DJs A-Trak, Kool Herc, & More at Scratch DJ Academy 10th-Anniversary Party

Chateau Cherbuliez officially opened in that old church on 6th Ave. known affectionately by all, well many as Limelight. A much better idea than that mall that shares the space and doesn’t seem to have many good ideas, Chateau will class up the building that once was a very classy place. I’m not talking about the Gatien-nightclub incarnation, but more so the time when it was a real church with parishioners that included names like Astor and other NYC-society types. Chateau, with marketing geniuses Derek and Daniel Koch, figures to be a winner. Famous chef Todd English will consult while executive chef Peter Larsen will do the cooking. Managing partner Olivier Bondon of St. Barts lore will preside over a main dining room, a private secret dining room, and when weather permits, a garden. Photos of the Limelight heyday by Patrick McMullan will adorn the walls.

At the official opening Wednesday, that champagne that I proudly affiliate with, Beau Joie, was the official sponsor. It was opened as Daniel and Derek opened Toy just a few weeks ago. The place has operated, and when the time was right and the kinks all un-kinked, they make it official. Good idea. The old building has been a place to gather since the 1840s, and I for one am happy that good people will be returning to have a good time.

Next Tuesday the 30th, Scratch DJ Academy celebrates its 10th year with over 100,000 students from all 50 states and 35 different countries. It’s a major force in developing young talent. Tuesday’s anniversary party honors some not-so-young talent; DJ Kool Herc, DJ QBert, and A-Trak will be the focus of attention while various young studs strut their stuff. It’s an RSVP thing so if you wanna go, do some hustling. I caught up with Rob Principe, CEO and co-founder of Scratch DJ Academy, and he told me all about it.

 In the past 10 years, what have been the major changes in DJ culture? The biggest change has come from technology and the democratization of the art form. Technology has now empowered the broader culture to not only become a DJ, but to do so with a very low barrier to entry in terms of cost and equipment.

What do you predict the next 10 years will be like? Technology will continue to fuel change, and the art form will continue to evolve accordingly. Music will also continue to become more personalized in its delivery and consumption, and the experience will continue to become more social. 

Tell us about the 10-year anniversary event. The ten-year anniversary event will celebrate the Scratch DJ Academy’s amazing milestone, and the legacy of Jam Master Jay and the broader DJ community who have impacted, affected, and shaped the art form over the years. 

What can we expect? What will happen? There will be some great performances, and we’ll also be honoring some awesome DJs like A-Trak, Kool Herc, and QBert. DMC from Run DMC will also be performing along with DJ Dasmatic (Jam Master Jay’s son).

Do you think the public is actually becoming more educated with the art of DJing or are clubs just programming pop? I do believe that the public’s music IQ is definitely increasing. Clubs will always program what they need to drive their revenue, but overall, people are much smarter about music than ever before. 

Hotel Food to Stay For

Why ever leave your hotel when so many accommodations now offer a wonderful spread for their guests, like the freshly renovated Auden Bistro and Bar at the Ritz Carlton? Where once the bar and dining room of this classic hotel exuded old, musty money, the newly revamped space brings a clubhouse vibe and chef Mark Arnao’s modern-meets-traditional bistro cuisine. Hotel guests and diners can choose whether to look at the view over Sixth Avenue or at their plates of regionally sourced nibbles. Over at the bar, the team has carried over the regional bent and offers many local spirits and beers, all poured by bartender Norman Bukofzer.

Of course, Auden Bistro and Bar stepping up their game comes long after the boom of laidback, yet fine dining. Not too long ago, Reynards made waves by opening up in the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Yotel also entered the game with their fun FOUR at Yotel and Dohyo, which looks like it should be in a hip-hop video, which is just might. Oh, and Ace Hotel has the joy of hosting April Bloomfield’s babies, The Breslin and John Dory Oyster Bar.

Todd English spread his, ahem, seed to the Plaza Hotel a couple years ago with the Plaza Food Hall, which is more like a fancy food court that hosts guests as well as permanent residents like Tommy Hilfiger and family. Yes, I am told he is a regular.

