a great mixture of European cuisines, popular with the gallery crowd.  Their Lamb Shank, braised perfectly and placed in a bed of their amazing Polenta, makes this Italian-American a very happy person!

What’s the toughest door in town right now—and how can I get past it?

LA: The toughest door is Los Angeles is at Sayers Club, right in the middle of all the Hollywood action. Sayers is ultra-new, ultra-exclusive and ultra-glamorous—don’t be surprised when you see celebrities here. Table reservations are always a good idea to guarantee entry and at Sayers, it is well worth it!  

NYC: Formerly The Boom Boom Room, and now called Top of The Standard. Even the guests of the Standard are typically turned away. Best way to get in is to go early. I can reserve you a table up until 10PM, but after 10PM it’s doorman’s discretion. It’s not 100% impossible to get in after that, but if you don’t know the owners, you better be dressed well and be nice to the doorman!

Where’s the best boutique to pick up a last-minute gift?

LA: If you need a last minute gift, definitely check out The Lemon Tree Bungalow in West Hollywood.  It has a lot of different gift options and is very well balanced whether you are looking for a housewarming gift, a holiday gift, or something bigger like an anniversary gift. The very friendly staff is helpful and also great at recommending the perfect item!  

NYC: It’s definitely MXYPLYZYK in the West Village. For years I have been going there for all sorts of gifts. They have fun and unique items for every room in your house or apartment. They also have books, kids toys, and even fish bowls made to hang on your wall. MXYPLYZYK really has a little bit of everything. Best part is it’s all affordable!

What’s your personal favorite room in the hotel, and why?

LA: This is easy, my favorite room in the hotel is the lobby! This isn’t just the obvious answer because I spend so much time here, but because I love the modern furniture and trendy feel.  We also just opened a brand-new restaurant that is connected to our lobby, Caulfield’s. It is a beautiful space with large windows that add some great natural light to complete the welcoming feel that any lobby should have.

NYC: Well the Penthouse of course! And if you have to ask why, then you need to come here and check it out. Call me and I’ll give you a tour.

The Dish: Kittichai’s Unlimited Thai Hot Pot

You may have noticed that the temperature in New York is starting to drop, and when that happens, restaurants around town tend to slightly alter their menus to satiate their customers’ need for warmth. This season, there might not be a better (and more delicious) option than the new Thai hot pot at Kittichai.

What: A scalding, spicy tom yum broth, perfect for cooking everything that comes with it: thinly-sliced slabs of marinated pork and hanger steak, salmon, mussels, squid, shrimp, and a variety of Asian veggies. After you’re done cooking, the waiters will bring you a bowl of noodles and douse them in the tom yum broth, which has now been seasoned with all the meat. Where: Kittichai, that sleek, modern Thai resto at Soho’s 60 Thompson, featuring star chef Ty Bellingham. Ideal meal: They start you off with a sweet papaya salad as a kind of calm before the storm. Get the $45 unlimited offering, which is exactly what it sounds like. When you run out of offerings, they will bring you more of whatever you want. End your meal with the aromatic Thai hot chocolate with Mekong whiskey, perfect before confronting the frigid night air. Because: While $45 might seem like a lot, the unlimited option truly ends up being one of the best dining deals in New York. Otherwise, you’ll have to order each item individually and it quickly adds up. The ingredients here are quality. The shrimp is plump, the salmon fresh, and the red meat comes rapped around asparagus spears and broccoli stems. The variety of it all can’t be matched. Tastes like: Whatever you want it to taste like. That’s because they provide you three different dipping sauces, and if you’re the heat-seeking type, they’ll bring you three chili-infused hot sauces for maximum burn. Bottom line: You’ll not only leave feeling gastronomically satisfied, but there’s also a satisfaction with the level of control afforded to you throughout the experience. You cook what you want, when you want, for as long as you want. Few experiences in New York’s culinary world are as satisfying.

