If the Big Apple ever had an iconic restaurant, it was the Four Seasons, first opened in 1959 and reinvented this year as The Grill and The Pool. Together, these restaurants encapsulate everything we’ve always loved about dining out in this town: extravagance, ingenuity, that see-and-be-seen energy. Legendary food writer Mimi Sheraton—who consulted on both the original and current projects—looks back and ahead.
Like the city itself, New York restaurants have a way of reflecting the past even as they reach toward the future, with an enticing mélange of the classic and the innovative. That mix is epitomized by the two generations of restaurants that have inhabited the historic Seagram Building: the Four Seasons, which Joe Baum opened in 1959, recently replaced by The Grill and The Pool from Rich Torrisi, Mario Carbone and Jeff Zalaznick. I worked on the original project as a researcher, looking for seasonal foods, ingredients and dishes that would fit Joe’s theme. Joe was the Cecil B. DeMille of restaurateurs, and he had very lofty, unconventional ideas.
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This was long before Alice Waters would leave her mark on the local foods movement, but we already had a mushroom forager and a school in the Bronx growing our herbs. At lunch I would stand on the steps and watch the room fill up. It was like a curtain rising on act one: People were fired. Romances began and ended. Nearly 60 years later I stood there again, now as a consultant for Rich, Mario and Jeff. And again I was struck by the way it felt so thoroughly like New York—its buzz, its excitement, the way the room nearly vibrates with everyone coming and going.