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Q&A with Marea's Michael White and Chris Cannon

Throughout the New York City Food & Wine Festival this weekend, Eater welcomes bloggers, journalists and food world stars to our lounge at the Standard Hotel. As the peeps pass through, we're going to chat them up and spit out the dialogue here in this business, From the Eater Lounge. Right now: Marea/Alto/Convivo chef Michael White and Marea dark overlord Chris Cannon.

2009_10_mikewhite1.jpgSo how have things been going for you guys? MW: It looks like it’s going to be a pretty good fourth quarter for us. Are things picking up? CC: Right after Labor Day we picked up—it’s like the faucet got turned back on. August was really bad; the whole city left basically—even more than usual. Plus there weren’t as many tourists. MW: And we still have to be reviewed [by the New York Times]!

Do you guys think that’s going to happen Wednesday? CC: I don’t think so. We hear it’s going to be DBGB. MW: [New NYT critic Sam] Sifton has only had a small part of the menu, he’s got a while to go to get through a decent portion of it in order to do a review.

As far as being aware of VIPs, how much can you change when one is in the house? MW: It’s a big misnomer to think that people can just change things. Your menu is what it is and your staff is in place. You can’t rewrite your menu. Do you really fire two dishes when a critic comes in? CC: Oh, absolutely. The end result is no different. If you fire two dishes, it’s mainly for presentation, not for the taste But you’d say that it’s still important to spot them? CC: Actually, many of the customers we have are more demanding that Sam Sifton. MW: It was actually also very exciting to have those Michelin stars. The thing about them is that those reviewers are anonymous.

Has all of your success translated into more diners at Alto? MW: Well, we have 175 reservations tonight versus 130 last week. CC: Some customer saw Michael last week and they were gushing. It’s amazing that people think the food was so much more different when it has two stars.

I think the dining scene has changed over the past few years and diners in general are most interested in seeing chefs in the restaurant. Have you noticed a change in that? MW: I think that I’m in my restaurant a lot and I have a presence there. I give everyone attention. We’re very fortunate but we’re working very hard at it.

Do you think you’d ever do TV? MW: If the right thing came along. I would want it involve teaching in some way. No game shows. No competitions.
Was it stressful when you weren’t Bruni’s last review because you’ve had to keep up that level of attention in anticipation of Sifton's arrival? CC: It was very stressful having to worry about being the last review. Once we didn’t get it was like a huge weight was lifted off of us. We know it’s going to be a few more months before we reviewed. MW: Honestly, being open longer makes it a lot better for everyone. CC: Everyone knows their job. They know their food.

What’s going on for you guys here at the festival? MW: Well, Meatball Madness is going to be the big thing for us. A lot of people premake their 'balls, but I'm going to make mine fresh tomorrow morning. Fresh balls. The meat was ground last night by a friend of mine, so they’re freshly ground too.

What's on the horizon? MW: We’re getting ready to do something downtown. Something pasta. We don’t know exactly where it’s going to be. CC: There are so many spaces out there. MW: But the major point is that we want to diversify and head downtown.

All NYCWFF 2009 Coverage [~E~]


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