Lest us not forget the institutions that have made hotel dining a fine and glorious thing, such as Alain Ducasse’s Adour in the St. Regis, or the famous King Cole Bar next to it. The Trump Hotel also features a world-renowned chef’s self-titled eatery, Jean Georges. In fact, New York’s shift out French food and the start of fine dining featuring American cuisine began in The Four Seasons.

All of this sure beats the continental breakfast low budget travelers (like most of my friends and I) are faced with. True, nothing beats a good cup of cold orange juice from a machine or gooey, prepackaged cinnamon roll, but sometimes, it’s nice to have a little bit of bubbles added to it.  

New York Opening: The Plaza Food Hall

It’s been something of a rollercoaster these last several years for New York’s most storied hotel. But The Plaza’s unquestionable bright spot has been the Food Hall, the first phase of which was unveiled in summer 2010 as The Plaza Food Hall by Todd English. Now known as The Todd English Food Hall, the superstar chef’s section, with its widely popular Pasta Bar, remains an anchor. But now comes this impressive new expansion, which puts the totality of the offerings under the concise moniker The Plaza Food Hall.

Added to the existing culinary delights is the Tartinery French bistro, the retro Americana style Billy’s Bakery, the heavenly FP Patisserie by Francois Payard, as well as Kusmi Tea, Lady M cakes, La Maison du Chocolat, Luke’s Lobster, Pain D’Avignon, Sushi of Gari, No. 7 Sub, WIlliam Greenberg Desserts, YoArt (chic frozen yogurt!), Creperie NYC, and David Burke’s casual and cleverly named Burke in the Box. In addition to the epicurean glories, new lifestyle shops include Town and Country Living, the Plaza Boutique, and perhaps NYC’s most high-profile purveyor of petals, Gramercy Flowers. A living green wall brings a bit of nearby Central Park indoors, for those who prefer a bit of lovely with their yummy. 

What of the Now Todd English-less Ember Room?

When the Ember Room opened up in February 2011 in Hell’s Kitchen, it did so with fanfare, parties, and with chefs Todd English and Ian Kittichai backing the project. Not long after it opened, Ember Room fell into that same problem a lot of celebrity-owned restaurants do: the food, service, and vibe all rode on names and in the end, didn’t deliver. Basically, it sucked. Now Todd English has stepped down from the Ember Room, a move he did quietly a few weeks ago, and has let Kittichai take over the kitchen. So what will become of the Ember Room? Will it continue to smolder or will it gradually cool to stillness?

Perhaps English’s move is smart, he has after all been running restaurants since the 1980s when he opened Olives in Massachusetts. Since then he has quickly moved up in the restaurateur world, starting businesses, staring on his own TV show, and writing numerous cookbooks. Maybe he just heard Ember Room’s death rattle, after all, it’s not unusual for celebrity helmed eateries to fail when the restaurant doesn’t step up to the plate. For example look at Britney Spears’s short-lived NYLA in New York or J-Lo’s Madres in California. Some restaurants, like the Heath Ledger’s Five Leaves, remain strong even when the celebrity presence is gone, and that’s usually due to its solid food and service.

Kittichai, in his thick Thai accent agrees and says, “I want to make this restaurant more impressive, more fun about eating, more fun about experiencing. Like, trying the Ladyboy [cocktail].”Aside from the whimsical drink list and recognizable Asian-flare themed dishes like lobster pad Thai, whole striped bass, and juicy volcano chicken, Kittichai has worked to recreate the menu into something people, not just tourists wanting to eat at a famous chef’s restaurant, will make an effort to go out and try.

Under Kittichai’s command, the food offerings appear to have perked up, though it still remains safe for diners not really wanting something too different or spicy. The chef also tapped into today’s current trend of comfort-fusion food by adding dishes like green curry lasagna, Thai chili mac n’cheese, and Thai tacos with shredded chicken, coconut, and a sweet chili sauce.

In the end, perhaps English’s exit was a good thing. He might have brought the crowds but it is Kittichai’s name carries weight in food-conscious circles. So we hope: English is gone but the Ember burns on.  

