New movie directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page, is set to release July 16. 'Inception' has been tightly guarded, and snippets of details describe a contemporary sci-fi actioner set within the architecture of the mind. Sounds neat.
Mario Batali wanted to grow up to be a banker in Spain. While studying business management and Spanish theater in college, he worked at a New Jersey restaurant called Stuff Yer Face and “fell addicted to the adrenal rush that happens during a dinner service.” He went on to become one of America’s most successful chef-entrepreneurs, famous for simple, seasonal Italian food (made with every bit of the animal), star turns on television, and an ever-expanding restaurant empire.
Interviewed by Katherine Bell
HBR: What did you learn in your business classes that turned out to be useful?
Batali: Nothing at all. Business classes were all theoretical then, based on comparing your marginal revenue curve to your marginal cost curve. I enjoyed macro, but you learn more in a philosophy or English class about how to deal with people and get things done.
When you opened your first restaurant, how did you approach leading the kitchen staff?
At that point, there was no kitchen to lead. It was me and a dishwasher, so I learned you can’t get mad at anybody but yourself. Eventually I had a sous chef, and then a morning prep chef, but I stayed integrally involved in every moment of the slogging battle of getting good food out quickly every day. It was when I opened Babbo that I needed to figure out how to manage people—which I did mainly by trial and error. I hired really good people and paid them top wages. I made sure that we were all very much involved, but I was also able to step out and watch the operation from the other side of the window.
Now that you have 14 restaurants, how do you maintain quality and consistency?
All the executive chefs and most of the general managers and wine directors have worked with me directly. They know where I’m going. They understand the shorthand we use in describing how things need to change. I go into most of the New York restaurants almost every day, and we talk about things as they’re evolving. My objective as a manager, of course, is to remove the obstacles that prohibit greatness in the people I’ve hired. So I ask, what is the hardest thing about today? And I say, well, why don’t we get somebody else to do that, or let’s streamline it, let’s make it easier. Then they can enjoy that zenny tea service effect of working through something they know how to do.
What do you look for when you hire executive chefs?
I don’t hire them. I bring them up from my team. The highest level we’ll hire from outside is a line cook.
Have you seen the culture of the restaurant industry grow less hierarchical over time?
It’s really changed in our generation. Twenty-five years ago you got a kitchen job because you had just gotten out of the army and weren’t yet in jail. As food became pop culture—as significant as painting or music or theater—the education level of people interested in it grew much higher. You don’t need to yell as much, and the staff won’t take yelling as much. It’s become unacceptable. Now we have all these smart, thoughtful people helping to evolve new ways of making dishes more consistent and delicious without sweating as much.
You and Joe Bastianich have been partners for years. What do you think makes an entrepreneurial partnership work well?
Mutual respect and trusting each other’s opinions. You have to learn that’s it’s OK not to agree 100% of the time and understand that decisions can be made anyway.
With such an intense job, how do you balance work and family?
No matter what, the kids and family things go in the calendar first, then the restaurant things, then everything else.
US actress Kirsten Dunst has joined the cast of the upcoming film adaptation of Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road, it has been confirmed.
The Spider-Man star joins Twilight's Kristen Stewart, Tron: Legacy actor Garrett Hedlund and British thespian Sam Riley in Walter Salles and Francis Ford Coppola's take on Kerouac's 'Beat Generation' classic.
Motorcycle Diaries director Salles will begin shooting the On the Road film in August, with Coppola producing through his American Zoetrope firm.
Salles began developing the project - based on a novel famed for its complex narrative - in 2005 but struggled to find financial backing for the On the Road film.
A deal has now been agreed with French studio MK2, with Salles saying producers Nathanael Karmitz and Charles Gillibert bring "a vital, fresh, creative look into producing the film, and a very European approach based on their past experiences with independent directors".
The director explained the film's long development will prove an advantage when shooting begins later this year, with Salles also developing a documentary, In Search of On the Road, regarding Kerouac's novel.
"The film greatly benefited from the extra time we had to conceptualise it," he told Variety.
"The unedited scroll version was published recently and inspired a new version of the screenplay written by Jose Rivera that is at the same time more luminous, daring and muscular than the one we had at the start."
Written by Kerouac in three weeks in 1951, and published in 1957, On the Road tells of the semi-autobiographical tale of Sal Paradise's journeys throughout North America, intermittently accompanied by the unpredictable Dean Moriarty - loosely based on Kerouac's friend Neal Cassady - and including encounters with the burgeoning jazz movement and a character inspired by poet Allen Ginsberg.
Unfortunately, being across the pond made for many of us to miss out on Keith Floyd. Luckily, we've got the internet now to bridge that gap. Here's a documentary and tribute in honor of Floyd that aired on the BBC. Enjoy with a nice bottle of fine wine:
A few weeks back, I was perusing Seamless Web looking for some delivery grub and came across #1 Burger. Trying to do some due diligence before forking over my hard earned cash, I couldn't find anything about this joint on the internet. So, I did what every reviewer does (or should do), and took one for the team.
