When chefs have a ton of projects and businesses to manage, it seems sometimes they're connected by name only. Not so with Jean-Georges Vongerichten,
— Kristen Hawley
You will be attached to 37 restaurants by the end of 2017. How do you ensure the reputation of your brand with so many operations globally?
JGV: Success is about choosing the best chefs, and always the best food, and keeping in daily contact with them, whether that’s text, video, pictures, social media. We talk on Instagram all the time. Social media means there’s no distance. This year was a little aggressive because we opened seven units. Two re-openings and five new openings.
One of those openings was abcV in New York, a vegan restaurant.
JGV: With vegan, if you think about it, there’s millions of varieties of plants, vegetables and herbs. In a steak restaurant, the variety is very small. There are five meats. A few shellfish. It’s very limited. With plants and vegetables, the sky is the limit. René Redzepi really woke up the whole Nordic cuisine industry using local herbs, seaweed, moss, and that kind of thing. But even in the U.S., New York has the widest variety of edibles. There’s so much you can do with them, and they’re good for your joints, your muscles, your brain. I focus on that a lot, how we can bring out the best of New York vegetables and herbs in the kitchen.
Why do you like to partner with hotels?
JGV: I could never do a free-standing restaurant 5,000 miles away and manage the day-to-day operations in a city like Shanghai. Hotels need us. My job is to ensure there’s food on the plate. With hotels, I don’t have to worry about all of the burdens of running a restaurant.
What inspires you?
JGV: Traveling is my inspiration. I came back from Sao Paulo this year and my head was burning with 15 new ideas. That’s why I first left France, moved to Asia and America. I’m a global citizen.”
What keeps you up at night?
JGV: What keeps me up at night? Nothing. I do this 16 hours a day, and at night I fall asleep before my head hits the pillow. It’s just food. It should be fun, not serious.