Celeb Chefs Step Up Airport Cuisine

It is a truth universally acknowledged than an airport must be in want of fresh, delicious food for any price. Even the godfather of the celebrity-chef concept, Wolfgang Puck, has allowed his brand to become so diluted that his name on your pizza box guarantees little besides the requisite thin crust. But as the new generation has swept in to our ever more Food-Networked world, they’ve started taking up real estate in the terminals that deserve some attention.

Rick Bayless has managed to create a deep respect among his fans for both Mexican cuisine and the Chicago culinary scene, so it’s no surprise that Tortas Fronteras serves up its giant (and we mean giant) tortas and open-face sandwiches at O’Hare, in Terminal 1. Across the pond, London Heathrow tapped Gordon Ramsay to create Plane Food in their Terminal 5, offering everything from blini and Sevruga caviar to sea bass and braised lamb — and you can even get it packaged to take on your flight.

A different kind of English cuisine is happening at Boston’s Logan Airport, where Todd English’s Bonfire is grilling up steaks from around the world in a mix of Argentinean, European and American steakhouse traditions. And though customers may stumble into Las Vegas’ McCarran with nothing more than a Bloody Mary in mind, David Burke’s Burke in the Box offers up a wide selection of gourmet American offerings, like not-so-traditional prosciutto and arugula pizza and pretzel panini. But if we’re being honest, our favorite celebrity chef airport joint isn’t run by a celebrity chef at all — it’s celebrity butcher Pat LaFrieda, whose Custom Burgers joint in New York’s LaGuardia airport turns out beef so tender, you won’t even need your dinky plastic knife.

Hell’s Kitchen Heats Up with Asian BBQ Joint Ember Room

You, me, and everyone we know, knows that Hell’s Kitchen isn’t a culinary hotspot. But things may change once Ember Room—fronted by Ian Chalermkittichai (of Kittichai fame) and Todd English—opens on February 7. Expect all sorts of Asian-inspired barbecue, custom-created Bombay Sapphire cocktails, and, finally, a restaurant that will put Hell’s Kitchen on the culinary map. We caught up with Chef Ian for the scoop.

Why should New Yorkers look forward to Ember Room? I think because it is a fun concept and will be an enjoyable dining experience. BBQ is a casual favorite amongst diners. A big highlight in the restaurant is our open kitchen, with a specially crafted one-of-a-kind wood-burning lava stone oven, with natural soap stone woks.

What will make it different from the other Asian BBQs in NYC? Well, I think because Ember Room will have different methods of BBQ cooking, especially since we have the unique oven in our open kitchen, which can roast a whole suckling pig. Our Asian flavor influences span Asia and don’t just focus on one region or country. Also, I think the fact that Todd and I worked together to create the menu and concept is pretty unique in NYC!

Who did the design? The venue was envisioned by the internationally acclaimed hospitality designer Roy Nachum, who is known for his cutting edge restaurant designs at Justin Timberlake’s Southern Hospitality, 1Oak, and Mels Burger Bar. The concept is based on the inherent beauty of natural materials with its opulence expressed through contemporary design customs of both Asian and American cultures. The focal point is definitely the open kitchen area, centered around a custom-built Nobile oven fashioned from clay bricks, volcanic rock and natural stone. The “baby hearth” as we call it features seven roasting ovens, two stone woks and a grill.

Any staple dishes you created we should look for? The stone wok fried rice dishes, such as the Korean BBQ Beef fried rice or the Hot & Spicy Chicken Basil Fried Rice. Of course, I have also included my Chocolate Baby Back Ribs on the menu. Also the whole roasted suckling pig which is ginger hoisin glazed is something not to miss.

Why Hell’s Kitchen? The location is a great mix of residential, offices, retail and visitors. Its easy to get to and an up-and-coming food neighborhood. A BBQ restaurant, especially an American Asian BBQ restaurant, is a great fit for the area.

