Working with Jean-Georges Vongerichten has its perks. This one, however, a beachfront suite at the Ocean Club, the legendary resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas built by A&P supermarket heir Huntington Hartford II, is way beyond the usual. But my friend and coauthor Jean-Georges is a one-man growth industry. After our second book, Simple to Spectacular, came out last fall, he turned his attention to opening yet another restauranthis 10th, I believe, though I've lost countthis one at the Ocean Club. Called Dune, it's part of the property's $100 million upgrade.
The suite is magnificent: I'm most impressed by the Frette robe and towels and the remote controls for everything, but the sliding doors that open to a panoramic view of beach, ocean and sky aren't bad either. I swim and snorkel while Jean-Georges plays in the waves with his 19-year-old son, Cedric, who's learning the restaurant business from the ground up. There's a storm out at sea and the water is rough, but it's warm and still clear enough to see the bottom 20 feet below. The coast remains wild in spots, but not around the Ocean Club, where it has been tamed, even manicured, for the benefit of the guests.
I know that when Sun International chairman Sol Kerzner, who is used to getting what he wants, needed a chef for his new restaurant at the Ocean Club, his first and only choice was Jean-Georges. (Kerzner loves Vongerichten's New York restaurants, "especially," he tells me, "Mercer Kitchen." This I find shocking because the average Mercer customer is a depressed 24-year-old, dressed in black, weighing 90 pounds, while Kerzner, the 65-year-old son of Russian émigrés, is a large, obviously happy manthough he constantly plays with worry beads.) I know, too, that Jean-Georges turns down more opportunities in a month than most people get in a lifetimebut here he was, starting a new venture. Why?