The irony of today being the official Mardi Gras Day of Pleasure is not lost on anyone living in that city. What a mess . . . but movin’ on . . . .
Blowing one’s own horn is considered bad form in most circles—deservedly so, but last night’s Best of the Best Party 2007 was a GREAT event. I go to way more big events than I would care to admit to. Most are boring, with a dull crowd, serving bad food, and in less-than-thrilling surroundings. This was different, and not only was the BotB a superbly orchestrated and well-run affair, it was also one of the best parties I have been to in a long time. Huge shout out to Natasha and all her peeps for putting on such a great show. It takes a lot of work to make 1,500 people feel sooooooo good.
The food was superb—every restaurant really outdid itself with the goodies they served up, and while I didn’t get a chance to try everything, the Lurcat seared tuna with lemon was insanely good, as was the trio of treats from The Tea House. Eleanor Mondale was a class act in her acceptance of our Comeback of the Year Award, and her dad was positively beside himself with happiness watching her receive her plaque from Brian Anderson. BA was very funny, quite the quipster last night, trading shots with Brian Turner from Cities 97, who was his usual stellar self from the podium. Brian gave as good as he got last night (BT did some funny schtick about Brian’s CV as he introduced him), and seems poised and eager to open BotB 2008 with ten minutes of new solo standup stuff. All the award winners were there except Brenda Langton, whose hubby, Tim, picked up her plaque (she was at a family wedding in Hawaii), and Alex Roberts, who was absent under mysterious circumstances. Doug Flicker was supposed to be honored along with his thirteen compadres, but Auriga closed, and therefore was not really eligible in the strictest sense of the word. He was missed.
Now many of you know this, but I have been on an ice floe for the last two weeks, so excuse me for just now mentioning that Lenny Russo just had his last day at Cue on Monday. Add his name to the list of talented chefs without stoves, although technically he still has one over at Heartland.
Russ Klein spoke with me briefly last night—more on his next venture as soon as I get to schmooze with him over the next few days. He declined to talk on the record about the circumstances surrounding his exit from WA Frost because he is a class act who refuses to throw anyone under the bus—but plenty of other people were happy to chat with me about it, and let me tell you that revenues were up every year for the last five since he took over the kitchen, and that his exit from WAF was not his idea, was not precipitated by any causal event, and seems to be a case of owner-firing-chef-before-chef-left-anyway (Russ was pretty vocal in recent months about opening his own place, a career-limiting move in the eyes of some owners). Both WAF’s owner (John Rupp) and Klein will be just fine, and the only reason this is worth talking about at all is the simple fact that it is ONE MORE notable chef is leaving/moving on/being “moved on”/etc. in an industry where if you have created a good thing you try to keep it going. It’s a shame that Klein and WAF couldn’t work it out. Ditto for Russo who seemed to have the bull by the horns at Cue, but clearly was either not willing to compromise with the corporate suits or was too much trouble for them. Who knows, doesn’t really matter—both Russo and Bon Appétit will be fine. However, if you take the Cue and WAF stories and sift through the wreckage, you find two chefs who have divergent definitions of what success meant than their ownership groups. Both restaurants were riding high, and unlike Levain and Auriga, seemed to be waxing, not waning. The plots thicken. What is it about the restaurant business where two “partners” in the best sense of that word end up tanking million-dollar enterprises because they didn’t settle up issues that partners in smaller companies tend to agree on prior to even selling their first widget. One-, five-, and ten-year plans that all partners can live with are the lifeblood of good business practice. Doesn’t this all seem weird to you???
Jana Shortal on KARE 11 did a nice piece in The Extra last night on the closing of some of our local eateries. None of it was anything that readers and posters on this site don’t know about, but it was nice to see the story on the news. Watching Doug Flicker sell his pots and pans on tape was one of the saddest things I have seen in a long time, but I kept reminding myself that they had a ten-year run. Despite that, and despite Flicker’s sunny attitude, you could tell how hard this all is on him.