Sometimes it takes me a really long time to realize the obvious. Three years, usually. I think that's how long I lived in Thailand before I came to understand that rainy-season downpours are preceded by strong winds that let everyone know they should pack up their wares and go inside. I’d look around and wonder where everyone was running off to and then I’d be drenched. I finally put two and two together around 1995.
It also took me about three years to realized that many pastry chefs are gay. I had been in this job for around that long when I went to a party called the Pastry Jam, thrown by a supplier during one of the Javitz Center trade shows, and it was the gayest party I’d ever been to, with nearly naked men in body paint adorning many of the tables. Nice guys. Then I thought about the male pastry chefs I know and how many of them are gay. For awhile after that realization I used to make that observation to people in the restaurant world and they’d look at me like I was an idiot for not having noticed before. It probably took me three years to stop voicing that observation.
I don’t know how long it has taken me to realize that if you go to a restaurant opening that starts at 9pm, you're not going to be able to just pop your head in, kiss a couple of people on both cheeks, turn around and leave, because the party’s simply going to be too fun for that.
Because if a restaurant opening starts at 9, chefs are coming.
That was for sure the case on Monday, when Aldea, George Mendes's new place on W. 17th St., opened its doors. George was actually in the kitchen for much of the night. You know, cooking. It's an open kitchen, so he could briefly pause, say hi and get back to work.
For awhile it was low key. I met Txikito chef-owner Eder Montero, tweeted once, because it seemed like the right thing to do. (If you look at the time stamp, you’ll see that the message didn't actually escape my phone until I left the party) and discussed many small matters with Julian Alonzo of Brasserie 8 1/2. Then I fell in with Oceana chef Ben Pollinger and pastry chef Jansen Chan before an unusually energetic Dave Arnold, the French Culinary Institute's director of culinary technology — possibly the only director of culinary technology anywhere — bounded in with Nils Noren, the school's vice president for culinary and pastry arts. Dave's future business partner, Jean Georges pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini (not gay, by all accounts) might have arrived with them. He did appear around the same time, but I can’t say for sure. I asked Dave when he and Johnny were going to open their much anticipated bar, and he said they were still tracking down funding.
So, if you want to invest in a bar run by Dave Arnold and Johnny Iuzzini, let me know.
I’d heard that Wylie Dufresne was downstairs while I was upstairs talking to Ben and Jansen. Paul Liebrandt was there, too, but we didn’t talk. Cesare Casella came with his signature rosemary bunch in his sport coat's breast pocket, which he told me he left with George for good luck.
Wearing rosemary seemed like such a good idea that I considered starting to do it myself, but I was told that everyone would know I was copying Cesare and that I would therefore be dubbed lame, which is probably true. So I changed the subject to another fashion goal of mine. I'd like to be able to convincingly wear a cape.
Of course the problem is that I’d probably look like an idiot, and it would take me three years to realize it.