Jean-Georges Vongerichten Talks Global Empire, Green Juice and Cooking Next to Trump Tower
"Every four years there is a new president, but we are here to stay."
On a typical morning, chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten gets out of bed at 7:30 a.m. No matter how packed his schedule is, he makes time for his favorite green juice: a blend of kale, spinach, green apple, lemon, a pinch of salt and coriander. “I’m not a health nut or anything, but the juice is in my veins. I probably have green blood now,” said Vongerichten.
He spends an hour in the gym followed by a few hours in his SoHo office before heading off to his Michelin three-starred restaurant Jean-Georges for lunch service. Despite being located next to one of the world’s most controversial buildings, Trump Tower, Jean-Georges has stayed consistent.
“When Trump was in New York the first few months, there were a lot of protestors outside, but I think people in New York know who we are, so business has been good,” said Vongerichten. "Every four years there is a new president, but we are here to stay."
After a hectic multi-course lunch service, the chef sends out menus and daily specials to his 38 restaurants around the world, five of which opened this year. (Here's a primer on the chef's expansive global empire.)
He just opened one of his personal favorites, Jean-Georges at the Connaught in London, followed by The Rooftop by JG on top of the Waldorf Astoria in L.A. and a few in New York, including his latest, ABCV.
At his new vegetable-forward restaurant, you can order his daily juice titled Green Glow on the menu. “The vegetable is really what drives me now. I feel like it's the future of food,” said Vongerichten. “It takes two years to raise a cow and get a steak on a plate, but only two weeks to get a radish on a plate."
Back at Jean-Georges, his flagship and arguably most popular restaurant, dinner service finishes up around 9 p.m. and the Michelin-starred chef heads out for his own dinner. He’ll choose from one of his other restaurants or try a local favorite like BarMasa or The Green Room. By the time Vongerichten gets to bed, it’s nearly midnight.
What is he dreaming of? We suspect new plant-based dishes, or his ultimate goal of opening a Jean-Georges hotel in the near future. But for now, he’s headlining the Barbados Food & Rum Festival at the iconic Cliff Restaurant this November. “I’ve been to the island about 12 times, and I enjoy the local food, the people, the energy,” said Vongerichten. “The beaches are beautiful, and it's a great place to go for a weekend."
It’s no surprise that travel for Vongerichten is often centered around work rather than pleasure. Every month he spends a week visiting a handful of his restaurants around the world. “In three weeks I fly to Tokyo, Shanghai and Hong Kong and then I fly back,” said Vongerichten. “It’s a cool life.”
While stateside, he’s working on a new restaurant on the top floor of the Four Seasons at the Comcast Center in Philadelphia. With almost 40 restaurants in rotation, Vongerichten plans on opening four or five more restaurants within the next few years.
Despite turning 60 this year, he’s pushed the idea of retirement to the back of his mind, tucked behind the countless recipes and centerpiece designs.
“Slow down? No. Why? I’m an entertainer. Every night you treat your guests to a show and, like with actors, we get better with age,” he said. “As you get more mature, you lose your ego. My food is much more simple now than 20 years ago.”