Kittichai’s New Chef Ty Bellingham Speaks to Blackbook

Is it me or is there a Thai restaurant on every corner in Manhattan? The latter seems right: they’re as ubiquitous as ATM machines. And they’re not all that special, either (you have to go to Queens for that). Thankfully, New York City recently received one of the best Thai imports in the city’s culinary history. Ty Bellingham—who worked at the famed Sailors Thai in Sydney, Australia—has taken over Kittichai at 60 Thompson, giving it that Thai magic makeover. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s regarded as one of the world’s top Thai chefs. It took Ty a couple months to get acclimated, so we gave him some time to get down and dirty before getting the dish on his new adventure.

What are some of the changes we can expect at Kittichai? I have dedicated the last 15 years of my life specializing as a chef in authentic Thai cuisine. I have immersed myself in every aspect of it including learning about the culture, which is integral to eating the food. My passion for it has led me around the world, including running the most awarded Thai restaurant in Sydney, and traveling through Thailand many times. I guess my philosophy is, if it’s hard it’s usually worth doing. This means making our curry pastes, and lime juice coming out of fruit. No shortcuts are taken.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced with your new position?
 I imagine getting fresh food is harder to get here than
 Australia. 
There are lots of ingredients I can’t get here that I
 can get in Sydney, but I’ve been surprised at the many 
things that I can source. There is a lot more here than I expected. 
I’m enjoying trying all the different types of chilies, fresh and 
dried. There are a lot more varieties here.
The initial challenge is learning all the seafood and meat.
 What’s good, what’s not, and 
what’s a good price. But my sous chef Bryan has helped me a great deal
 with that. Plus I am struggling with the different measures: Fahrenheit, ounces, pints and quarts.


What are some dishes you’ve introduced to the menu?
 I have almost overhauled the entire menu, leaving some of the 
Kittichai favorites.
 A personal favorite is my smoked trout on shiso leaf, with a
 caramelized palm sugar dressing. I did this for the Food Network’s
 Food and Wine fair and the Taste of New York events. It seemed the 
customers at those events loved this dish. 
I also have five different curries on the menu right now:
 Seafood with a citrus red curry, the classic green curry with chicken
 and Thai eggplant, and for the more adventurous, we have the pork tenderloin in a jungle
 curry paste, which is the hottest item on the menu. Curries are my 
favorite dishes to make and eat.

How do the Kittichai diners differ from who those you served back in
 Australia?
 Well, for one thing, diners in News York eat out a whole lot later. In
 Sydney, service would end around 10 to 11 pm. Thai food has been fairly prevalent in Australia for a while – probably due to our proximity to Southeast Asia – and so they are more used to
 ordering food family-style, which is how Thai food is supposed to
 be eaten. A meal would typically have a spicy, salty curry, crispy
 caramelized pork belly, a hot and sour soup, and a salad of some kind. But
 all this means nothing unless it is served with rice. 
I have noticed that people eat less rice here in New York City. Maybe 
it’s the whole carbs thing after 6pm.

What is your opinion of the Thai restaurants in NYC? I really have no opinion on Thai restaurants in NYC. I haven’t had
 time to eat out a great deal yet. 
But what I have recently read is that Thai food is the new Italian. So I
 think it is great that I am here in the city at a time when Thai food is getting
 the recognition it deserves. When it is done well, Thai can compete with the great food countries 
of the world. 
In Australia, Thai has replaced the local Chinese as people’s take-out
 of choice, it is literally that popular. It would be great to see
 Thai food as prominent as this in NYC.

What are some of your favorite restaurants (Thai or not Thai) in NYC? The restaurants in our group are fantastic and show a great range of diversity of cuisines. BONDST has great sushi, Republic at Union Square is great for noodles, and Indochine is still fantastically cool.

L.A.’s Latest Members Club: Petit Ermitage’s Roof Goes “Private”

Step aside, Soho House, there’s a new members club in L.A. Sure, it may not share the social pedigree of London’s well-known chain of clubs. And yes, it’s really just the top floor of the Petit Ermitage hotel, where guests who stay below luxuriate poolside. But the top floor of this West Hollywood haunt just might be worth the price of admission for locals who want to enjoy a rare slice of mahogany-laden, Spain-meets-Morocco majesty in the middle of WeHo – and a touch of real privacy.