The first thing that caught my eye was that under the #1 Burger link on the main restaurant listing page, it stated that their "delicious beef burgers are sourced directly from Pat La Frieda". Understandably, that piqued my interest, as La Frieda meats are highly regarded, especially in the burger-world. After clicking the link and arriving at their menu, I next noticed how competitively priced #1 Burger sold their ish. Things were looking good and my mouth was getting watery.
About a half hour later, my cheeseburger combo arrived.
Packaged in a neat little to-go box, things were looking promising. Here's what the burger looked like when I unwrapped it:
This is where you cue the sad trombone sound. Expectations weren't even really that high, and yet the burger failed to meet them. First off, the cheese tasted like the cheese you get on your nachos. (Those are nachos.) Second, the bottom half of the bun was super thin and was pretty much soaked through, especially where you held the burger. Check it out:
As for the meat itself, I really don't think the patty was fresh. I could be mistaken, but it had that frozen patty quality to it - where the shape and consistency was too hockey puck-like.
It's unfortunate, as the place had a lot going for it...like tater tots and Dr. Brown's soda and dollar Arizona iced teas. I'm open to giving it another chance, as the place is still relatively new. I just hope I don't get neckboned again.
#1 Burger 228 East 29th Street New York, NY 10016 212-448-1129
Launched on his 50th birthday, Greg Wilson compiles a celebratory selection of 7” singles from his formative years. Covering the 60’s through to the mid-70’s, when he started out as a fresh-faced 15 year old club DJ, these records embody the soundtrack of his youth.
With running times of approximately 2 hours, the 12 individual monthly parts will conclude in a full day’s worth of music. Having only pre-determined the opening and closing tracks, Greg will select the rest as he goes along, moving in whatever directions his mood takes him at that moment, in a similar way to how it might be if he was sitting at home playing records to friends. The title, ‘Random Influences’, reflects this arbitrary approach.
May 5, 2010 In Chicago, the Chef Grant Achatz Is Selling Tickets to His New Restaurant By PETE WELLS
BY this point, nearly everyone agrees that dining out has replaced going to the theater and that chefs are rock stars. So why don’t restaurants sell tickets?
Grant Achatz, the highly praised chef of Alinea in Chicago, has asked himself the same question. Now, he says that with his next restaurant (called, naturally, Next Restaurant), that’s just what he’ll do.
Anyone wishing to eat at Next after its scheduled opening in the fall will pay in advance on its Web site. Like airlines, Next will offer cheaper tickets for off-peak hours. A table at 9:30 on a Tuesday night, say, would cost less than one for Saturday at 8. Ticket prices will also vary based on the menu, but will run from $45 to $75 for a five- or six-course meal, according to the site, nextrestaurant.com. (Wine and beverage pairings, bought with the ticket, will begin at $25.)
The menu will change four times a year, with each new edition featuring the cuisine of a particular place and time. When the restaurant opens, Mr. Achatz said, the theme will be Paris in 1912, with painstakingly researched evocations of Escoffier-era cuisine. Three months later, the kitchen will turn out a fresh set of recipes — evoking, say, postwar Sicily, or Hong Kong 25 years from now, with modern techniques employed to imagine the future of Chinese cuisine.
Subscriptions to a year’s worth of space-and-time coordinates will also be sold.
“We now pay three or four reservationists all day long to basically tell people they can’t come to the restaurant,” Mr. Achatz said of Alinea. With Next, he intends to strip away those and other hidden costs of dining out. “It allows us to give an experience that is actually great value,” he said. “That’s the theory.”
But the plan would also have value for Mr. Achatz and his main partner in Next and Alinea, Nick Kokonas. By law, restaurants may distribute tips only to those employees who work in service. But the service charge included in the ticket price “gives him control over the money,” said Bill Guilfoyle, an associate professor of business management at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. “He can give it to whomever he sees fit.”
Mr. Achatz could pay cooks more than members of the wait staff, a reversal of the usual pecking order that could allow him to recruit shining kitchen talent. Mr. Guilfoyle also said that the 150 or so tickets that Next sells each night could mean a cash-flow bonanza like the one Starbucks enjoys on its cash cards. Starbucks had a multimillion-dollar “float of products the customers had paid for but hadn’t collected yet,” he said. “If Achatz is smart, he’ll invest this in the futures market.”
Much of the work of taking reservations has already migrated to the Internet. Customers who book seatings at unpopular hours on Open Table earn points that add up to cash vouchers accepted by all restaurants that the service represents.
The restaurateur David Chang has an online reservation system at his Momofuku Ko, although checks are settled at meal’s end. He said that the savings in payroll and staff time have been tremendous. He had considered off-peak pricing, too, but was afraid it would turn off customers. “It’s going to irritate very many people,” Mr. Chang said of the ticket plan. “But I think it’s liberating, and a lot of restaurants are going to follow suit.”
But Mr. Achatz, who is also working on concurrent plans to open a bar called Aviary, hopes that people won’t be irritated once they enjoy the convenience of a meal with no decisions to be made and no check to be signed. “There’s no transactions in the restaurant at all,” he said. “So you can literally come in, sit down, start your experience, and when you’re done, you just get up and leave.”