Any noteworthy cocktails? The Ember, which is gin, sparkling sake, muddled berries and some citrus notes, is definitely something special. The Tyku Saketini, which is Tyku Green and vodka based with cucumber, is wonderfully refreshing.

Industry Insiders: Mario Tolentino, Juliet’s New Man

Mario Tolentino swept into Juliet supperclub after the departure of mega chef Todd English, and took care of some housekeeping around the joint. Now known as Juliet Kitchen and Grill, Tolentino’s serving a finger-food heavy menu inspired by international street food, and based on clever things he learned while traveling the globe over the years. The San Francisco native was a season winner on The Food Network’s show, Chopped, and spent time in the kitchen at Aqua in San Francisco. More on the apple of Juliet’s eye after the jump.

On a typical day at Juliet: Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays I go to the farmer’s market. I try to get as much as I can there. We’re not doing 300 covers a night, so I can really control what food I get. I go in to do my preparation. I buy all my meats whole and do my own butchering, which is one of my favorite things to do. Then we go into service.

On the new menu: The theme of the menu is based on modern, international, ethnically-styled street food. Everything is small and comes on a skewer. It’s easy for people to eat. I completely re-launched the concept and gave it a theme that was more suitable for the club atmosphere there. That was one of the first things I had to do when I got there. We have large groups of people that come there. This isn’t the type of place where it’s like, Me and my hubby are coming for an intimate dinner. The reality of it is that people are coming here to have a good time. I want the menu to be reflective of that. When I originally came up with the concept I thought it through from top to bottom. We have to take the linen off the tables, we have to change the uniforms for the waiters, we need to change how the people are eating. I put the chopsticks in and give them roll-ups and we took the formal wine glasses off the table. It’s basically platters of canapés, very easy to eat. They’re all exotic, drawing from Asian and Latin cultures—all these warm, temperate climate cultures where it’s hot and sexy. It reflects on the type of clients that we have. On Tuesdays, we just started this new world party where we are bringing in world music and we have live instruments played. It ties the international food with international clients and the flavor of Juliet.

On his travels: I’ve lived in Hawaii, Barcelona and everywhere in between. I was always a traveler at heart, but I was always able to combine that with my passion for cooking as well. I love to cook, and the thing that facilitated traveling was the fact that I wanted to work in as many restaurants as I could, learn as much as I could, and see all different types of cultures and cuisines. It’s just something I was always passionate about since I was a kid.

On the difference in working in a nightclub/restaurant: Most of my background comes from hardcore fine dining. I was a sous chef at a two-Michelin star restaurant and at a one-Michelin star restaurant. You’re talking about extremely structured environments where everything is precise. You’re tripping out on some crazy ingredient or you’re tripping out on some modern technique that no one’s been doing too much of. At the end of the day, how much of that food do you just want to sit down and just chomp away at? I really wanted to set myself apart, and to make this about me and my experiences.

What precipitated the move to New York? My girlfriend, Julie Babin, used to live in New York. She’s a designer. She was working on projects here when we were living in Hawaii. It just wasn’t realistic for us to be there anymore.

Go-to spots: I live in the East Village, so there’s a lot of places to choose from. I eat at Momofuku all the time. Also, the other place I love to eat at is Northern Spy. I love this place called Minca Noodle Factory. It’s on 5th between A and B. Amazing. All they serve is Ramen but it’s this luxurious pork broth like none that I’ve ever tasted before.

Guilty pleasure: Candy, without a doubt. I love sour gummy candies and anything with bacon in it. Bacon and doughnuts.

Mixing & Matching: Mark Baker & Juice Press, Todd English & Plaza, New DJ’s & Lit

The long delayed Camille Becerra restaurant on Orchard and Rivington is nearing completion. It’s amazing how fast the pieces come together once the bones of a place are in order. Upon completion of the wiring, the plumbing walls are closed up and the installation of finishes is a relatively short process. I felt very satisfied with the feel of the place as I left it yesterday afternoon. I headed to the Juice Press on 1st and 1st to reboot. A crowd of the beautiful people surrounded club god Mark Baker, who is hawking the place. It’s a win-win for the newly svelte Mr. Baker, who gets paid and fit with the new gig. Afternoon informal juice parties with familiar club gods, celebrities, models, and bottles filled with healthy nectars, have become common. I’m obsessed with the watermelon juice and kale chips. I’m going to live to be 100.

