Armani … He’s That Spanish Guy, Right?
The message had come from Milan: Giorgio Armani was throwing a special party in March that he wanted Nobu to cater. So a representative of the TriBeCa eatery-the culinary collaboration of chef Nobu Matsuhisa, actor Robert De Niro and restaurateur Drew Nieporent-was dispatched from New York to see what the fashion designer had in mind.
Sources familiar with the situation told The Transom that after touring the location where the party was to be held and learning that a private jet would be dispatched to transport chefs from the newly opened Nobu in London to Milan, the Nobu agent brought up the issue of the catering staff’s uniforms. Nobu’s employees usually are garbed in Issey Miyake uniforms. That might prove problematic, given that this was an Armani party. Indeed, the fashion designer’s representatives had something else in mind: a vest that seemed distinctly Chinese in influence. Apparently, it was not long after that Nobu’s man in Italy learned that Armani’s people were somehow under the mistaken impression that Nobu and Mr. Matsuhisa were purveyors of Chinese cuisine.
Mr. Armani arrived soon after, and a molto heated discussion occurred, in Italian, between Mr. Armani and his employees, which apparently contained many utterances of the word giapponese .
“I don’t know how they thought that we were Chinese,” said Kurt Zdesar, the assistant manager at London’s Nobu, who said he was familiar with the incident. “We do often get designer types in here. Perhaps they were confused with what we were actually doing.”
But, Linda Gaunt, a spokeswoman for Armani’s U.S. operations, denied the story. “There was a chance that they were going to use Nobu, but they didn’t,” she said. “They changed the direction of the party at the last minute,” and ultimately, she said, used an Italian caterer. Yet The Transom hears that Mr. Armani actually sent a letter apologizing for the unfortunate mix-up.
“No, no, no. You don’t understand.”
Daniel Boulud had not even reached the entrance of his restaurant, and already things were not as they were supposed to be. Waiters struggled to align several green coconuts, each with a decorative frond sprouting from it, into a boundary for the makeshift bar that had been set up on the sidewalk on East 76th Street. Mr. Boulud, in navy blue suit and tie, had stopped to point out to his employees that the coconuts were backward. Then, barking orders in French, the chef and restaurateur turned his attention to rearranging tables and chairs in the al fresco setting where cocktails would be served in approximately 15 minutes to more than 100 of the country’s top chefs and restaurateurs.
At least Mr. Boulud did not have to worry about rain. Three months ago, scaffolding had been erected around the hotel building that houses Daniel for what management told him would be one month of work. So recently, Mr. Boulud decided to have the crisscrossing metal struts in front of his boîte sheathed in Spanish moss, creating an urban topiary. Satisfied with the setup, Mr. Boulud checked his watch; then, with a grim smile on his face, he looked in the direction of the jackhammer that was pounding incessantly across the street.
Sacré bleu! Where was the justice in this? Mr. Boulud had just come from a press conference at which Daniel had been named the city’s best restaurant in Gourmet magazine’s current Top Tables issue. Somehow, Mr. Boulud’s reward included the opportunity to cook lunch for Danny Meyer and Tom Colicchio (Gramercy Tavern), Maguy LeCoze and Eric Ripert (Le Bernardin), Anne Rosenszweig (Arcadia), Charlie Palmer (Aureole), Michael Weinstein and Eberhard Muller (Lutèce) and scores more of the country’s most sophisticated and snobby foodies.
The jackhammer hammered. Mr. Boulud stood with his arms folded. And then a smile crossed his face. “It’s going to cost me $50, but I think I give him something,” the chef said. Perhaps he would also feed the man whose power tool was threatening to ruin the afternoon.
