Monday, June 15, 2009

The Four Seasons at 50

June 15

Sad news: Christian Albin, long-time chef at The Four Seasons restaurant, died on Saturday, just five days after being diagnosed with cancer.
His last big event, then, was the restaurant’s 50th birthday party, which I was lucky enough to attend with about 1,000 other people.
On average they ate one and a half pigs-in-a-blanket per person, according to co-owner Alex Von Bidder. That’s what he told me when introducing me to the restaurant’s chef de cuisine, Fred Mero, pictured here.
I’m not a good celebrity spotter, but I’m told that many of them were at the party.
Among them were Henry Kissinger (I probably would have recognized him had I seen him) and Salman Rushdie (him too, maybe). Food journalist Peter Elliot almost pointed to Rushdie, but stopped himself as it is rude to point, although I was blocking his finger anyway. We talked about what sort of personality is required to walk up to a celebrity unbidden and just say something.
“I walk right up to you,” I said to Peter, who quite un-self-deprecatingly said “but you know me.” Usually when I say sycophantic things like that people wave me off with mock irritation (like when I suggested to Sara Moulton that I could sell her business card on eBay). I think I liked Peter’s response better.
I actually ended up spending a fair chunk of time with the Baum family. Legendary restaurateur Joe Baum founded The Four Seasons, you see, and it remains an elegant spot where power brokers like to dine.
Above is an underexposed, flash-free picture of the pool room, which looks good no matter how bad my photography is.
From the left to right we have Alex Baum-Stein, his sister Annie Baum-Stein, their uncles Edward and Charles Baum (they’re both Joe’s sons), and Annie’s husband, Mauro Daigle.
Annie and Mauro actually are going into the foodservice world themselves. They’re opening a food shop, called Milk & Honey, in West Philadelphia (at 45th St. and Baltimore Ave.).
I’ve know Charles Baum for awhile as he’s the husband of New York restaurant publicist Jennifer Baum. He reminisced about when the restaurant opened, when he was nine years old.
Here’s another guy hired by Joe Baum many years after The Four Seasons opened. On the left there is Michael Lomonaco, who Baum had hired to be chef at Windows on the World. Michael’s the chef-owner of Porter House now, in the Time Warner Center. He said business is good. To his left is self-proclaimed saffron king Behroush Sharifi, who says the price of the spice has skyrocketed recently. Behroush is an Iranian, and he says Iran not only has the world’s best saffron, but he chafes — absolutely chafes! — at the myth that Spain produces most of the world’s saffron. Apparently, it almost all comes from Iran.
Go figure.
Here we have Alex von Bidder’s business partner, Julian Nicolini, with rosemary bedecked chef Cesare Casella, I guess best known these days for his charcuterie shop Salumeria Rosi. I think he selected a particularly handsome rosemary bunch to wear in his pocket that evening.
For awhile I circulated with food writers Julie Besonen and Sheri de Borchgrave, and I explained to them why I didn’t invite any of my friends to be my guest that evening.
Because we were allowed to bring a +1. But this was a work affair for me, and I needed to socialize, network, catch up with people. I love my friends, but this was no place for me to catch up with them.
Julie agreed, and in fact her husband Jim came an hour after she did so she'd have time to do her necessary schmoozing.
Jim’s the guy in the middle of this picture. Julie’s on the left, and on the right is Glenn Collins, a longtime feature writer for The New York Times and, à propos of nothing also the best friend of my cousin Leonard Kamsler, who is the country’s leading golf instruction photogrpaher. I bet you didn’t know the country had a leading golf instruction photographer, but indeed it does, and he’s been friends with Glenn Collins for decades.

1 comment:

spanish lover said...

I love your story, the four season at 50, it is really nice. The title is also good.