Earlier this year, the hotel took first steps toward making the scene on the 4th floor more exclusive, rebranding the Private Rooftop Club “guests only” and locking down the elevator via electronic key card. But technology alone does not a members club make. What does make it are the curated events, which marketing director Kristen Daie (formerly of the storied members-only City Tavern Club in Washington D.C.) plans on a weekly basis. The view, similar to that at Soho House, doesn’t hurt either.

The evening events run the gamut from the mundane (wine tastings) to the merry (lingerie runway shows). Members are given discounts – 50% off valet, for example – and first dibs on seating at their buzzing Sunday “gypsy” brunch, where exotic eats such as python and alligator are served alongside Bloody Marys.

Already, Daie says Petit Ermitage has sold many memberships at rates comparable to annual membership dues at Soho House. Prospective Private Rooftop Club purveyors must apply and interview with a two-person committee.

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The idea for the members club is Ashkenazy’s, and the hotelier curates his members as carefully as the décor (the hotel boasts tiles he sourced personally from multiple European countries, and oozes old world Euro-charm). The end result is an experience akin to a relaxed yet social evening at the Chateau Marmont, which, of course, is still free.

Unlike the Chateau, however, Ashkenazy’s proven that there’s apparently no shortage of people willing to pay annual dues for a bit of exclusivity in L.A. away from prying eyes. For that, thank the Petit Ermitage’s laid back, unique vibe, which isn’t easily replicated by chain hotels in the immediate area, or even in analogous neighbors such as the Chamberlain, which has tried to cultivate a “scene” atop their roof deck for years.

Petit Ermitage has achieved an effortless buzz this year similar to what hotels such as 60 Thompson successfully implemented over a decade ago, when the Manhattan boutique first made their roof deck private. It’s a simple yet effective way to build a base from which to draw a bohemian (yet moneyed) crowd. Yes, celebrities come here, but they come for the respite from the tyranny of L.A. “hotspots.” For those who have experienced a chilly night under a blanket near the fireplace while looking out over Los Angeles, glass of wine in hand, any price is worth keeping undesirables out and clients or loved ones in.

Jason Pomeranc Gives BlackBook the 411 on Thompson Toronto

In case you hadn’t heard by now, Thompson Hotels Group recently opened their first international hotel in Toronto, appropriately titled Thompson Toronto. Expect the usual swank Thompson delivers, including a rooftop bar scene with a pool and killer skyline views, a private 40-seat screening room, Chef Scott Conant’s Scarpetta, and 102 design-driven guestrooms with 18 suites all on 16 glass-encased floors. The hotel set up camp in Toronto’s emerging King West neighborhood—destined to become the Meatpacking of Toronto—which is chock-full of loft buildings, new restaurants, and fashionistas. We had a chance to catch up with hotelier and Thompson co-founder Jason Pomeranc, who gave us the dish on his new Canadian adventure.

What attracted you to Toronto? Toronto is the 5th largest city in North America, with a somewhat unknown artistic scene and its own version of Wall Street. It has a similar feeling to some of the neighborhoods in New York where we already have hotels. The emerging art and diverse culture the city has really embodies the style our clients seek. The parallels Toronto has with LA and NY and the easy access flying in from both of those places really made it make sense for us to open our first international hotel there. Much like how Soho was in somewhat infant stages when we opened our first hotel 60 Thompson, Toronto is similar—the areas are just starting to develop yet have drawn influential architects and artists as well as business people.

Did you think twice about other major Canadian cities like Vancouver or Montreal? Vancouver is a beautiful city and certainly not one we would be opposed to having a property in, as with Montreal, but this was a unique opportunity where the timing was right. Toronto is the place where Canada’s media, entertainment, and fashion business is most prominent.

Why did you choose the King West area rather than the emerging West Queen West neighborhood to build the hotel? It reminded us of the meatpacking district in New York before all of the nightclubs and hotels were being built there. The energy of the emerging area is similar to many of the areas we believe our clients travel to and where we see the future of the city moving to.