As Mr. Boulud hustled inside the restaurant, one of the event’s organizers asked him if he wanted a seat at the luncheon. “No, no, no. I’m not going to eat,” he said emphatically. “If I want, I will bring a chair for myself.” Mr. Boulud disappeared into the telephone-booth-size room off Daniel’s kitchen that is his office. He emerged minutes later in his chef’s whites. The fusillade of French began again, and Mr. Boulud moved to the center of the action-a long stainless-steel table where the afternoon’s canapés were being prepared. Among them were seven-herb fritters and something called “pomponette[s] of porcini and black truffle.” A small army-the restaurant’s day and night teams had been called in-converged around the table to put the finishing touches on the hors d’oeuvres.
“This is one of the craziest days in the four years that we’ve been open,” said Alex Lee, Daniel’s chef de cuisine , as he helped organize the ballet of workers. Mr. Lee said that he was also cooking dinner that night for the James Beard Foundation. (What he didn’t say was that it was his birthday. Tant pis !)
Mr. Boulud said something unintelligible and jetted off toward one of the kitchen’s walk-in coolers. Mr. Lee yelled after him, “It’s done! It’s done! C’est fini ,” halting his boss’ trajectory. Mr. Boulud returned to the table, made a few finishing touches, and then his voice boomed out. “Waiters, please! Cocktail! Let’s go!”
The waiters, in their double-breasted dark green jackets, filed up to the stainless steel table to pick up their trays. Mr. Boulud explained what they would be serving to the crowd, then cautioned them, “Be careful with the platters.” The canapé trays had been painstakingly, sometimes decadently decorated to accent their contents. On one, for instance, five black truffles, not intended for consumption, ringed the hors d’oeuvres. “Don’t move them,” Mr. Boulud warned, “so we don’t have to redo the platters.”
As waiters gingerly took their trays through the swinging kitchen door, Mr. Boulud announced to his staff, “We have a half-hour at least.” He would return then to help construct the next course, personally ladling a fragrant tomato-and-herb consommé over small towers of Maine crab and avocado, but first he would have to make an appearance at the cocktail party.
Mr. Boulud joined the crowd outside and encountered … silence. The jackhammer across the street lay abandoned near its air compressor. The man who was operating it was nowhere to be found.
One problem solved, another appeared to take its place. Mr. Boulud was now due at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 76th Street for an interview with Fox News. He was accompanied by Lespinasse’s chef Gray Kunz, who had won Gourmet’s top honors last year and finished second this year; and Tom Colicchio, the chef at Gramercy Tavern, which took 12th place.
Mr. Boulud looked at his watch and saw his half-hour draining away as the Fox reporter tried to get in touch with her newsroom. Then she explained that she would ask Mr. Boulud his thoughts about taking top honors this year and ask Mr. Kunz about what it meant to win last year. As attention turned to Mr. Colicchio, Mr. Boulud smiled and said that his question would be, “What’s it’s going to mean [to win] next year?”
If only Mr. Colicchio knew.
Andie MacDowell had already shocked those assembled at Bergdorf-Goodman’s shindig for designer Alberta Ferretti. In town to promote her new film, The End of Violence , the actress had showed up at the Sept. 10 event not in haute couture, but in ancienne couture (in the form of an antique bead-and-tulle piece she bought in Paris). What really got them going, however, was the topic of her lingerie.
It seems that during a shoot for Kevyn Aucoin’s book, The Art of Makeup , Ms. MacDowell shared belly laughs with stylist Freddie Leiba over her girlish underpants, which were patterned with polka dots and bows. As backpack-wearing-Eddie Bauer, not Kate Spade-Mr. Leiba and a wine-swilling reporter from the BBC hooted over the sassiness of it all, Ferretti’s P.R. director, Michelle Stein, wandered over. Ms. MacDowell quickly recapped the story. “Well,” said Ms. Stein, who thought that panties with bows were just perfect for a good Southern girl like South Carolina-born Ms. MacDowell, “what panties are you wearing tonight?”
“None!” replied the actress, to the delight of the group, followed fairly swiftly by a “just kidding.”
Sadly, the moment didn’t last. Ms. MacDowell, perhaps thinking better of her disclosure, was in the elevator before her glass of wine arrived.
– Kate Kelly