Mark and I chatted about the progress over at Double Seven and “doing this and doing that, “ and weekend plans. He told me how Juliet Supper Club’s own personal “Romeo” chef Todd English has moved on. According to master Baker, Todd is slammed with that food court thing at the Plaza Food Hall, where he will curate all sorts of exotic and trademark cuisines. Mark told me the separation was without anxiety for any of the players.

“It’s all good and friendly, an amicable separation. Todd’s busy schedule and new venues made it unrealistic to continue, so new chef Mario Tolentino takes over and opens this week. It’s world street cuisine and grill. A new direction for Juliet that compliments the super success of the club portion.”

I could never see Todd at Juliet. The environment just didn’t seem to suit him. I hear his name constantly associated with this project, or that, and half the time, when I turn on the flat screen, they’re hawking pots and pans with his name on it. No tears need to be shed for these creatures of the night: Juliet is packed with the crowd that they want and Todd has plenty of places to hang his hat. Best of luck to all.

I was stuck in late meetings as everyone was trying to get all the business done yesterday and get out of town early today. I missed the Carlo McCormick ”NYC-Shred” opening at the Perry Rubinstein Gallery in Chelsea. The exhibit, which will run until late August, is a group show of collage-based works. Carlo and I have been pals since the stone age . He is very much a part of that loveable Paper Magazine crew, and his vision is always worth checking out. I caught up with my crew at the nearby Moonstruck diner and was struck by how bad it really was. The food was OK, but the overall experience was similar to a prison mess hall. The after-party at Lit featured DJ’s Fancy and Dimitry. Erik Foss thinks they could be the next big thing. They had the hipster crowd in a frenzy. It’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys or a club filled with bottle whores and frat boys. I headed to Kenmare to wish my own personal dashboard Jesus, Paul Sevigny, a happy birthday, but alas he was still over at his party at Avenue. Happy birthday Paul Sevigny, who along with Nur, are the Obi-Wan Kenobi’s of nightlife: our only hope

Rivera and Juliet

At first, it may seem like an odd fit: the street wise Ruben Rivera from the block, manning up at the door at the very non-street club, Juliet. Juliet Supperclub is a home run. The old opera/area space on a forgotten factory/gallery block in Chelsea was never supposed to happen. Jon B., the crafty, never-say-die, owner was trying to get rid of the space and couldn’t find a buyer, so he went for it and created one of the most financially viable places around. Jon B. (who will never be known as John “A”—and likes it that way) brought in big time player, Bon Vivant and international man of mystery, Mark Baker, celebrity chef (and my pal) Todd English, ex-Norwood superhero Artan Gjoni and his usual cast of characters to brand his West 21st Street restaurant/club. Jon, at Mark Baker’s insistence, added an unusual cast member… Ruben Rivera. Mark and Ruben worked together at Mansion. Shattered dreams often result in life long friendships. He wants to use the connections he’s made at the door to be an actor. He’s been doing that since 1994 when he appeared in Carlito’s Way with Al Pacino.

Ruben is the consummate team player since high school, when he played point guard for St. Nicholas of Tolentine. The last NYC nationally-ranked number 1 team featured all Americans: Malik Sealy, Adrian Autry and Brian Reese. Ruben used his court skills to get a ride at the University of California Bakersfield. I spent a year in Bakersfield in one night. It’s a very strange place in the middle of nowhere that smells of cattle and oil and is far away from the Bronx in so many ways. Sometimes the best education you can get is seeing what you had and what you never want first hand. At a very young age, Ruben hung at the hip hop clubs in the Bronx and downtown that his mom warned him about. She came looking for him one night. “Anyplace your mom doesn’t want you in must be cool,” he remembers. It was Cuando one night and Car Wash the next, forgotten joints that made icons out of Krs 1, Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie and the Melle Mels of the world. He came down to my joint the world on East 2nd Street where I was trying to do something real.