What can guests expect at Thompson Toronto? Like all Thompson Hotels, Toronto provides an urban resort, meaning you have the energy of the city but enough to do within the property to keep you entertained if you don’t want to leave, including three restaurants — one of which is Scarpetta (a taste of New York) — a rooftop pool and bar with city views, a screening room, basement lounge, yoga and fitness studios, and even an ice-skating rink in the winter to create a “boutique resort” that also attracts locals. No other hotels in the city offers the same style as our hotel, and I don’t think they are trying to cater to the same type of traveler. While those hotels are all great for a specific type of guest, that guest is typically not a Thompson client.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Toronto? I enjoy going where the locals go and getting a flavor for the various areas in the city, exploring the art scene, small galleries, museums, as well as the restaurants and nightlife.

Industry Insiders: Josh Katz, Vibe Creator

Josh Katz is the co-owner and founder of EL Media Group, a premier custom music provider and audio/video installation company. Along with his partner Ernie Lake, Katz works with hospitality and nightlife venues worldwide customizing music programming to create a client-specific atmosphere and soundscape.The transition was close to seamless for Katz, a music business veteran, and EL Media Group is expanding rapidly—almost solely by word of mouth. More on the concept after the jump.

Background: I’ve worked with literally thousands of bands. I did sales and marketing for BMG; I worked at Jive Records and helped launch Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys. I always had a passion for music from my childhood growing up in Roslyn, New York. I was seeing music non-stop. Then I went to college in Ithaca and I promoted shows there all the time.

First concert: It was Asia when I was 10 years old.

On the foundation of EL Media Group: I met my partner Ernie Lake about 13 years ago. When I was working at Jive Records, I was marketing Backstreet Boys and all that teen pop. Ernie was doing remixes at the label. About six or seven years later, we hooked up and started doing new compilation record CDs. At this point, we’ve done over 300 of them. We sell CDs in close to 50,000 hotel rooms: the Hard Rock Las Vegas, The St. Regis, Tao, Hotel Gansevoort and Thompson Hotels.

On the scope of their operations: The CDs are how we started, but that matriculated and came back into everything we did. The people we made CDs for came back to us and said, “How do we get this music to play in our lobby or our restaurant or our rooftop?” A light bulb went on and we started doing programming. I went out and started finding the best DJs everywhere and getting them to work on programming for us. Through word of mouth, it just took off. We defined the company at the same time that the whole meatpacking district was coming about and we started doing music for everyone there. We reached a point in ’06, ’07 when we were turning away business. We were just so busy. One of the biggest things is that I’ve spent a significant amount of time on is scouring the city and Miami and Vegas finding the best DJs—recruiting them to work for us and setting up music for various hotels and restaurants. That lead to the next progression, which was putting in sound systems. The people we were doing music for would call us and say, “Oh listen. My speakers aren’t working or this or that.” Before we knew it, we were outsourcing all of that. It became so much outsourcing that we went and bought an AV company. That’s where we are today. We do a background music service. Some of the biggest clothing chains have called and said, “You know what you’re doing for them? We want it.” They realize the importance of it.

On replacing DJs: [This concept] replaces a DJ. In the past, it’s been Muzak or just shitty music in the background. We’ve been the pioneers of putting great music into retail stores, restaurants, and hotel lobbies and making music a part of the overall experience where its not just background anymore. We call it music styling because it’s part of the overall venue. We try to stay involved in the whole design aspect.

On the process of creating the vibe: Right now, I’m working with a casino in Vegas and it’s all about the overall concept of the venue. When you walk in the door, what are you going to feel? What’s the feeling you want? It comes down to your senses. What’s it going to look like? What’s it going to smell like? What’s it going to sound like? That’s a big part of it. We try to get in on the early stages of the people putting the design together and we try to understand the overall brand and what they’re trying to achieve. Then, we create music playlists to create a mood. We do the music on a streaming system, and it’s different for breakfast, lunch, and dinner time, depending on the needs of that venue. Then, the CDs we create incorporate the music from the lobby and extend it into the room so guests can take it home.

Recent projects: We’re working with Five Napkin Burger, doing a place in Long Island City for them. And Food Park at the new Eventi Hotel. We just did Prime Co. on the Upper West Side, the new Gansevoort on Park Avenue and STK Midtown.

Go-to places: I’ve been really into Provocateur. I always love Nobu 57. I just love the whole vibe and the food in there. I enjoy Avenue. I definitely like Bagatelle. I really like Philippe and The Palm in the Hamptons.

