Earlier this summer, the NYPD arrested Four Seasons proprietor Julian Niccolini on first-degree sexual abuse charges after he allegedly grabbed and forced himself on an unidentified 28-year-old women at the restaurant's bar. If found guilty, he could go to jail for seven years. In this month's issue of GQ, Robert Draper talks to a lot of Four Seasons regulars about the incident, and he asks a number of chefs and restaurateurs for their thoughts on the drama surrounding the Four Seasons and Niccolini. Here are some of the most interesting quotes about Niccolini and the Four Seasons from the GQ article:
— Critic Gael Greene:
I did tend to think he was a little too familiar, and maybe having a little too much fun...But it didn't bother me. I'm sorry to say that Julian never tried to seduce me. Probably I should be embarrassed to admit that. Perhaps he thought it best not to attack restaurant critics.
— Gossip columnist Liz Smith:
I've always seen him as one of those guys who wanted to appear that they were having a lot more sex than they actually were. Of course, I'm hopelessly out of date. And I hate to say this, but sometimes I think the world has totally lost its sense of humor. I think women are generally used to men making passes. It would have to be pretty bad for me to go to the police.
— Amanda Cohen:
I don't know enough about what happened at The Four Seasons...But I've been around long enough to see this business change from owners and investors who treated restaurants like their own personal playgrounds to what you have today—which is owners, investors, and chefs who treat it like an office where sexual behavior isn't tolerated.
— David Chang, on his first visit to The Four Seasons: "It looked like the perfect place to close the deal with a date, surrounded by all those silver foxes and beautiful things."
— And here what one anonymous guest at a party of "celebrated new chefs and sommeliers" has to offer:
The stuff that came out of his mouth—three or four references to having sex. ‘It's like fucking a woman’—that kind of thing. In front of like 300 people. Obviously he's got a bunch of 60-to-80-year-old guys who think it's okay to objectify women. But it struck a lot of us as completely out of line. Personally, I wouldn't let him within a hundred feet of my wife.
Niccolini has denied all of the allegations through his attorney and refused to comment any further, except he tells GQ about his feelings toward the charges: "Personally, yes, it's hurt me. It's very hurtful." It's also worth noting that back in 1991, a female employee at the Four Seasons alleged that Niccolini sexually harassed her, but the case was settled out of court. No word yet on when he will have to go before a judge, but it sounds like the court date is slated for sometime in the next year.
In other Four Seasons news, Niccolini and partner Alex Von Bidder are gearing up to close the restaurant in 2016 to make way for the hitmakers at Major Food Group. Niccolini and Von Bidder are currently looking at space for a new Four Seasons downtown. Julian notes: "Of course, The Four Seasons will still have tremendous architecture, incredible service, and great food. But it will be more casual. Because that's what people want today."