How did you start doing the door? You started my career. You gave me my first official door. Mark Baker brought me to Juliet. Jon B. wanted someone else. They gave me a shot, and now I help run the place. Same thing happened when I was at Mansion. I care about my job and the venue first before my ego! If I don’t let a person in it’s never personal always for the better of the venue. I also respect the fact that, yes, I am an employee and no I’m not the shit just because I’m the door guy. The door doesn’t make me the person I am.

You and I often talk about respect in our work and in our lives. How does respect figure into your door gig? How do your street chops affect your thought process at the door? Yes, we always talk of respect; that Nate Archibald story you told me is classic. Respect on the court and on the streets. On the job…when did it become cool to pester the door man once he’s already denied a person? I never understand people that stand there for hours. I remember when I would go to a place if the door guy deaded me, I would just walk away. Most of the time a door guy sees you come back again and again and you don’t get in but your always respectful and never cause problems you’ll eventually get in. I know that’s how I operate. Cursing me out will dead you for life. Everywhere I work.

What’s it like working with Mark Baker and Jon B.? Mark Baker works a room. Most promoter types don’t work the room, they horde their girls at their banquette which is like a fortress. Some of these club people show up with their resumes. If you need a resume you suck. People know who’s who. Jon B. is a huge customer service person. He knows how to take care of people. He’s very revenue-driven and a great business man, so he generates tremendous revenue. Our Thursdays are making tons of loot. There are too many clubs right now. The business is oversaturated. The promoters know that if you, as an operator, don’t want them and their crowd, then someone else will. The crowds in general are less classy. It isn’t like the old days at LIFE or Centro Fly.

I went to Juliet once and you were on a break. They had some new guy at the door and he was giving me attitude. I tried to tell him I used to be Steve Lewis until the security guys told him to open up. What’s up with the new jack door people? Some of these guys haven’t paid their dues. The get hired cause they look good in a nice European suit but they have no clue what’s going on. They don’t know who’s who. They don’t know respect or that respect makes the place. The people don’t know them and they don’t know how to handle some &X#@ outside.

How many night’s are you at Juliet? Everyday but Monday. We’re not open Monday. If they open it, I’m not working. I need one day off

What’s your overview of New York nightlife? New York Nightlife is changing right before our eyes. Only the creative owners will survive. Soon money won’t buy your way in like the heydays of New York when fashion, music and energy matter. Coolness! Thanks so much Steve for everything. You’ve been tremendously helpful in my life. That’s real shit. You’ve taught me and continue to teach me the stuff I need to survive in this business.By the way did I tell you that Nate archibald story was classic?

We’ll keep that story to ourselves.

Tonight marks the one year anniversary of Music Maestro…Please! One of my favorite go-to’s. I caught up with Jennifly Green and asked me to tell me all about it.

“We started this event, because no clubs or parties ticked all the boxes for us. We wanted to create a platform for the unsung heroes of music, hence the name Music Maestro…Please! i.e music that you do not hear on the radio or in most clubs. We want to bring back ‘80s NYC where Larry Levan had the amazing paradise garage parties, and it really was about the music without the pretense. We play classic ‘80s boogie, along with disco, rare groove, funk, electro and progressive sounds, with an added flavor of UK soul. The idea to create a London-meets-New-York vibe. Every month we include a special guest DJ, tonight is Waajeed (Platinum Pied Pipers) and Jillionaire, spinning along with Jennifly and Vincent Oshin. This monthly affair is now one year old and is becoming a favorite party in New York City for people who are over the models and bottles and top 40, and who just want go out and hear good music and dance, dance and dance. It’s at subMercer

A late night text from a ‘player” over at the always fabulous Provocateur: “Justin Ross physically thrown out after sneaking in through hotel service garbage control entrance”. Mr. Lee’s Facebook status eludes to an earlier part of the story “JRL needs the names of the two women who run the door at Provocateur…”. A pal confirms, “He got turned away”. I thoroughly enjoy Justin. He’s so much fun.