Thompson Hotels Launches Inn-Sight Blog

Your friends and ours at Thompson Hotels (6 Columbus, 60 Thompson, Thompson LES, Gild Hall, Smyth, Hollywood Roosevelt, Thompson Beverly Hills, Hotel Sax, and Donovan House) have launched a new blog called Inn-Sight. Spinning off the Room100 concept of yore, Inn-Sight posts about fashion, art, culture, and of course travel, plus interviews and cool stuff happening in and around the various Thompsons. Plus, it’s overseen by our pal Steve Garbarino — check out his Editor’s Letter for the goods on what’s going down over there.

Industry Insiders: Lulzim Rexhepi, Craftsmanship at Kittichai

Lulzim Rexhepi spent time in some of the world’s top kitchens before taking over for Executive Chef Ian Chalmerkittichai at 60 Thompson’s Kittichai . From the Mandarin Oriental in Switzerland and the Blue Water Grill to the Four Seasons Hotel and Icon at the W Hotel and Xing, Chef “Lou” has endured every type of culinary experience to help him keep Kittichai’s flavor booming.

Typical day: I come in, I check my email, I go over manager’s log, and go through Grub Street to see what’s happening in the restaurant world. I walk through the kitchen. First I stop by the butcher station to make sure everything came in properly. I’ll walk through where the cooks are cooking and make sure everyone is using the right product at the right time, make sure everything is fresh. Then I get ready for service.

Favorite kitchen: Working at Icon with Chef Paul Sale. I was on the cusp of being a sous-chef and he really showed me how to take it to the next level. He taught me so many important lessons about cooking. The people I worked with before that were really mean, non-stop-yelling chefs, and he was very laid back, very cool, and we still got the same amount of production. He just taught me a whole different style in the kitchen. It doesn’t need to be that old-school mentality. It can still be an amazing kitchen.

On getting along with the old boss: Chef Ian and I have a great relationship. We still email. He’s mostly in Thailand. He pretty much lets me do the menu the way I want. The only difference is that I have to take a step back and tweak my own mistakes. Whereas before I had him to ask, “What do you think of this?” That’s really the only difference. Of the ten ideas I get in a day, maybe three of them are like “wow” if I’m lucky. So I definitely need the back and forth with him.

Go-to menu items: My favorite drink is the Muddled Grape with coconut water and grapes. It’s really refreshing, really nice. I absolutely love the Whole Fish. We dust it in rice flour, lightly fry it and we serve it with a lesser-ginger curry. It has an earthy flavor and a nice spice. It takes curry to a slightly higher level. I also just put a lobster dish on the menu that I love. It’s cooked three different ways and we serve it just like that with a little suki-yaki sauce, which is a Thai fondue sauce.

On being in a Thai kitchen: Kittichai is the first Thai restaurant I ever worked in. When the Tsunami thing happened, I went to Thailand with Ian to do a fundraiser at the Four Seasons, and I wound up staying for a long time, trying street food and exploring. I get along well with my peers, though. I come from a modest background. When they come in the room I’m no longer the chef, I look at them eye to eye, call them “chef.” My parents did a really good job of teaching me, and I’ll be a culinary student until the day I die.

On getting a tough table: Give a hundred bucks to the manager. I’m joking. Because I’m never sure when I’m going to be off, I hardly ever make reservations and I don’t go to places and say, “Oh I’m the chef at Kittichai, give me a table.” I’m very polite, and if I have to wait a half hour at a place I want to eat, I do it. When a host has 80 people waiting for tables, if you walk in and you’re demanding, you’re not getting a table. It never hurts to compliment what the host is wearing.

Go-to joints: I like Macao. I like the bar chef there as far as drinks go. I go up to Thom Bar and have a cocktail with my buddies. I just had a great dinner at The Breslin and I think April Bloomfield is doing some cool stuff.

Guilty pleasure: I sneak behind pastry counter and eat these mekong whiskey chocolate truffles that we make. I can’t get enough. They’re ridiculous. I’ve got a lot of bad habits—I get worked up easy. When I’m in the kitchen, I’ll explode for a second, and then I’ll take a deep breath and get better.