Drew Nieporent, the King of Tribeca, stopped by the Eater Lounge at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen yesterday afternoon to talk about critics, life post-Sandy, and the challenges of opening a restaurant in New York. Here are a few of the best lines from his Eater Lounge chat:
On post-Sandy NYC: "People have been really good and have certainly supported our downtown restaurants. We're still in the throes of a terrible conflict with the insurance company. In our case, it's a huge amount of money, and we were told to do the work so we could reopen, so we're out of pocket a huge amount of money. So that's kind of sad. I've paid insurance on Tribeca Grill for 23 years, and the two times I've had to collect, it's the most ridiculous lawyered process, like a chicken and egg reason. So that's about the only negative we really have, but we have zero satisfaction out of that. Terrible."
On the six degrees of Drew: "The Nobus are doing tremendously well, they recently opened the Nobu hotel in Las Vegas. Malibu is one of the most beautiful, but New York, on 57th and downtown, next year will celebrate 20 years...It's been a pretty good year in New York. I miss Rubicon in San Francisco, but of course my last chef Stuart Brioza and his wife Nicole Krasinski opened State Bird Provisions. Danny Bowien, who of course was the James Beard Rising Star this year, his first job was at Tribeca, so it's still six degrees of Kevin Bacon — no, Drew. So it's kind of a great feeling to see a lot of the people who work with you in all different capacities doing their own thing."
[Photo: Eater National]
On opening a restaurant in NYC: "I unfortunately feel that doing new things now is way more difficult than it had been based on real estate. Rents are ridiculous, there's a lot of interference by the government. Every agency somehow descends at an inopportune time to fine us. Not only the health department, but the ADA and so on. So it's much harder now to do new things because you're just up against so many regulations that you could sort of navigate around when you were younger. I still have a couple of very significant ideas that I hope I can actuate in the next few years. I'm on the record as saying I want to do a great Chinese restaurant, every young Jewish restaurateur wants to do a great Chinese restaurant."
On the current state of food critics: "It seems their power has diminished incredibly. The public seems to rely more now on the blogs, and you guys. I think it's clear...What's happened with the journals, or specifically one paper, every time they make these switches they don't regard history as being important, so the new critic wipes the slate clean, there's no continuity. In some cases they don't even like each other, so they don't go out to lunch and say, what was your criteria for giving a 3 star review? So what a 3 star review is, is constantly changing. The people buying the paper see the same headline and they're confused. It doesn't seem to be the power of a 3 star, 4 star, and of course they're very stingy. Meanwhile Zagat goes on as it always has with a great reference point, and Michelin has also entered the market in terms of this, but the individual critics have allowed their own power to diminish."
On evaluating reviews and staying relevant: "Recently with Carbone, Adam Platt gave it one star, Pete Wells gave it 3. Wouldn't you be confused? Is there really that big of a disparity? One star is really not very good, 3 is something you work your life to achieve. At the end of the day, information in our field, in the field of food, is so fast. I go up on your site and I'm like I better stay on this and go to page 4 because I missed all this. I might be out of the loop. I don't need to know about every restaurant opening in Brooklyn, but I do believe I have a place in the order of food and beverage in New York City, and I don't want to be marginalized. I want to be involved with it, and the way you do that is you don't make yourself ignorant of news."
On London's restaurant scene: "London, by the way has a very vibrant food scene, it reminds me of New York 10 years ago. Fine dining still has a its place, but a lot of those chefs kind of burn out and now they're doing gastropubs. There's almost an inexhaustible list of places to go in London."
· Drew Nieporent on Critics, the Difficulty of Opening in NYC, and the 6 Degrees of Drew [Eater National]
· All Coverage of Drew Nieporent [~ENY~]