48 Hours in NYCA ROUND UP IN NUMBERS OF HOW THE USUAL'S YASHA AND EMILY SPEND A WEEKEND IN THE CITY.
2.5ACRES OF CENTRAL PARK'S STRAWBERRY FIELDS WALKED.
4ONE DOLLAR HOTDOGS CONSUMED (WE'RE TRYING TO HELP LOCAL BUSINESSES).
16MINUTE CHINATOWN MASSAGE INDULGED IN.
5GAMES OF BILLIARDS PLAYED AT THE NEW YORK EDITION.
5GAMES OF BILLIARDS LOST AT THE NEW YORK EDITION.
2BOROUGHS VISITED (WE'LL GET TO THE OTHER ONES SOON, PROMISE).
Jason Athertonin Conversation with Frank Roberts
ISSUE No 2
in Conversation with Frank Roberts
“I was born a chef; I’ll die a chef,” Jason Atherton calmly explains one bustling afternoon in the decadent dining room at the New York EDITION. Before even tasting the Michelin-starred chef’s menu, his Manhattan debut “The Clocktower” is delicious with a lavish, timeless interior indicating it will be an institution, not just a passing fancy in the city’s long culinary legacy. Atherton rose to prominence training at el Bulli, then cut his teeth as Gordon Ramsey’s right-hand man before launching his incredibly successful restaurant group, now counting 22 venues to his oeuvre. To complement Atherton’s knack for guest experience, Frank Roberts will be heading up EDITION’s cultural and entertainment programming. Here, Atherton talks to Roberts about what makes him tick.
ISSUE No 2
HOW HE APPROACHES A NEW PROJECT:
It doesn’t matter if it’s New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, London, it’s really important that you look at it with a fresh pair of eyes. We never go into any city with expectations. We just go in really humble. I always say to my guys we want to make a really good neighborhood restaurant first; what comes after that is what comes after that. We never open a restaurant to win accolades or show to , we just want to open a really great restaurant that people enjoy.
JASON ATHERTON VS. JASON ATHERTON’S RESTAURANTS:
I never call a restaurant after my name because it just be- comes too pretentious. If we open a restaurant it’s for New York City. It’s not for me. It’s important to me that 95% of my sta here are from New York. It’s a New York restaurant.
ON “TYPICAL” NEW YORK FLAVORS:
New York has a very strong identity with its past, its heritage. People are from all corners of the world. So you can come to New York and have great Chinese, Japanese, Ethiopian, Italian food—you name it. That almost dictates what New York cuisine is. That [multi-culturalism] is the New York flavor we take inspiration from.
Italian food is a great strength in this city. We went to Roberta’s pizza the other night. What an inspiration that place is. That’s New York. You walk in, everyone’s too cool for school. I think I’m pretty cool, but I wasn’t cool enough to be in there.
HIS HOSPITALITY ETHOS:
If you’re going to be successful in this industry, hospitality has got to be in your veins. It’s got to be the blood that ows in your whole body. It’s got to be what pumps your heart when you wake up in the morning to what makes you sleep when you go to bed. People come to us for a certain amount of time in our day—it’s not our job just to make people happy, it’s our job to make them feel special.
NAVIGATING CULTURAL DIFFERENCES:
In Asia the big thing is to bring your own wine to restau- rants. It’s almost their way of showing they like good wine at home. It’s disrespectful to stop people from doing it. So it’s important to understand those cultural di erences.
ON WHAT MAKES A GREAT RESTAURANT:
At the end of the day, if you want to do a good job, you cook your heart out, you give great service, and if it’s good value for your money, people will come to your restaurant, end of story.
It’s a very important part of who you are as a person. I love the saying, “You can tell a man by looking at his shoes.” I think that’s a true analogy. [Looks down] They’re kitchen shoes—not many people cook in George Cleverley.
I joined the army catering corp. when I left school at 16. I was like the worst soldier on planet earth. I was a bit of an unruly teenager and spent a few nights in military prison. Cooking’s a very disciplined art form. Everything I hated about being disciplined, I now love. It just goes to show when you actually love something you’re happy to accept the discipline that goes with it.
HOW HIS NEW YORK DEBUT CAME ABOUT:
It was a month after we opened Berners Tavern [at the London EDITION] and it was packed. Every celebrity from the UK was in. Everybody was everybody’s best friend. It was the hottest place—you burnt your feet when you walked in. And Ian said (I won’t even try to do his accent), “Do you want to come to New York?” I didn’t even have to think about it. We shook on it, that was my contract.
CHECK YOUR EGO AT THE DOOR:
Everyone’s replaceable. Yes, there are people with special talents but it doesn’t give you the right to be obnoxious. The only thing that matters is that the restaurant opens on time, people love it, they want to come back; the minute they sit at this table, get the first cocktail, first walk through the lobby, have their first guest experience at the Gold Bar, their first mouthful of food, and they go, “oh my god, where has this place been hiding? I want to come back.” The minute you start believing you’re bigger than that it all goes wrong.
SECRET TO HIS SUCCESS:
When you’ve done your job a long time, people say it comes second nature. No— nothing ever comes second nature. I’ve been cooking for 28 years now. It’s a 28-year overnight success story. It doesn’t come to anybody like (snaps his fingers) that. Never. Unless you smuggle drugs.